Tasteful Trimmings

Daniel Nadelbach
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East meets West in the guest bedroom, where an 1850 French mahogany campaign chest holds a c.-1820 French clock, two antique quill boxes from India and a bronze rat from Kyoto. 
Affectionately dubbed “The Baroness’s Bathroom,” this quaint powder room features the artwork of Baroness Catherine d’Erlanger.
 The back staircase, which leads to the master bedroom, features a pair of c.-1900 mirrors that were taken from a barbershop, as well as four early 18th-century snake prints.
Adding festive flair to the dining room is a collection of antique bultos on top of a late 18th-century painted cabinet.
A collection of wooden crosses from New Mexico add visual punch to the back patio.
The Portuguese hand-carved mahogany bed.
Click HERE to see more photos of architect Paul Davies' home.

When Paul Davies, a noted Los Angeles architect, decided to purchase a second home, he knew exactly what he was looking for: something quaint and quiet with a laid-back atmosphere. Having lived his whole life in Los Angeles, he was ready to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, and replace it with peace and tranquility amid Santa Fe’s picturesque mountains and Western ambience.

Scouring the picks his realtor presented, Davies faced a dilemma. “Nothing jumped out at me,” he explains. “I think my realtor was about to give up on me. It was a Friday afternoon and he had shown me everything he could when he suggested looking at this tiny house that had just come on the market.” Driving up an unassuming dead-end street, they stopped in front of a “square box with a little garage attached to it.” As he walked through the front door, Davies was immediately struck by the possibilities, and knew this was the home he had been waiting for.

While the home’s traditional earth-toned adobe architecture blended well with the landscape, its tiny size—812 square feet—made daily life a little too close for comfort. Careful not to disrupt the natural lay of the land, Davies designed two new additions that more than doubled the home’s square footage. “I looked at its faults and strengths,  corrected the faults and kept the strengths, making sure I didn’t obliterate the character of the house so that it was no longer what it had once been,” he explains. “I hate the word ‘renovated’; it’s one of my least favorite words. I kept the intimate quality that was here and just expanded upon it.”

Keeping the new spaces small to reflect the home’s original demeanor, Davies created a warm and inviting atmosphere that soon beckoned him to make Santa Fe his primary home. Having accumulated an eclectic collection of art and antiques throughout his lifetime, Davies was able to quickly fill up his new digs with beloved treasures. While his collection doesn’t adhere to the Western aesthetic, it certainly speaks for Davies’ personal sensibilities. “Inside, my home does not reflect the average person’s conception of what a Santa Fe home should look like,” he says. “There are no howling coyotes or Native American vessels. Instead it’s a cornucopia of the things I’ve amassed throughout my life.” 

From one room to the next, intimate vignettes of religious and Oriental art abound. In some areas, Mexican or Spanish pieces are carefully interspersed, giving a tasteful, yet understated, nod to the home’s Western roots. Even during the holidays, Davies continues to display these precious possessions. Instead of trading his daily décor for Christmas-themed decorations, he creates interesting vignettes that feature his most beloved mementos. With  the addition of pine boughs, festive lights, and exquisite glass and silver accents, he creates a refined space free from gaudy over-decorating.

Admittedly, his most elaborate display of holiday revelry is on his white pine Christmas tree. Overflowing with one-of-a-kind antique ornaments—he has more than 3,000 in his collection, some of which once adorned his grandmother’s tree—it is a magnificent monument to Christmases of yesteryear. As with all of his collections, Davies prefers works with age, though he doesn’t collect art and antiques from just one time period. Mixing media and motifs, he expertly blends items that not only span genres, but also centuries.

Often described as owning a “mini museum,” Davies is quick to admit that he has a “hands-on” policy when it comes to his treasures. If it’s a functional item, such as china, it is readily used rather than being tucked into a china cabinet. Likewise, visitors are encouraged to inspect artifacts, figures and objects in order to get a full appreciation of their form and beauty. In the same vein, when Davies adds to his collection, he chooses new pieces with the same carefree attitude. “I don’t go out looking for specific items to add to my collection,” he explains. “Rather, I wait for them to come looking for me.” 

Making his collections the focal point of the interior, Davies chose colors and patterns that would complement  and showcase his art. “This house was colorless when I moved in,” he explains. “I don’t like to live in colorless environments, so I added color carefully and specifically as each room revealed its needs.”

Indeed, taking his cue from his myriad collections, Davies sometimes chose his palette from a particular thread in an antique carpet or even a hue extracted from a favorite painting. And more often than not, he shied away from the subtle choices, instead mixing a number of strong colors throughout the residence. Blending such hues as brilliant aquamarine, deep blue and Chinese yellow, Davies’ home resonates with style and taste. “There’s a saying here in Santa Fe that you can paint your house any color you’d like, as long as it’s a shade of brown,” he says. “Never one to conform, I’ve been reprimanded numerous times for the ‘unnatural’ colors I’ve chosen.”

Redeeming himself with the locals, Davies paid homage to the Western aesthetic by keeping the home’s original vigas and hardwood floors, adding new beams to accent particular ceilings, and choosing stone and tile in a number of different patterns for the new additions. Juxtaposing these cool, hard textures are sumptuous fabrics and upholstery, such as leather, suede and velvet in coordinating colors.

Keeping pattern to a minimum because he says it interferes with his artwork, Davies prefers to keep the spotlight on his collections. “Everything in this house has a story,” he says. “I practically know where everything I own came from, when I bought it and the circumstances surrounding its purchase. When I buy something, it’s because I love it and plan on keeping it forever, not because it matches something in my home. My collections are like very old friends—timeless and true.”


Colossal Color

More so than any other decorating detail, color can make or break a room. With so much emphasis on choosing the right hue, it’s no wonder that many homeowners play it safe and opt for a neutral palette. But if you’re like Davies, who just can’t live in a world devoid of color, and you want to add life and style to your interiors, he offers some expert tips for stunning colorful effects.

Beware of Trends

Try to avoid the trendy color of the year unless you absolutely love it. Nothing dates an interior more than last year’s hue.

Choose Colors Wisely

A well-designed interior never goes out of style. So choose colors that accent and showcase your most prized possessions and be wary of colors that detract.

Use Patterns Carefully

Busy patterns, like color, can be very tricky. If you’re a novice, consider using pattern on the floor or as small accents so that it doesn’t interfere with your decorative objects and artwork. Remember, large patterns can be very exciting, but they also don’t age well.

Click HERE to see more photos of architect Paul Davies' home.

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