Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

Home Highlight

Forever Home

by Emily Van Cleve

By the time Susan and Joe Malaga were ready to build a custom home in Santa Fe, they knew exactly what they wanted: a high-quality home with a timeless design.

Born in the Midwest and residents of Scottsdale, Arizona, for many years, the Malagas first lived in Santa Fe in 2001 and have owned houses on Palace Avenue and in Las Campanas. They’ve always been drawn to Pueblo Revival style homes, which are usually one story and characterized by flat roofs supported by vigas and wooden beams projecting through the walls. As avid golfers who play four or five times a week, the Malagas wanted to be near a golf course. That’s why buying an elevated lot in Las Campanas that overlooks the golf course and working with Lorn Tryk Architects, who designed a Pueblo Revival home for them, was a perfect combination. “There are times we look out over the golf course and recognize friends,” says Susan, who had a long career in higher education administration.

While looking for just the right lot, the Malagas were living in a 3,600-square-foot Woods Design Builders home in Las Campanas. They liked that home so much that in November 2018 they asked Woods Design Builders to build their new 4,400-square-foot home.

The plan was to construct an elongated, rectangular house high on a ridge, with many windows that offer fabulous views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Jemez Mountains from every room. Their move-in day was April 1, 2020.

Attractive landscaping and a brick walkway
Attractive landscaping and a brick walkway create a welcoming entrance to the Malaga home. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

One benefit of working with Woods Design Builders, the Malagas explain, is that they were allowed to enter some of the company’s previously built Santa Fe homes to determine features and colors they liked and wanted to have in their new home. “This was so helpful to us,” adds Joe, the former owner of an import company. “In turn, we’ve allowed some of their other clients to come into our home since it’s been completed.”

The one design feature the Malagas wanted that’s not usually part of a Pueblo Revival-style home is an open kitchen/living room arrangement. After living ten years in Hawaii, where they appreciated large indoor spaces that seamlessly flowed into outdoor spaces, they felt an open-concept kitchen and living room set-up with a breakfast nook would bring a little of that Hawaii feel to Santa Fe.

Keeping in mind that the house is for the two of them and guests who frequently visit from out of town, the Malagas constructed a three-bedroom home with a master suite and two guest suites. The master suite has a sitting room that’s Susan’s special space for reading, writing and doing paperwork. Since neither Susan nor Joe enjoys bathtubs, they installed a large linen cabinet in the master bathroom, which has a walk-in shower and two vanities. The cabinet was designed by Yuki Murata, a freelance designer with Woods Design Builders, and built by Ernest Thompson in Albuquerque. “We plumbed the area behind the cabinet for a bathtub so a future owner of the house will be able to install one,” Susan explains.

The focal point of the spacious living area is White Buffalo Calf Woman, oil on canvas, by Santa Fean artist C.J. Wells
The focal point of the spacious living area is White Buffalo Calf Woman, oil on canvas, by Santa Fean artist C.J. Wells, whose paintings reflect her Native American and Hispanic heritage. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.
The bedroom suite opens to a secluded courtyard.
The bedroom suite of Susan and Joe Malaga’s new home opens to a secluded courtyard. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

Two guest suites, one on either side of the house, offer comfy accommodations for the couple’s visitors. The main guest suite has a small desk nook and private portal outside. Susan says that the desk nook provides a private area for reading or working when one partner gets up earlier or goes to bed later than the other.

The Malagas like fireplaces but prefer gas-insert, rather than wood-burning, units. Their home features three of such fireplaces — one in the living room, another in the breakfast nook and the third in the master suite sitting room.

Gorgeous eight-inch-wide walnut flooring, which the couple learned about after visiting another Woods’ house, is used in their home’s main areas and bedrooms. Reclaimed French terracotta tile was laid in the foyer and hallways leading to the main and guest bedrooms.

