Photography ©Gabriella Marks

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Santa Fe Meets Modern

by Alana Grimstad

For a very long time, Santa Fe’s style has been universally understood. But like many things right now, the air is charged with change, and a style that once defined a great many homes in our city is now evolving. Designers and artists are excited about it. They’re experimenting with creative ideas and intertwining modern notions into their classic design plans. New meets old, as these thrilling contemporary concepts mingle with a deep history of style and space.

When Debra and Paul walked into their home for the first time, they knew this was the one (To maintain their privacy, the homeowners requested their last name not be used.) Debra recalls immediately falling in love with the house, especially the windows and the views. That was seventeen years ago. Paul first discovered Santa Fe while attending a photography course, and he enthusiastically encouraged his wife to come back with him. The couple, who are both in the medical profession, hadn’t planned to buy a home here, but this particular house off Hype Park Road was a game changer. At the time, Debra says, contemporary design didn’t have much of a place in Santa Fe. So, like most other homeowners, they veered towards Southwestern colors and materials in their stucco home. But they eventually tired of it and recently decided to do a complete remodel.

“Instead of exclusively draping homes with Southwestern patterns and pottery, the design community in this town is broadly interpreting what a Santa Fe home can look like.”

“After this remodel and modernization, the home feels really clean, really Zen, really calm. It’s day and night: there’s absolutely no comparison,” says Debra. “Modern doesn’t mean stark. It’s still really warm. I absolutely love being here now.” While the couple’s home certainly doesn’t shout Santa Fe style in the traditional sense of wooden vigas and kiva fireplaces, it has the unmistakable signature of being a home in Santa Fe and a collaboration of many talented Santa Feans.

One of this home’s undeniable Santa Fe trademarks is its nearly 360-degree views, now brought inside with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors. Shane Woods of Woods Design Builders, general contractor for the project, says, “We have some of the most elegant sunsets in the country. I don’t think there are many places that have the open skies and open views like we do.” He explains, “When starting any house, the first thing we do is figure out the views from our clients’ lots. That dictates everything, from how natural light fills the home to the overall design plan.”

A mid-century modern southwestern dining room
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer beautiful views and flood the dining room with natural light.

The homeowners had not taken advantage of those gorgeous views before interior designer Heather Van Luchene brought new life to the previously neglected outdoor space. Now it’s an extension of the indoor living room and constantly enjoyed. By selecting earth tones and natural materials, Van Luchene created that connection between the residence and the dramatic landscape surrounding it. “This home fits beautifully in Santa Fe, from the richness of the textures to the calmness of the color palette,” says Van Luchene. “Instead of exclusively draping homes with Southwestern patterns and pottery, the design community in this town is broadly interpreting what a Santa Fe home can look like.”

Van Luchene says when she first evaluated the meandering, multi-level home, she found it dated and its rooms disjointed. Previous piecemeal renovations had left the home feeling disjointed. Her objective in the comprehensive remodel was to unify the spaces, while still maintaining each room’s individual identity. She accomplished that with a highly curated selection of neutral colors and materials. Interesting textures add dimension and depth without competing with the extensive and prized art collection, a paramount concern of the couple. The collection includes Paul’s black-and-white cityscape photography.

a mid-century modern southwestern home
Artist Will Clift's lyrical, custom, carbon fiber composite sculpture soars above the wet bar.

Each room segues to the next. “There are common threads and a natural flow from one end of the house to the other,” says Van Luchene. For instance, metal is used extensively throughout the house, yet used differently in each room so it does not feel repetitive or formulaic. The custom work is fresh and exciting each place you find it, including the front doors, handrails, end tables, the sleek powder room vanity and the chimney, where it is juxtaposed against the original flagstone fireplace. “The steel material adds such interest and intrigue to the house,” Van Luchene says. “The patina we used is soft and elegant. It’s not harsh, but rather rich and provides such an interesting color.”

Gabe Rippel is the metal master who brought Van Luchene’s visions to life. Says Rippel, “I think we ended up with steel in every room in the house, with some pieces bigger than others. It really ties the house together nicely.” His satisfaction is evident. “I love it. I feel like Santa Fe is prime for a more contemporary feel by marrying together the traditional materials like flagstone and stucco with more modern details like metal. That’s the new normal in Santa Fe.”

Along with the metalwork, nearly every detail the home is customized to the space and the people living in it. The kitchen, for instance, was completely upgraded with top-of-the-line cabinetry and appliances that include a wine refrigerator and even a built-in coffeemaker. The kitchen was designed to the precise equipment and needs of the couple, making it not only more beautiful but also more functional. An additional window above the sink, added lights and a less obtrusive stove hood now make the room much more open, bright and luxurious.

Perched above the wet bar, just off the kitchen, is a sculpture they commissioned local artist Will Clift to create. To create the sculpture’s gracefully balanced form, Clift came up with the innovative idea of weaving pieces/strips of carbon fiber composite, a material typically used in the aviation and automotive industries. Next, he painted the piece an ultra-matte black, a unique color he ordered from England. Then, he mixed the black paint with local mica and painted it a second time. Much to his delight, the mica gave the strikingly dark color a subtle yet brilliant shimmer.

“The combination of the black paint and the vibrant mica reminds me of the pitch-black night skies here in Santa Fe,” says Clift. “When it comes to where I get my ideas from, I intentionally keep them vague. I want to allow people to have their own experiences with the pieces so that the connection can be a little more personal.” He adds, “When it comes to this particular sculpture, if my piece can bring the family a little calm or inspiration each day, that’s fantastic. That means the world to me.”

After a lot of hard work, innovation and collaboration, Debra, Paul and their beloved Doberman pinschers are now enjoying a new chapter in their decades-old home, situated in a centuries-old city. It’s part of the story of reinventing a style as old as Santa Fe itself, in a place where endless possibilities are yet to find their new home.

A mid-century modern living room
A chic seating area exemplifies the refined use of a neutral palette and a range of textures.

“The combination of the black paint and the vibrant mica reminds me of the pitch-black night skies here in Santa Fe,” says Clift. “When it comes to where I get my ideas from, I intentionally keep them vague. I want to allow people to have their own experiences with the pieces so that the connection can be a little more personal.” He adds, “When it comes to this particular sculpture, if my piece can bring the family a little calm or inspiration each day, that’s fantastic. That means the world to me.”

After a lot of hard work, innovation and collaboration, Debra, Paul and their beloved Doberman pinschers are now enjoying a new chapter in their decades-old home, situated in a centuries-old city. It’s part of the story of reinventing a style as old as Santa Fe itself, in a place where endless possibilities are yet to find their new home.

Local Buyer’s Guide

Works by Will Clift are available through Gerald Peters Gallery
Wood & steel console on living room wall by Chad Manley Design
White sculptural sconces on sitting room cabinet by Sonneman (available at Allbright & Lockwood)
Glass & metal pendant light fixture above Dining Room table: Sonneman (available at Allbright & Lockwood)

Alana Grimstad
Contributor

Alana Grimstad is an experienced, award-winning journalist, writer and photographer based in Santa Fe who loves to meet interesting people and is honored to share their stories.

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