Photography ©Lee Klopfer

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The Byrds’ New Nest

by MK Mendoza

If it were possible to find a home that exudes quintessential contemporary Santa Fe style, it would be Trish and Chip Byrd’s new home. The previous owners of The Essential Guide, one of New Mexico’s premier art and culture magazines, they recently designed and built a stunning home in northwest Santa Fe. After nearly two years of planning and building, they moved in last February.

They say that birds of a feather flock together, and if ever there was the right professional team assembled to build a house, it was the one the Byrds used. Annie O’Carroll, of Annie O’Carroll Interior Design, tipped the Byrds off to lead home designer Stephen Beili, who brought in an all-star line-up of design and build experts. Along with O’Carroll, they included Greenstar Builders owner Jesse Gries; Jeanné Sei, of Kitchens by Jeanné; and landscape architect Lee Klopfer.

A stunning southwestern contemporary home in Santa Fe
The welcoming entrance to Trish and Chip Byrd's contemporary new home. Landscaping and photography by Lee Klopfer.

Lead Home Designer Stephen Beili

Stephen Beili’s lifeblood is designing with detail, yet his perfectionism is tempered with a charming humility and contagious humor. Drawing houses since he was in second grade, he’s now professionally designed nearly ninety residences. Beili is a practical problem solver who prizes collaboration, organization and communication, and has the utmost desire to please clients. His fun personality is the cherry on top.

Give Beili an empty lot with majestic vistas and enchanting New Mexico light, and he has his canvas. After clients complete a sixteen-page questionnaire about everything they want their home to be, he considers the budget and timeline, making adjustments and providing for changes that are bound to arise. He then assembles a team, and together, he, they and the clients work to arrive at the ideal plan. “My goal is to come up with something that makes their hearts sing,” he says.

Situated atop a low hill, the Byrds’ warm, contemporary home has a panoramic western view of the Jemez Mountains and, from certain rooms, views of the Sangre de Cristo range. Because western light can be overpowering, Beili brought in as much light as possible from the other directions. To block the afternoon sun, he shaded the west side with three portales.

Beili says the glamorous master bathroom is his favorite element. “The vanity floats below the skylight, and you look down the length of the bathroom to the freestanding tub with a big view of the Jemez and beyond.”

Beili credits the “delightful and design savvy” Byrds for thoughtful input on their home’s exceptional design, and he also credits the talented team members. “We made the house custom designed for how Trish and Chip like to live, and that means welcoming many friends and family.”

A contemporary southwestern living room
The Byrd's inviting living room features a stunning Chihuly light fixture (and sitting beneath in is their dog, Sedona). Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

Builder Jesse Gries

Beili says Jesse Gries, who has been building things since the age of twelve, is probably the most enthusiastic builder — and maybe person — he’s ever met. He also appreciates Gries’ quality craftsmanship, extensive green building knowledge and emphasis on collaboration. “When you rely on everyone’s area of expertise and also respect each other’s opinions and there’s dialogue, it’s a pretty ideal situation,” says Beili. While Greenstar Builders can both design and build, Gries says he was happy to jump in as the builder because Beili’s plans are meticulous and challenging.

Selective about the projects he takes on, Gries prides himself on his extra TLC and craftsmanship. Gries is also in demand because he always does his best to save money and he is a green builder. For instance, he designed the Byrds’ house with a voltaic solar system, and as a super-insulated structure with a staggered stance and advanced framing, it’s easy to heat and cool. He designed a retaining wall of twelve-foot long natural stone blocks mined on land grant land in Tecolote.

In Gries’ opinion, the owners are crucial to the process on-site, as the plans form. “It’s important to walk them through that process quite often. Trish and Chip were some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” says Gries. “They were caring and expedient in providing information we needed, and they expressed what they wanted in a detailed way.” He says, “We might have had challenges due to weather or deadlines, but we met them all because everyone was so interested in making the best thing we could make. We were able to give the homeowners what they were dreaming about.”

