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For The Home

Artful Adobe

Author: Rebecca L. Rhoades
Issue: July, 2017, Page 46
Photo by Wendy McEahern

The Pueblo Revival-style home is built in a boomerang shape. In its elbow is a verdant entry courtyard, complete with lush plantings and soothing water features. Near the front gates is “Half Eaten Apple,” a bronze sculpture by Mark Yale Harris.
Delighted by Its Landscape and Captivated by Its Culture, a Bicoastal Couple Choose to Settle Down in Santa Fe

When it comes to reasons for purchasing a house, more room for growing families, stability and financial security are at the top of the list. For one bicoastal couple, however, their desire to buy a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was fueled by a love of art—and one special painting.

In the living room, high split cedar ceilings, smooth plaster walls and hand-carved built-in cabinets provide ample room for displaying art and artifacts, including sculpture and Native American baskets and pottery. A 19th-century Blackfeet beaded dress hangs above the fireplace.
“We were in the process of building a house in Scottsdale, and we had come to Santa Fe for a holiday with no intentions of buying anything,” says the wife. “But Santa Fe offered everything we like—art, culture, great food and good weather.” They also found themselves captivated by a Fritz Scholder piece that wasn’t right for their new home. Knowing that they would be returning to The City Different again and again, they ended up purchasing a vacation house shortly after their trip.

For the next four years, they used the property as an escape from the Valley’s searing summer temperatures. When it was time to retire, they decided to consolidate their holdings, selling their East Coast and Scottsdale properties and relocating permanently to the Land of Enchantment. “The more time we spent here, the more we liked it,” notes the wife. “The city has texture,” adds the husband. While they loved the look and feel of their original residence, its small footprint left something to be desired. So they contacted the builder, Kim Dressel, who happened to have recently completed a larger version in the same iconic Pueblo Revival style. This new home would give them the space they desired for year-round living as well as for displaying their beloved art collection, including the Scholder, which now features prominently in the entrance rotunda.

Doug Hyde’s limestone sculpture, “Mother and Child,” draws the eye out from the formal dining room and to Sangre de Christo Mountains on the horizon. Inside, paintings by Forrest Moses (left) and Ed Mell share space with a Dogan ladder from Africa.
The boomerang-shaped structure, which branches off from the circular entryway, offers the best of the region’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle, with numerous rooms for entertaining, working or simply relaxing with a good book; ample exterior spaces, including a
sparkling pool and spa; and unobstructed views of the Jemez Mountains to the west, the Ortiz Mountains to the southwest and the Sangre de Christo Mountains to the east. “The house is sited so well that it has wonderful vistas from every area,” says the husband. “We enjoy the views from every room and patio in the home.”

The home’s interiors are just as eye-catching as its views. Just inside the front door, in the center of the rotunda, a 5,000-pound ball-shaped fountain of Chinese basalt is a striking focal point. “The idea for the fountain came to me in a vision,” says Dressel. “It was custom-made for the house, and once the structure was framed, we had to lower it through the ceiling to place it.”

The entry rotunda wows with its Chinese black basalt fountain, reflecting pool and circular glass ceiling and provides the perfect foil for Fritz Scholder’s dramatic “Red #7 Chief.” The painting is flanked by two beaded blanket strips. The large textile is a Navajo transitional Eyedazzler blanket, circa 1890.
Additional signatures of Dressel’s are seen throughout, including integral plaster walls and woodwork with one-of-a-kind carvings. “The designs are based on those by Russian artist Nicolai Fechin, who lived in Taos,” the builder notes. “They were all done on-sight.” While the owners made a few modifications, including replacing the mullioned windows with large picture windows and adding roofs to the east breakfast patio and walkway between the main house and guest casita, or west wing, the house was exactly what they wanted.

To help them decorate, the couple called upon Scottsdale-based interior designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Susan Hersker. Their relationship goes back roughly 20 years; they initially hired Hersker to work on their first home in Arizona in the 1990s and then collaborated with her on a second Valley home as well as their original Santa Fe abode.

The designer filled the rooms with furnishings that are comfortable and timeless. “We used a lot of antiques and custom-made items,” Hersker says. The dining and living room settings were brought over from the homeowners’ first Santa Fe residence, but the remainder of the pieces, such as a sectional covered in hand-woven fabric, a hand-carved replica of an 18th-century desk for the wife’s office, and a massive mesquite headboard for one of the guestrooms, were chosen specifically for this house.

The ornate walnut desk, the centerpiece of the wife’s office, is a hand-crafted reproduction of a Spanish Renaissance desk. A hand-spun wool rug from Nepal plays off the warm tones of the antiqued pine floor.
“The most significant thing about Susie’s designs is that she captures your vision. You’re not living in a Susie Hersker house; you’re living in your house,” says the wife. “She helped us fulfill our vision of what we wanted for this home. And our vision for all our houses starts with our art collection.” It’s an approach that the designer appreciates. “It’s such a pleasure to work with clients who have fine art,” Hersker says. “I’m blessed that I get to play with it.”

From the aforementioned Scholder to paintings by Forrest Moses, Dan Namingha, Ed Mell and William Arendt, among others, to sculpture, pottery, weavings and Native American historics, just about every inch of the home is filled with eye-catching pieces that exemplify and celebrate the Southwest. “Art is very important to us,” explains the husband. “It adds an elegance to its surroundings. It creates an emotion, a peacefulness, an intellectual reaction.”

Comfort and functionality are key in the family room. “We do not own a piece of furniture that we have not sat in,” says the wife. In the kitchen, the homeowners replaced the stainless steel appliances with integrated versions that match the alder cabinetry. The painting, “Geronimo,” is by Tomas Lasansky.
The couple also hand-selected every piece. “My wife and I don’t buy anything that we don’t agree on,” the husband adds. They both also enjoy sharing the stories of the artists, of each individual piece and of how it was collected.

Indulging in their passion with the local arts community is just one of the many reasons the homeowners found themselves drawn to this mountain town. Not only does Santa Fe have more than 300 art galleries offering works by renowned masters to emerging unknowns, it is host to numerous world-class cultural institutions, countless outdoor activities and a diverse community with a rich history. “We love everything about Santa Fe,” says the wife. “It really suits us because there are interesting things to do year-round and the weather is very pleasant. We consider it Paradise.”

With its breathtaking views of the pool, golf course and Jemez Mountains in the distance, the main patio, which sits between the living room and the guest casita, is a year-round favorite.

The home’s low profile blends seamlessly with its surroundings, as seen from the golf course. The tall, arched window belongs to the living room.
The homeowners often enjoy breakfast on the east patio. They added the bronze sculpture by Tammy Garcia two years ago. “It makes the space,” says the husband.


Native American historics, custom bed linens and a one-of-a-kind mesquite headboard combine  for casual elegance in the guest bedroom. The weaving above the bed is a Navajo Red Mesa runner, circa 1920, while a Southern Cheyenne backrest, circa 1890, hangs on the fireplace.
With its comfortable seating and well-stocked bar, the game room in the casita is the perfect spot for an intimate gathering of friends. Because it’s in a separate building, “you feel like you’re going somewhere without having to get in your car,” says the husband. “Untitled Indian Portrait” by Alfredo Rodriguez hangs above the fireplace.
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