Before traveling to Taos, N.M., I had heard the mountain town is full of character … and a few characters. Taos isn’t on the way to anywhere, unless your destination is a town with a cool vibe and beautiful mountains all around. And that’s why we were excited to spend a couple of days in this beautiful and laid-back mountain town. We wanted to discover the unique Taos character. When we arrived in Taos we quickly met our host for the evening, and one of the community’s real characters. We had arrived at the Red Cat House, where we found a carefree, artsy, cool and eccentric lady who quickly came to represent everything Taos means to me.
I’ve made it known here that we love staying in apartments, especially as we travel with our son more. Discovering the Red Cat House just off the Taos Plaza turned out to be one of the highlights of our week in New Mexico.
I mentioned the characters of Taos. To be honest, I’m basing my assessment off one person: Melissa Serfling, owner of Red Cat House and four other apartments in and around Taos. Billed as the Taos Vacation Rental Queen, in my book Melissa is the face of Taos.
My first contact with Melissa came as we were still planning the trip. It was a long and energetic email introduction. She talked about her love of Taos and how she wouldn’t live anywhere else. It’s a place she’s lived for eight years since moving there from the San Francisco Bay area. Her passion for Taos was obvious as she talked about her shop, Red Cat Melissiana, located in the historic district. It’s in the same building as the Red Cat House and sells pretty much every kind of unique gift, antique and even lingerie.
As I recall our many conversations with Melissa, my thoughts are all over the place. That’s fitting, I think, because it matches her varied interests. My impression: she’s a woman with great passion for life, someone who can’t sit still as life occurs around her. Melissa’s Taos life might see her talking to a builder friend about one of her apartment renovations in the morning before opening her store for business for someone wanting one of her beautiful floral arrangements. After a lunch appointment, she might be off to work on one of her several landscaping projects in town, deal with work related to one of two boards of directors she’s a member of, or, as she said more than once, “go out dancing with my sweetheart.”
After her children left home, Melissa wanted a small town with culture and theater. She found it in Taos, a community of 5,600 residents.
When Melissa started renting out her properties, she said people told her how much they loved her sense of style and decor. She said she enjoys that part of it because “it’s so darn much fun.” She’s actually decorating a new apartment now, on the first floor of the adobe that houses Red Cat House.
Speaking of the Red Cat House and decor, in the words of my interior designer wife, Stacey: “It’s adorable, warm, inviting and so comfortable. It has a Southwest cottage-y decor. The apartment is so comfortable. She clearly has a flair for design.”
She talked about the history of the old adobe including alleged spirits in the cellar of the store — also part of the town’s tunnel system — and the street’s former role as the town’s red light district. Speaking of the street, Melissa is responsible for the beautiful landscaping of Dona Luz Lane.
Melissa made an amazing first impression of Taos, and it was weeks before we had even arrived. But once we hit town and walked around the historic Plaza for a few minutes, it was off to the Red Cat House where Melissa gave us great advice on what to see and do and where to eat in Taos.
But before we could head out for her first recommendation (wine tasting at Black Mesa Winery), we had to settle in to the apartment. And what an apartment it is.
The Red Cat House is on the second floor of the large adobe and has its own private staircase entrance.
Upon entering, a large window looking east toward Taos Plaza lets in loads of natural light into the spacious living and dining area.
When we visited Taos in early October, the weather was pleasant. But the evenings did cool down, making the fireplace in the living room a nice addition.
Just off the living room is a dine-in kitchen. We weren’t there long enough to have the opportunity to cook in, but the kitchen seems to have everything that could be needed for a meal in.
The apartment only has one bedroom, but Melissa gave us all the bedding we’d need to make a comfortable sleeping spot for our son on the living room couch.
Speaking of that bedroom, if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, this room certainly sets the mood. It’s set in a platform-type space; we had to go up a couple of steps to enter the room.
And set up in that space is a beautiful canopy bed.
The setting of the apartment worked really well for us. It’s within walking distance of the shops and restaurants on and around the Taos Plaza, but removed enough to give it a secluded feel, especially with mountain views in the distance.
I found the location on a side street off the Plaza to be particularly helpful when we got in the car to explore Taos. Traffic on the main drag off the Plaza was a little busy, so it helped to be on a side street.
We also were within walking distance of some of the town’s great art museums, shops and restaurants. It’s always good to stay somewhere that a car isn’t necessary.
The apartment itself is the type of place I could see visiting for several days or even a week just to relax and get away from life’s stresses. Waking up to the mountains and the sun rising to the east was a great way to start the day.
We were happy to spend parts of two days with Melissa at Red Cat House in Taos. The style, coziness and warmth of the apartment set the mood for this mountain community.
If you ever find yourself in New Mexico, I highly recommend getting in touch with Melissa and spending a night or two enjoying the cool vibe in Taos.