Photography ©Amadeus Leitner

Timeless Transition

by Zélie Pollon

October/November 2011

Step into the home of Gerald and Anita Smith and it’s as if the air suddenly becomes cleaner, the light brighter, and the breeze more pleasant. Inside the central living area, white cement floors with sparking aggregate extend from an open kitchen through a living and dining space out onto the front porch, melding inside and outside and making the hot New Mexico sun suddenly feel entirely comfortable. Sit down on a low, white, custom-made sofa and look out over the green grasses of the Las Campanas golf course, a glistening pond at its base and the expansive Jemez mountain range behind, and you may never want to leave. And that’s exactly what the Smiths intended. 

Gerald, the owner of a successful global investment firm, and Anita, an interior designer, have a primary residence in Houston but wanted a second home to escape the heat, humidity and intensity of city life, replete with unending social and work commitments.

Leaning back on the sofa, a Billie Holiday recording playing effortlessly in the background thanks to the house-wide distributed audio system, Gerald says the couple saw their home as transitional, marking a time in their busy lives for slowing down and creating a contemplative, relaxing summer space. “I’ve worked since I was 14 and owned my business for 21 years, so this is a transition for me,” he notes. “This is the first time I’ve been able to take off two consecutive weeks at a time.”

I wanted the home to be a classic space that was timeless,” says Anita Smith.

In fact, the Smiths’ home was designed with a gallery layout in mind, its clean, horizontal lines and monochromatic tone highlighting art and furniture—blended with technology—as points of interest.

The couple were originally drawn to Santa Fe’s climate and its rich and diverse art scene, and then came across the contemporary architectural designs of Suzanne Williams during a Parade of Homes. Fast forward to finding a plot of land so exceptional as to include views, water, and green grass, and the two knew they were committed. By 2010, the home was finished; it was officially christened last October for Gerald’s 60th birthday, a three-day bash with 100 of his closest friends flown in from around the country. “That’s how we got the house built,” Anita laughs. “I told Gerald that if we could just finish it, we could celebrate his birthday in Santa Fe.” A second unveiling of the home took place this summer with some of their newest local friends.

Anita, draped in a linen tunic and a chunky dark-green turquoise necklace, said she worked closely with Williams to create a space “where, when you open the doors, it’s always what you’re not expecting.” Indeed, the exterior of the off-white stucco home is unassuming; it’s only in entering the structure that the light seems to be unending. Draw open the living room glass doors, which form the entirety of the back wall, or raise up the motorized shades that cover all the home’s windows, and suddenly the space doubles. 

An interior of a Southwest home
The home's great room serves as the center for family gatherings, as well as for entertaining friends from Santa Fe and around the country.

Each of the four bedrooms in the 5,400-square-foot residence has ceiling-to-floor glass doors that open onto individual terraces. An additional 2,300 square feet of space is dedicated entirely to outdoor living and entertaining, with a large, flat-screen TV and a long, rectangular, open fire source overlooking the pond. The kitchen area, featuring a large gas stove and a broad island that faces onto bar stools, flows into the great room, forming what Gerald calls “the heart and soul of our home.” For Anita, whose love of cooking matches her love of design, that blending was central to their plan. “To entertain while cooking and still be part of the environment is what makes it special,” she says. 

Also special is the couple’s art collection, which they’ve been growing for 35 years, and which is showcased by a sophisticated programmable lighting system. One of Gerald’s favorite pieces, a large Bob Thompson work, hangs on an open wall, the only’ splash of vibrant color on an otherwise monochromatic interior landscape. Spread throughout, the Smiths’ collection is eclectic: silverwork from Ethiopia and wooden Dogon horsemen (Anita’s personal favorite) share space with contemporary work by such artists as Angelbert Metoyer and Christina Chalmers. Lining the entry’ hallway is a series of Georgia O’Keeffe lithographs, of which only 10 sets remain in the country.

An impressive art collection in a Southwest home
Pieces from the Smiths' impressive art collection, which they've been building for 35 years, are found throughout their home.

In fact, the Smiths’ home was designed with a gallery layout in mind, its clean, horizontal lines and monochromatic tone highlighting art and furniture—blended with technology—as points of interest. “I wanted it to be a classic space that would be timeless,” Anita says. “In 20 years we’re still going to love this home. It’s still going to be current. Sometimes people get into stylizing so much that it becomes dated,” she adds. Indeed, the seamless, automated, high-tech nature of the Smiths’ home allows the family to remain constantly up-to-date as well as completely comfortable.

Any further expansions to the Smiths’ Las Campanas residence might include additional room for family, as the couple have four children ranging in age from 12 to 40, with their first grandchild born this year. But for now this house is just the way they want it. In fact, Gerald says, “It came out even better than I had hoped.” 

An interior of a Southwest home.
Ceiling-to-floor glass doors and windows throughout the home allow for stunning views of the Jemez Mountains.

Smart Home

To accommodate the Smiths’ high-tech, high-end lifestyle, Constellation Home Electronics installed a variety of interconnected electronics systems that includes music players in every room, flat-panel televisions, controlled lighting, centrally controlled heating and cooling, motorized window shades, a security system, surveillance cameras, and a dedicated projection home theater. The systems are monitored and controlled from wall-mounted interactive touch-panels and handheld wireless controllers, and they can also be accessed remotely, away from home, via a smartphone, an iPad, or a computer. 

All these systems are interconnected to create one integrated system, which was custom designed to meet the requirements of the family and custom programmed to be extremely easy to use. “We literally taught the Smiths and their children how to use the entire system in one hour, and they haven’t been calling with questions. It really is that easy to use,” says Jason Suttle, the owner of Constellation.

“And, because all audio and video devices—Blu-ray, satellite, iPod, CD, PlayStation, Internet radio, etc.—can be accessed and controlled from all rooms, this type of installation provides the ultimate in flexibility. In a family home, it’s important that the different members can watch or listen to what they want, where they want, simultaneously. Eliza Doolittle in one room and Billie Holiday in another room is a common scenario in the Smith household, for example.”

The equipment required for these systems is centrally located, which means that all the standard electronic boxes are neatly installed in custom racks in an equipment closet that is independently climate controlled and heat exhausted, not in cabinets throughout the house. “By installing all the electronics in a central location, we can eliminate all the noise, heat, and blinking lights from the home’s living spaces with the added bonus of not requiring cabinet space for the electronics anywhere outside of the equipment closet,” says Suttle. “The systems are also on a sophisticated, uninterruptible power supply, which can actually send us an email if there are any power problems or system failures.” Another benefit of a central electronics location is aesthetic. “By getting rid of the need for electronics at the TV locations, the televisions can be installed in a very clean fashion with minimal wiring,” Suttle says. “And with the ultra-thin LED flat-panel TVs available today, and the low-profile mounts we use, the final look of these TVs is very attractive.”

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