Photography ©Chris Corrie

An Artistic Outlet

An Older Canyon Road Home Ditches its Hippie Roots (Well, Mostly!) in Favor of a Chic, Eclectic Design

by Amy Gross

August/September 2016

Combined, Elizabeth Decicco and Grant Hayunga’s creative talents pack some serious artistic wallop under one roof. She’s an actor, a singer, a model, and a photographer. He’s a contemporary artist (represented by Gebert Contemporary on Canyon Road), a singer-songwriter, the leader of his own band, and a guitarist. After renovating two older Santa Fe homes together—the first was New Mexico Supreme Court justice David Chavez’s historic home on Gildersleeve—DeCicco and Hayunga can jointly add another artistic gift to their repertoire: a knack for home design.

Hayunga, who moved to Santa Fe right after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, exhibited with Linda Durham Contemporary Art until its closure and toured extensively with his band Goshen. DeCicco, meanwhile, was dividing her time between New York and Los Angeles when she and Hayunga met at a taping of Saturday Night Live. It took them a few years to reconnect, but when they did, DeCicco joined Hayunga in Santa Fe. Both knew it was a good place to be.

“We had always been working as entertainers, and that was changing for us,” says Hayunga. “ [Remodeling a house] was a way to be home.” After renovating and successfully flipping the Chavez house, the couple bought a 1970s-era fixer-upper on Canyon and considered how to contemporize its structure, systems, and layout while remaining true to the exposed adobe vernacular of the original home.

After renovating two houses together, DeCicco and Hayunga can jointly add a knack for home design to their artistic repertoires.

“One of our main focuses was to feel a kind of indoor-outdoor thing—a lush garden, but one that was also water-friendly,” says DeCicco. “And the other thing was to create a through-line.”

She and Hayunga leaned on a book—Mud Space & Spirit (1976)—in which the original incarnation of their home was featured. “That was my hook, because I could see what they started with,” says Hayunga. “I was looking at an ’80s remodel, a ’90s remodel. When I saw the initial pictures I realized, oh, this is what everybody was so inspired from.” They began the process by calling in architect Sandra Donner, a founding partner with Surroundings.

A few serendipitous meetings with Kurt Faust, one of the partners of custom home building firm Tierra Concepts, convinced Hayunga and DeCicco to accept Tierra’s bid for the gut remodel, which included a comprehensive plan for incorporating them living in the house during the two-phase remodel. “They also gave us a very articulate rendering of what the future might look like in the house,” Hayunga notes. As it would turn out, this house’s future would be shaped largely by its colorful past.

An open, rustic kitchen and dining room
The kitchen and dining area are now one fluid open space, suffused with sunlight from added windows and doors.
A living room with leather couches and vigas in Santa Fe
With its radiating vigas and curvilinear steps, the sunken living room reminded Hayunda of a carousel.

“The hippies who built the house thought of it as an Indian hogan, and the living room was like a descent into a kiva,” Hayunga laughs. “I called it the ‘peyote church.’” The living room was far too deep for comfort however, so the team raised the floor about two steps.

The elegant French farmhouse kitchen and dining area now flow into one another (previously at least four separate rooms comprised the space). Ruthlessly tearing down walls allowed the team to see what they could relocate, and what they could carve from to create their through-line. A simple T-shaped hallway now easily connects the living room to the expanded bedroom wing, the master on one side and a new guest suite on the other. 

An elegant play of masculine and feminine is found throughout the home, particularly in the counterbalance of dark flooring, wood, and masonry against stylish, light-colored upholstery and exposed adobe walls finished in American Clay plaster. As timber increases in mass farther back into the house, the accents and décor concurrently become softer, more romantic, and eclectic. There’s no doubt that this house is a little him, a little her—DeCicco’s New York loft chic rising to Hayunga’s classic Norteño New Mexico sensibilities.

A rustic bedroom and fireplace
The massive vigas and wood flooring are deliberately dark, softened by the light-colored exposed adobe walls and romantic bedframe.

“Neither one of us had a design background; we were just kind of passionate about remodeling and had some good ideas,” says DeCicco. “It’s an artistic outlet, really.”

Hayunga, recalling the months he and DeCicco spent doing dishes in bathroom sinks and cooking on hot plates during the remodel, acknowledges there was a certain satisfaction to the process, nontraditional though it might have been for one in his profession.

“I had an artistic decision to make every day,” he says. “You could feel good about it when you went to bed; you weren’t in limbo—where’s my next audition, who’s gonna buy my next painting? This had a real nuts and bolts feel: everybody meets on the lawn at seven and beats this thing out.” 

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