Sensual Southwest

I opened an email this morning with a comment that sang to me from Liz Nichols in Austin, Texas. “I love the look of Santa Fe homes architecturally and style wise most of all. The colors are beautiful, the design so relaxed. I adore textiles and pottery.”

Having just spent a month in New Mexico delighting in the nuances of earthy brown adobes on sun-splashed streets set against peach and turquoise colored mountains, I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve always loved old adobes, and I have had the additional pleasure recently to work on newer stucco homes with a more contemporary feel in Santa Fe. But regardless of age, the warmth and uniqueness of Southwest Style seems to always come shining through.

Old Adobes Versus New

Santa Fe Style
Santa Fe Style

For all of us who are drawn to New Mexico’s engaging and historic architectural details and stunning colors, here are images of a project I have been working on. The Houston-based homeowners had begun furnishing their home in the hills north of Santa Fe, and called me to help them complete the rooms and add finishing touches.

Unlike old adobes, which traditionally have small rooms, low ceilings and tiny windows, this structure’s main living areas flow together with high ceilings and big windows and doors for viewing the surrounding mountains.

Santa Fe Style

Kiva fireplace is flanked by two window seats.
Kiva fireplace is flanked by two window seats.

Golden walls in the living room combine with rich terra cotta brick floors and butterscotch colored vigas that embellish the ceilings. A kiva-style fireplace sits between two window seats with orange and turquoise seat cushions and pillows.  A persimmon colored sofa faces two chairs on either side of the fireplace with a bold black rug woven with colorful designs defining the seating area.

Rustic Mexican armoire grounds the living room.
Rustic Mexican armoire grounds the living room.

An antique hand-carved Mexican armoire grounds the living room between the sofa and fireplace. Two green side chairs stand ready for guests to join a conversation by the fire. A locally woven Native American basket hangs on the wall above a vintage desk that serves as a laptop station when the owners are in town.

Southwest Sunset Colors

Coral and white floral artwork illuminates the guest room.
Coral and white floral artwork illuminates the guest room.

Existing terra cotta painted walls proved challenging for fabric choices, furnishings and artwork in a guest room. But fortunately, we found large coral and white floral prints which literally lit up the room and harmonized with the vibrant terra cotta.

We chose corals, pinks, and apricots to emulate Southwest sunsets and complement the room’s bold wall color. Whimsical quilted, striped and embroidered bedding reminiscent of Mexico welcomes friends and family from Texas, while ornate textured drapes flank a large window in complementary colors.

Pink and apricot bedding complements the terra-cotta walls.
Pink and apricot bedding complements the terra-cotta walls.

Cream and Black with Red

Ornate fabric with birds and flowers create an old fashioned feeling.
Ornate fabric with birds and flowers create an old fashioned feeling.

My client, Susan, found a pair of red antique wooden twin beds that contrasted with vibrant gold walls in the second guest room. We created fanciful bedding from ornately embellished fabric with embroidered birds and flowers in golds, reds, blacks, and greens against a creamy field. Small bird prints with cream colored backgrounds hang above each bed. They not only speak to the vintage feeling of the room, but also bring light and life to the saturated wall tone.

Gold, Orange and Green

A master bedroom banco provides a cozy place to relax.
A master bedroom banco provides a cozy place to relax.

In the master bedroom, a built-in banco fills one side of the room, with an adjacent door and windows facing the Sangre de Christo mountains. A colorful textured rug defines the seating area with a rustic antique trunk placed on top.  Pillows in different hues and patterns embellish the spacious banco and harmonize with whimsical floral window treatments – a perfect place to relax with a good book and a cup of tea.

On the other side of the master bedroom, existing orange striped bedding harmonizes with gold walls and the adjacent fireplace. The same whimsical embroidered flowers in green, gold and orange provide an elegant fabric valance, open or closed, above the bed. Yet these traditional flowers juxtapose the contemporary floral design on adjacent burnt orange chairs adding interest and pizazz to the room.

Whimsical flowers dance above the king-size bed.
Whimsical flowers dance above the king-size bed.

Colors that Reflect Inside and Out

Outside colors reflect inside colors.
Outside colors reflect inside colors.

The sky’s the limit when designing homes in Santa Fe Style. The brilliant light of the high desert and history of Northern New Mexico calls for bold and vibrant colors, unusual architectural embellishment, beautiful walled courtyards, and artful contributions from Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures.

It is truly the Land of Enchantment on all levels, both inside and outside of homes dotting the breathtaking landscape and magnificent mountains surrounding Santa Fe. I really loved working with the brilliant and colorful textured fabrics that somehow the City Different gave permission to use.

PS I hope you’ll check out my new Eye for Beauty e-Course.
It just might change your life!

In the love of Santa Fe Style,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
Showing 2 comments
  • Cynthia Dahl
    Reply

    Truly, lovely. Cozy…

  • Liz Nichols
    Reply

    I also love the painted doors in adobe homes: turquoise, deep lavender. It’s stunning. The town of Santa Fe, for anyone who has never been, is painted like a gorgeous sunset and the adobe building material is the perfect organic architecture for the color scheme. It’s too bad that more towns aren’t as cohesive as Santa Fe because it creates an amazing, special ambience and must be lovely to live in every day.

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