More projects with Beili are on the horizon, and in between projects, Gries and his wife are designing their own dream home.

A painting of a white horse hangs on a rustic door
A sliding barn door cleverly closes off an office cubby from a media/guest room. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

Interior Designer Annie O’Carroll

Annie O’Carroll’s interior design strives to reflect both a sense of place and the homeowners’ personalities. “My aesthetic is very organic,” says O’Carroll. She values proportion, balance and harmony, and she likes to use multiple textures and clean lines, and to combine hard materials, such as steel and glass, with softer ones, such as wood and fabric. “I like rooms to be comfortable, but to have a little tension between masculine and feminine.”

O’Carroll says the Byrds already knew what they liked, but were open to new ideas. She says, for example, “Trish had a lot of design influence in material choices, like the Carrara marble countertop for their kitchen island, and Chip had his eye on a certain glass tile for the powder room backsplash.” From finishes to furnishings, O’Carroll is always considering how the rooms go together and interrelate. “One selection informs another,” she explains. “Trish and Chip both like blue, so that was the color we wove throughout the house.”

Trish’s love of cooking, family and social gatherings meant the kitchen would be Grand Central. It was important to have an open kitchen so people could flow and be casual, and to have several distinct seating areas.

Another aspect of the project was determining what to bring from the Byrds’ previous house and where to place it. For instance, they moved their large Dale Chihuly pendant light, a dramatic handblown glass art piece done in beautiful blue tones, all around the new house until it found its permanent home in the living room.

The Byrds wanted their new house to accommodate up to ten houseguests. They started with the idea of a bunk room, but once Bekye Fargason had stenciled beautiful aspens on the wall, they just couldn’t cover it with bunk beds. Consequently, O’Carroll created an office with a daybed and a raised platform Chip built that can serve as a desk or a bed. She installed a sliding barn door between the office and a media room so that the former “bunk room” can be closed off as a guest room.

O’Carroll’s greatest joy as an interior designer is seeing clients love their house and having it exceed their expectations.  She says with satisfaction, “The Byrds know themselves, and this house reflects them.”

A spacious contemporary kitchen and dining room
A sleek functional kitchen opens into a spacious dining area. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinet Designer Jeanné Sei

Trish considers the kitchen “the soul of the house.” Jeanné Sei should know: she’s been working in and with kitchens most of her life, both commercial and residential, nationally and locally. She says every kitchen is different. She states unequivocally that she doesn’t like designing anything that she wouldn’t enjoy working in.

Sei presented the Byrds with a design that incorporated all the elements from the lead home designer, the interior designer and the Byrds themselves. She began with the appliances, which drove the design and, in this case, the various work areas. She says that Trish and Chip did a thorough, thoughtful job of selecting the appliances. “This gave us a general idea of the setup. You have the refrigerator, dishwasher and sink. Opposite is the island with the cooktop. You can take things out of the refrigerator, prep them at the sink and then turn around and cook them,” says Sei. There are two below-the-counter ovens on the outer wall, at the end of the U-shape kitchen. The prep area and bar sink are on the other side of the island.

Everything has its place, including double pull-out trashcans, wooden cutlery dividers, a recycling center, spice drawers, a microwave and rollout trays that house small appliances and cookware. The wine cooler is separated from the other refrigerators so that accessing it doesn’t interfere with the food preparation.

Natural light and tall ceilings add the illusion of space to this ample kitchen that faces the formal dining and living rooms. There are no upper wall cabinets, except a tall pullout pantry that’s accessible on both sides. Marble countertops and the glass tile inspired the cabinetry finishes and hardware. The perimeter cabinetry is poplar wood with a finish that allows the grain to peek through.

A large island with a glossy grayish-blue finish on its cabinetry occupies the center of the kitchen. Sei says that along with the blue finish on the walls, it adds a lot of character to the kitchen. “The kitchen ties the entire house together,” she says, “It’s stunning. You walk into the kitchen and just say, ‘Oh, wow!’ It’s a kitchen that the clients can live with forever: the inserts, the functionality — it’s all there.”