An informal dining area adjoins the open-concept kitchen.
An informal dining area adjoins the open-concept kitchen. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

Susan, who describes herself as the “detail” member of the couple, was most active in providing feedback for the day-to-day decisions throughout the building process. She worked closely with Murata to pick out and design the home’s many beautiful and unusual furniture pieces and doors, which were created by Ernest Thompson and VML Woodworks in Corrales.

“A trip to the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House was a big inspiration for me,” says Murata. She studied the intricate carvings, columns, vigas, doors and furniture made by renowned Russian artist Nicolai Fechin, with influences from Native American, Hispanic and Russian cultures.

With Murata’s assistance, sometimes outside in the winter cold, the Malagas selected antique doors at Rancho’s Antiques in Taos and Seret and Sons in Santa Fe, as well as reproduction furniture at Mediterrania in Santa Fe. Because some of these doors were unique in size, openings had to be adjusted after the initial architectural plans were drawn in order to accommodate them.

The powder room features a custom vanity carved by the talented craftsmen at Ernest Thompson
The powder room features a custom vanity carved by the talented craftsmen at Ernest Thompson. Photography ©Wendy McEahern.

When the Malagas saw woodwork in other Woods Design homes that they really liked, they asked Murata to come up with her own drawings that captured their preferred design elements. They handed many of these drawings to team members at Ernest Thompson, who manufactured alder wood pieces to the Malagas’ specifications. Among Thompson’s creations are an eight-foot-long, ornately carved liquor cabinet and kitchen cabinets. The company also made the powder room vanity, which is similar to one the Malagas saw in another Woods home. Murata’s design for this intricate piece was inspired by images in Alan Bridgewater and Gill Bridgewater’s A Treasury of Woodcarving Designs from Around the World.

Several important artworks also have been integrated into the Malagas’ home. “We prefer to collect art from artists with Native American ancestry or a connection to New Mexico,” Susan says. The couple’s favorite piece of art is the bronze sculpture Mother with Baby by renowned Native American sculptor Allan Houser, who called Santa Fe home from the 1960s until his death in 1994. “We fell in love with the beauty, serenity and peacefulness of a mother and child, as well as the detail of her shawl and windswept skirt,” Susan explains. The couple also relishes two large bronzes and one stone sculpture by Native American sculptor Doug Hyde, who studied with Houser at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

““We are especially drawn to art that reflects the beauty of the Southwestern landscape and its people, along with old churches and burros,” say the Malagas.

“We are especially drawn to art that reflects the beauty of the Southwestern landscape and its people, along with old churches and burros,” say the Malagas, who have works by Martha Pettigrew, Francis Livingston, Kent Wallis and Lori Putnam adorning their walls. Since supporting Santa Fe businesses is very important to the couple, they purchased many of the works at local galleries, including Windsor Betts Art Brokerage, Altermann Galleries & Auctioneers and Sage Creek Gallery.

Only one work of art made it back to the Southwest after the Malagas’ time in Hawaii. “When we lived in Maui, Joe and I had many artworks that brought the feel of Hawaii into our home,” says Susan. “The only piece we brought back to the mainland was a painting of a Hawaiian sugar mill.”

Although the couple enjoyed their time in Hawaii, Santa Fe has a special place in their hearts. They spend as much time as possible enjoying their spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the property’s two outdoor sitting areas.

Landscaping around the home is clean and simple and includes two water features made of boulders. Soothing and restful, these outdoor spaces remind the Malagas why their new house will be their forever home.

Emily Van Cleve
Associate Editor

Writing engaging articles for print and websites continues to be one passion of Emily Van Cleve. She has been a freelance writer and journalist in Santa Fe since 1994, serving a wide range of clients including magazines, newspapers, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Emily has been a contributor to Santa Fean magazine for many years and is delighted to be working with the Santa Fean and Essential Guide team. An abstract painter and former professional pianist, Emily also enjoys hiking throughout New Mexico and at the Grand Canyon.


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