Modern minimalist design has barnstormed through Santa Fe with a vengeance. From the slew of new buildings going up around Site Santa Fe in the railyard, to shops, art galleries, and new homes around town, the vogue for pared-down clean lines and functionality is flourishing here. In a 400-year-old town with a distinctive regional aesthetic inclined towards ornamental scrolls and flourishes, the appeal might seem contradictory. But in fact, modernism feels right at home here. Both the pueblo and territorial styles of traditional adobe architecture developed a strong clarity and sparseness in its silhouette. It's what appealed to Georgia O'Keeffe and still remains timeless.
Still, the concept of distilling everything in a room down to its essentials can get a bit tiresome-conveying an ambience of refined restraint in six different shades of beige is about as welcoming and interesting as a coma. Step into Santa Fe Modern Home, over in the purple-hued Pacheco Park complex, and you instantly see a more inventive and unique take on modern minimalism at work. Owner and designer Page Kelleher has mixed contemporary furnishings and accessories with a Southwestern sensibility that suggests the myriad ways in which artistic vision can interpret life. All the pieces in Kelleher's store have individuality, but the emphasis is on craftsmanship and the beauty of the materials, rather than on projecting a calculated impression of hipper-than-thou social caché. Kelleher trained as an artist at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, and has had a successful career as a faux finisher and color consultant in both San Francisco and Santa Fe. She still does $85/hour color consulting, and it keeps her busy. But her long-time love of furnishings and design led her to open Santa Fe Modern Home, where she could turn her ideas into reality. She employs two local woodworkers and two steelworkers, which avoids the hassles of shipping and allows for more custom work. The store also represents other local designers, and Kelleher in addition holds periodic shows for artists whose work she likes and wants to support. Santa Fe Modern Home carries furniture, including a brand new line of custom upholstered pieces, linens and bedding, tableware and dishes, lighting, rugs, and even jewelry handmade by two local artisans. Every item receives her almost obsessive scrutiny in the selection. "One of my favorite comments that I've heard said about the store is "everything in here is really well considered,' " Kelleher said. "I'll spend an hour deciding whether an $8 glass will fit in." The result reflects not just care and thought, but also a certain harmony, an agreeable meshing of lightand texture, surface and patina, hard and soft. It's inviting and comfortable, yet coherent. Kelleher simultaneously draws on the heritage of New Mexico craftsmanship, for example in the tinwork the store carries. Spanish colonial taste tended to the ornate. Her tin light fixtures and candelabra strip away the fuss, creating a more modern, lean and edgy style. She describes her vision as a hybrid, of organic/rustic merged with minimalist. "It's less trendy in terms of materials and colors, yet it has a definite urban sensibility," she said. It's also deeply sophisticated. "I love the idea of combining mid-century chairs with an old trastero and a Navajo rug thrown over the back of the sofa," she explained. Along with buying her furnishings, clients often ask her to double as their interior decorator.
Kelleher also strives hard to promote environmentally-friendly practices. For her own designs she likes to use wormy maple wood, which is highly sustainable. The rugs she carries are all Rugmark®-certified, meaning they use natural dyes and no child labor (you can even design your own rug). A steel-cube end table was fabricated from recycled steel scraps. In Santa Fe she exclusively represents Benjamin Forgey, whose designs exemplify the same principles of recycling. Forgey mixes galvanized steel and plexiglass with salvaged driftwood he collects from around the state to make sensational chairs, tables, mirrors and coatracks. The beaver-chewed ends of wood are sanded smooth, and the sun-bleached surfaces shine with an almost silvery patina. Overlapping scallops of weathered wood radiate out like feathers around his "Icarus" mirror, creating a wonderful, tactile awareness of the materials. An armchair fashioned from twisted, sinuous branches wrap around a plexiglass seat like a slick of frozen light suspended in space, superbly balancing movement and stillness.
For centuries, New Mexicans favored very limited furnishings and spartan interiors. The reasons were apparent: People were too poor to buy much; a rural lifestyle meant few free hours to spend crafting more than basic essentials; and it was hard to get here, meaning traders were not hauling much in the way of décor across the deserts and mountains. Kelleher has translated that simplicity into modern terms, while putting a fresh spin on tradition. Santa Fe Modern Home leaves you feeling renewed and inspired with her vision.
Santa Fe Modern Home
1512 Pacheco Street, A 104
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Owner: Page Kelleher
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