Regarding the bathrooms, Sei lucked out with one of the guest bathrooms: she found a cashmere-finish maple wood door that perfectly matched the pattern in the textured tile behind the sink.

A saguaro cactus scultpure backlit by the sunset
A steel saguaro cactus sculpture from Desert Steel backlit by the setting sun. Photography ©Lee Klopfer.

Landscape Architect Lee Klopfer 

Lee Klopfer lives to be outdoors, and when he’s not taking people up Mt. Everest or snapping magnificent photographs, he’s designing picturesque landscapes right outside homeowners’ front doors. He’s a one-man business by choice, and he works by referral only.

“Best-case scenario, I’m brought in at the very beginning,” says Klopfer. “That way you don’t end up doing any backtracking.” That’s especially important when there are elements such as a water catchment system.

Klopfer used site-appropriate trees — aspens and regional evergreens — and lots of grasses and low-growing plants that would not block the view. There is a small cactus garden, and in a more distant area, a natural grass meadow. Containers of plants are strategically placed in outdoor living areas. The Byrds also had several outdoor artworks and sculptures they wanted Klopfer to place, a project he particularly enjoyed because all three have similar tastes.

Using a professional landscape contractor for installation was another huge plus for Klopfer. “It’s one thing to draw a pretty picture,” he says. “It’s another thing to install it. Luckily, I had Clay Scott and Peggy Wright of Scott’s Irrigation and Landscaping. They’re fabulous.”

Klopfer says his ultimate satisfaction is seeing everything come to fruition and having happy clients. “It was a super fun project, mostly because of the Byrds.”

Every team member expressed delight in working with the others, appreciation for their clients’ congeniality and clarity, and most of all, their pleasure in the fabulous results. For creating a splendid and unique “Byrd house,” they all deserve feathers in their caps.

Local Home Design Resources

Ampersand Old & New — ampersandoldandnew.com
Annie O’Carroll Interiors — annieocarroll.com
Arrediamo Santa Fe — arrediamo.com
Builders Source Appliance Gallery — builderssource.com
California Closets — californiaclosets.com
Custom Window Coverings — windowcoveringssantafe.com
Dahl Electric — dahllighting.com
Dahl Plumbing — dahlplumbingsantafe.com
David Naylor Interiors —davidnaylorinteriors.com
Ernest Thompson Furniture/Cabinetry/Closets — ernestthompson.com
Green Star Builders — greenstarsantafe.com
Kitchens by Jeanné — kitchensbyjeanne.com
La Luz Artful Lighting — laluzsf.com
Lee Klopfer, Landscape Architect — leeklopfer.com
Moss Design — mosscollection.com
Raby Home Solutions — rabyhome.com
Range West — rangewest.com
Reside Home — howyoureside.com
Robin Gray Rugs — robingraydesign.com
Rugman of Santa Fe — therugmanofsantafe.com
Santa Fe Awnings — santafeawning.com
Santa Fe By Design — santafebydesign.com
Scotts Irrigation & Landscaping — scottsirrigation.com
Sierra Pacific Windows — sierrapacificwindows.com
Sierra West Sales — sierrawestsales.com
Statements — statementsinsantafe.com
Stone Forest — stoneforest.com
Studio Beili modern home design — studiobeili.com
United Stoneworks — unitedstoneworks.net
Western Window Systems — westernwindowsystems.com
Wire Santa Fe Custom TV & Internet Installers — wiresantafe.com

MK Mendoza
Contributor

MK Mendoza is a an Emmy award-winning television producer, entertainer, writer and entrepreneur. She has worked on productions ranging from the George Foster Peabody Award Winning documentary, Surviving Columbus, to the Emmy Award winning programs of Colores! and Breaking Bad, as well as such networks as HGTV, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. She is the host of KSFR 101.1FM’s Wake-up Call.

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