A Louisiana couple combines their Southern roots with the unique style of the City Different.
As the sun dips below the Sangre de Cristo mountains outside historic Santa Fe, the sky radiates a tapestry of colors before revealing a canopy of stars. A couple takes in the celestial kaleidoscope from their patio, bundled up beside a cozy fire to offset the brisk high-desert night. “We spent most of our lives in Louisiana, where you can’t be outdoors without fighting heat and humidity and bugs,” the wife says. “Here, outdoor living is wonderfully comfortable. Santa Fe is just divine.”
Originally from Africa, the homeowners raised their family in Shreveport, but they were not unfamiliar with New Mexico. For many years they owned a partial interest in a condo in Santa Fe proper and would take their family on annual trips. Once their children were grown, they decided to make Santa Fe their permanent place of residence.
In 2004 the couple purchased a sprawling 8,000-square-foot home, ensuring plenty of room to accommodate visiting family and friends. But when it came time to furnish the new property, they faced a conundrum. “In Louisiana, we had an Acadian-style home with plantation furnishings,” explains the wife. “Many of those furnishings came with us to Santa Fe, but we weren’t sure how they would look in an adobe-style home.”
So the new transplants turned to local interior designer Lisa Samuel for help. Having a knack for creating eclectic yet cohesive spaces that blend pieces and patterns in various styles, Samuel immediately recognized the home’s potential and jumped at the opportunity to conceptualize the design. “The owners love art, and that’s something I wanted to build upon,” says the designer. “We wanted the interior to be about art and culture, mixing elements that reflect a well-traveled life.”
Over time, the home became the backdrop for a diverse mix of paintings and unusual furnishings that reflected the owners’ African and Southern roots, as well as their love of the Southwest. It was exactly what they wanted. And then they moved.
In 2011, the couple decided to downsize. They sold their spacious estate — along with almost all of its furnishings — and moved to a one-story ranch-style home. Keeping only their art and a handful of heirloom pieces, they started all over and reached out to Lisa Samuel again, this time presenting her with a new challenge.
“They asked me if I could pull together the interior by re-purposing furniture from fine consignment stores,” Samuel says. “That made the project really fun.” She took her inspiration from the stunning location: Spanning 5 acres forested with cholla, juniper, and pinyon trees and offering 360-degree views of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains, the property feels miles away from civilization (though it’s mere minutes from downtown). The home’s multiple patios and large windows create a seamless link to the interior space, allowing for a smooth flow between indoor and outdoor living — an aspect the owners cherish. “Living outdoors is very natural here, and the owners take full advantage of that,” says Samuel.
The couple’s art collection and their love of the Southwestern landscape were once again at the heart of Samuel’s design. Starting in the home study, the designer replastered the walls and coved ceiling with a nomadic desert sand color to give the room a soft, suede-like feel. A neutral sofa, a black leather wingback, and an embroidered high-back chair create an inviting sitting area, while a large piece of pottery topped with a thick round slab of rough timber serves as the coffee table. The focal point of the room, however, is the oversized painting of a Sioux warrior by renowned Santa Fe artist Ethelinda. “The artist is our former neighbor,” notes the wife. “She thoroughly researches her subjects in order to get precise details of the dress, eagle feathers, even the way he carries the spear — it’s very detailed and all authenticated.”
The living room is a compilation of eclectic décor in similar fashion. “It’s an interesting and welcoming space that also evokes a sense of curiosity,” notes the designer. The light sand walls contrast the room’s terra-cotta stained concrete floor. Yet both tones are wonderfully neutral, which created a blank canvas for Samuel. She added detail and depth with the latilla ceiling — a staple of Southwestern design — which consists of small cedar sticks placed perpendicular to large polished vigas. Another point of interest is the antique chest bordering the sofa, which dates back to 1700s China and features its original cinnabar finish. Several mounts decorate the walls, including a kudu that the husband procured on a hunt in Africa, alongside an original work by renowned local artist Poteet Victory, which adds a rich pop of color to the room.
The master bedroom is a further showcase of Santa Fe art, featuring a large painting titled Warrior of the Red Sun by Carole LaRoche and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the picturesque landscape. In the corner between the two decorated walls is a tall rustic wooden armoire where the wife stores her vast collection of colorful jewelry. It’s one of her favorite furnishings — along with the master bed, of course. Situated across from a built-in kiva fireplace, it’s a cozy place of rest even on the coldest winter nights.
Separated from the main sleeping area by a wood-beam archway lined with drapes is the couple’s private sitting area, where another wall of windows provides plenty of natural light and breathtaking views.
“The views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the master bedroom are spectacular,” Samuel says.
But the space perhaps most beloved by the owners cannot be found indoors. It’s on their covered patio, where beaded African tribal chairs situated around an outdoor fireplace provide an irresistible invitation. “Living and dining outdoors is part of the Santa Fe experience,” says the wife. “This has been such an enriching experience for us.”
Samuel Design Group, Lisa Samuel, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 505.820.0239
From the January 2014 issue.