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Glossary of Common Santa Fe Architectural Terms

If you’re looking for a property in Santa Fe, these are some of the terms you’ll run across in short order.

Be sure to ask if you have questions about any of these terms, or are looking for particular features in a home. Check my listing photos to see examples of these and other elements of Santa Fe style!

Adobe: Sun-dried mud bricks that have been in use as a building material for thousands of years; a staple of Santa Fe style. They originated in the Middle East. You can watch a video of two techniques for making the bricks here.

Alancena: A type of cupboard that’s built into an interior adobe wall.

Arana: [Ah-Rah-Na] A traditional chandelier, made of wood and usually having a cross- or spider -shaped design.

Banco: [BAHN-ko] A bench built at the base of a wall, usually made of adobe, though other materials are sometimes used.

Canales: [Cah-NAH-lays] A type of drain spout used with flat roofs. They keep adobe walls safe from falling water and extend from the parapet of the roof.

Corbel: A wood bracket, having a scroll shape, that is used to support a viga.

Entrada: [En-TRAH-dah] An entryway.

Flagstone: A paving material made out of flat stone, commonly seen used on patios and walkways.

Historic Styles Ordinances: The ordinances designed to preserve the historical architectural style associated with Santa Fe. Read more here.

Horno: An adobe oven, used for cooking bread.

Kiva: [KEE-vah] A type of fireplace.

Latillas: [La-TEE-Yas] Juniper or alder branches, used for ceilings and to construct coyote fences.

Nicho: [NEE-cho] A small niche set in an interior adobe wall, traditionally used to display art or santos.

Placita: [Plah-SEE-Tah] Spanish term for courtyard.

Portal: [Por-TAHL] Spanish term for a porch. In New Mexico, they frequently have a post-supported roof with corbels and zapatas.

Puerta: The Spanish word for “door”.

Rajas: [RAH-hahs] Split juniper that is used in the fashion of latillas for ceilings.

Sala: [Sah-lah] The living room or parlor.

Saltillo Tile: [Salt-EE-yo] Named for the city from which it originated in Mexico. This is a terra-cotta tile, mostly having earth-tone coloration and which comes in varying shapes.

Spanish Pueblo Revival Style: A very common architectural style in Santa Fe, characterized by adobe construction with a flat roof. Canales are typical of the style. Vigas are usually visible projecting from the front exterior wall of the structure. These are usually single-story homes.

Stucco: [Stuk-oh] A type of decorative coating, often used to provide a more attractive exterior on concrete and cinder block construction.

Talavera Tile: [Tah-lah-ver-ah] Named for Talavera de la Reina, Spain, this is a type of Mexican tile that has Moorish designs.

Territorial Revival Style: Based on the Spanish-Pueblo style, this type of architecture features brick coping on parapets and sharper edges. The style is also known for milled-wood details, typically painted white, including pedimented lintels on window frames and squared portal posts.

Torta: A traditional covering for viga/latilla ceilings, made of packed mud.

Trastero: [Trah-stare-oh] A cupboard.

Ventana: [Ven-TAH-na] The Spanish word meaning “window”.

Viga: [VEE-gah] A debarked log used as a ceiling beam. See image.

Zapata: A double ended support beam joint similar to a corbel, having a double end.

Credits and Further Resources:

Some of the above definitions courtesy of: The Santa Fe New Mexican Real Estate Guide.

The Old Santa Fe Association:

The Santa Fe Travel Site at: