I ALWAYS IMAGINED my dream house nestled in some fabulous expanse of land, where I would grow all my food and, I dunno, make a living writing poetry or something. My budget, alas, could only afford an acre and a half in an Albuquerque exurb, close enough to a “real” job and as near to heaven as I could manage. My mom thought differently. After driving over the bumps and gashes of a dirt road that was barely under construction, she stood at the edge of my just-purchased piece of Eden and exclaimed, “How can anyone live here? There isn’t even a fabric store.”

Of all the amenities Placitas lacked at that time, a fabric store hadn’t occurred to me. It still hasn’t, although I wouldn’t mind snagging the Sunday New York Times without a 24-mile round-trip. Otherwise, country-esque living suits me fine. With the help of a conscientious contractor and a tight crew of craftsmen, I watched my little New Mexico–style home take form. Adobe walls rose, brick floors appeared, pine-log vigas girded a ceiling. I haunted flea markets and Craigslist for furnishings and got shabby-chic proficient with a sander and a paintbrush.

Still, whenever I stand in someone else’s granite-marble-stainless-steel-Viking-Bosch kitchen, I feel a burning surge of jealousy—just as I did upon spying the three homes we feature in this issue. Yes, I want a spiffed-up kitchen, and I want Isabro Ortega’s classic Spanish Colonial finishes and the Mollhaus’s Taos Modern lines, and Suzannah Wilcox Cox Barnebey’s rustic Cloudcroft garden—none of which, by the way, would go with anything I already own.

That’s okay. Other people’s styles and desires inspire me. You, too? Then join us in the vicarious thrill of peeking into someone else’s windows. Build on their ideas to design your own dream house in the part of New Mexico that you love best. But be forewarned: If it’s anywhere near a fabric store, Mom claims dibs on the guest room.

Happy Dreaming,

Kate's SignatureKate Nelson