The overall design of The Commons was greatly influenced by the books of architectural pioneer Christopher Alexander (e.g. A Pattern Language) and partly modeled after the traditional Compound style found in older Santa Fe neighborhoods. The Commons is situated in the suburban westside of Santa Fe, just within the city limits. The first houses at The Commons were built in 1991. The 28 lots, bought by a developer who was one of the founding members and was a resident for the first decade, were sold gradually over the course of 6 years, and each owner has used an architect and builder of his/her own choice. As a result there is visual variety, although all the houses are compatible and can be described as Southwestern-style. Building guidelines in the bylaws ensure that all houses meet a general aesthetic standard, do not infringe on the solar gain of other houses, and have some areas that communicate with the placita to encourage neighborly interactions. The Architectural Review Committee must approve a homeowner’s building plans before any construction or remodeling begins.

The houses are clustered around four open green areas called placitas (little plazas) and a large main plaza with a Common House.  Residents designed and implemented the landscaping. We follow a policy of Integrated Pest Management. No auto traffic occurs within the community; all parking is around the perimeter. A main parking lot next to the Common House accommodates visitors. An orchard area is located in the SW corner.

Every original unit owner contributed money towards the construction of the Common House in their first year of membership in the Homeowners Association, so each owner owns 1/28 of the Common House, and shares the benefits and the costs of using it. The building contains the community kitchen, dining room, a meeting room with a fireplace (parlor), an exercise room, a children’s room, two bathrooms, a utility room, a laundry room, and three guestrooms. Residents can reserve the Common House for events or gatherings, so it is not uncommon to see a yoga or theater class or a meeting of a local organization. Activities in the Common House are subject to some guidelines; smoking is not allowed, and we have a policy of keeping the building free whenever possible of chemically based fragrances. Maintenance of the Common House is overseen by a resident who has taken on the role of Common House Manager.