Artful Living: Award-Winning Collaborations

Nov. 5—In August every year, the much-anticipated Haciendas Parade of Homes takes place over two weekends. I love to see all the brilliant new products and ideas of the many builders that participate, but I really love to see the finishes and the interior design ideas. It's an event that speaks to my interior designer lizard brain.

This year was just as enjoyable as years past. Soaring ceilings in contemporary beauties, a Northern New Mexico gem, a third-story party patio overlooking stunning mountain range views: it's incredibly impressive what these builders and designers accomplish every year, including this year's Grand Hacienda Award Winner, Green Star Builders. Their entry, a custom private residence in the Historic Eastside, was unique in square footage, finishes and overall aesthetic. It's a house you feel like you could move into and not need to do a thing to. Just bring your suitcases and your cat and/or dog.

This house appealed to me for many reasons. The Zen-like courtyard hints at the wonders that await inside. As you enter, there is an immediate sense of creative thoughtfulness. I could go on for days, but the real reason I loved this house was because I could tell how much respect for the homeowners' wishes went into every decision. It absolutely makes a difference when you are designing and building a home for a specific client. It brings a connection with the client into the mix. It is obvious a tremendous amount of care and consideration went into the design of the home for that reason.

I was lucky enough to be given a tour through the house by Jesse Gries, owner of Green Star Builders. I got the down-low on the "why" of everything. This home was built for long-time friends of his. They were familiar with how he works, that he is very hands on and he listens. The clients had been on many excursions to Japan, and they wanted a Japanese-inspired, custom home built, but they didn't want to ignore the eclectic beauty of Santa Fe style. Because the house is in the historic district, Jesse had to conform to the exterior requirements yet find a way to subtly marry the Japanese aesthetic to the inside. Then, careful selections had to be made with the finishes, cabinetry, built-ins, landscaping and so forth. So, a team was built: interior designer Steffany Hollingsworth, designer Stephen Beili and, of course, Jesse Gries.

The powerful entry has a custom steel and vertical-grain fir entry door, a floating entry bench and a custom designed sconce. There is a multilayered wood frame ceiling in all the main spaces and shoji-screen-inspired ceilings in the bedrooms. The custom cabinetry is the white oak, and there is a floating powder room counter with bronze butterfly inlays, a Japanese sento (bathhouse) and more. All had to be conceived of first, then designed, specified, procured and realized. Jesse and Steffany believe the success of the design was that they worked in concert, letting everyone on the team be heard. No ego; just trust and respect, and "folding" team members into the process of designing, building and finishing this house. They put their heart and soul into it, and you can feel it.

Another monumental factor in the success of the house is the openness of the floor plan. Designed by Stephen Beili, it just feels right. By the way, I feel there is a difference here between the concept of an open floor plan and openness because of the design choices. There are clever design choices, like the pantry that includes the refrigerator and ovens. This gives the kitchen a custom feel, as if it's part of the custom furniture of the dining room and living room.

The footprint of the house is not very large, nor are the two bedrooms, but somehow they are just right and flow off the main living space. (Yes, I am aware I keep using the word "right.") Jesse referred to this floor plan as not having any rooms in a "vacuum" and called the design of the house "right-sizing." The concept of right-sizing also works here because the outdoor spaces become a part of the living areas, which gives the home a tremendous sense of spaciousness and openness. There are beautiful doors to the patio that simply disappear, a koi pond, custom steel post-and-beam courtyard details and beautiful landscaping. Again, working in concert and respecting each other's ideas account for this.

Jesse called the care that went into the house "origami folding." It seems to be a concept that works. Steffany said that although Jesse is exacting and a perfectionist, he is fluid. He keeps a rein on the schedule and still allows the time for a careful consideration process. And, he doesn't mind his getting his hands dirty welding and making custom wood sculptures. Sounds like a great leader.

I have referred to collaboration before, but this house is a true success because of it. Kudos to the team. I hear the homeowners love the results!

Artful Living: Award-Winning Collaborations