Photography ©Chris Corrie

Tell Me a Story

A Santa Fe Home Filled with Folk Art, Handmade Treasures, and Cultural History

by Amy Gross

April/May 2018

They say that Santa Fe can be unkind, even unwelcoming, to those who aren’t a good fit for it. In Sandy Peinado’s case, the opposite was true: The City Different had been calling to her for years to make their relationship more permanent Sandy and her attorney husband, Arnie, had been coming to New Mexico since they were first married—to ski, to enjoy the food, the art; the landscape. “I actually did my college thesis on Willa Cather (Death Comes for the Archbishop),” admits Sandy, a former physician. “Somehow I’ve always had a deep tie to this area!”

It was during one of her trips to Santa Fe from New Jersey that Sandy discovered the International Folk Art Market.

“I’ve always been fascinated by handmade objects from around the world and how they convey such a story of people’s culture and history,” Sandy says. “I just fell in love with the mission of the organization immediately, which is to support those people, empower them, and give them a market.” After that first Market, she became an enthusiastic volunteer, and was eventually recruited by CEO Jeff Snell to join the staff. “I oversee everything related to the artists, from recruitment, to the selection process, to their experience while they’re here, and the education that we give them,” Sandy explains.

A woman pouring a glass of wine in a colorful kitchen
Sandy Peinado, in her expanded and richly hued kitchen.
A southwestern seating nook and fireplace
Interesting nichos above the sculptural, two-way fireplace proved to be the perfect spot for a group of baskets with a sobering history: they were made by women who survived the Rwandan genocide in the '90s.

For the past few years, Sandy stayed in friends’ homes whenever she was in Santa Fe, one of which belonged to Kathryn King Coleman, chair of the IFAM board of directors. In a delightful case of folk art kismet; the Peinados ended up buying Coleman’s house. Santa Fe’s siren song had finally gotten through.

“I loved the coziness of the house and at the same time the outdoor areas,” Sandy says. “It’s not a simple box; kind of a zig-zag. I wanted to preserve that but I also wanted to create a place where we could showcase the work of living artists.” The work in question includes scores of folk art treasures and boxes of handmade textiles she’s collected from Folk Art Markets past and from travels around the world. It was time to find a place to house them.

Sandy met interior designer Jeff Fenton at Reside Home, and the two hit it off immediately. Initially discussions were limited to furnishing the house, but it soon became clear to both Sandy and Fenton that the small, L-shaped kitchen was untenable for the Peinados’ lifestyle. A full renovation ensued, with Barbara Felix of Barbara Felix Architecture + Design and Justin Young of August Construction brought on board as architect and contractor, respectively.

Pushing out the kitchen wall immediately created breathing room in that space, with the added benefit of opening up space in the guest bedroom directly upstairs. While construction was happening, Sandy and Fenton went to Artesanos to look for Talavera tile. “Start picking,” Fenton told her, and Sandy eventually narrowed down her favorites to 25 different patterns infused with golds, blues, greens, and reds. Reside Home’s Chris Martinez worked his magic—using Photoshop, of all things—to create the impressive kitchen backsplash that seems randomly patterned but is anything but.

Rug selection was just as fun. Over three days of the 2017 Folk Art Market, Sandy and Fenton chose several rugs in rich, vibrant colors, including one with striking geometries by master weaver and dyer Porfirio Gutiérrez of Mexico. “His family was chosen for the Innovation section of Folk Art Market because of the way they’re changing the motifs in their weavings,” says Sandy.

A cozy guest room with three twin beds and a queen
Set up with three twin beds and a queen, the warmly rustic guest room houses a slew of visitors.

All new furnishings were chosen for the home. “Every piece has a surface texture, which is a response to the folk art without competing with the folk art,” notes Fenton. The master suite, especially, is artfully adorned with furnishings decorated with bone inlay, nails and studs, and repoussé work. A muted palette of grays, blues, and apricots offers a distinctly—and intentionally—different feel from the rest of the house. With the feel of a luxury hotel retreat, it was created to be “a comma, a pause from the rest of the house,” says Fenton. The accompanying master bath, clad in ceramic and designer tiles from Statements, is likewise sleek and clean, a departure from the richly hued, folk art-infused first floor. And yet, as Fenton notes, “You still understand that it’s supposed to be part of this room. There’s still a narrative and a language that’s happening here.”

When the renovation was completed last Christmas, Sandy was finally able to display her lovingly collected folk art pieces and textiles. “It was really fun to reopen those boxes and rediscover those textiles,” she says. Sandy can tell you the story behind any piece you might point to—indeed, it’s how she herself came to acquire each one. “I tell artists in our education sessions that I’m ready to hand over my money at the drop of a good story,” she says with a grin.

The Peinados’ Santa Fe home is filled with stories. It is a gallery, with the work of artists from around the globe gracing the walls, the floors, the furniture. In every gallery, of course, the artwork rotates, creating a new look every so often, and with the 2018 Folk Art Market just around the corner, the Peinados’ home will no doubt undergo some visual refreshment of its own.

“That’s one of the things that’s most exciting to me about the house,” Sandy says.“There are so many empty places that I feel like I have an excuse to buy!”

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