Local Flavor Favorite October 2014

It’s a Paint Out!

Images courtesy Canyon Road Paint Out

Images courtesy Canyon Road Paint Out

Among the myriad experiences that make October in Santa Fe such a special, nostalgic time—chiles, golden leaves, nippy nights, costumed kids, apple cider and pumpkins—is the city’s return to a true locals’ town after a bustling summer of visitors and markets and long, hot days. In these cooler, shorter days, we turn inward and perhaps backward as we sigh and relax and begin to let the vibrancy of the past year settle down. The golden light of October sheds its glow on our town and our selves, and it’s in this seasonal, northern New Mexico light that, for the past several autumns, the Canyon Road Merchants Association has joined forces with over a hundred artists to bring back the feeling of the historic road’s past by revealing the beauty of our town through the eyes, hands and brushes of local painters.

This year, the Historic Canyon Road Paint and Sculpt Out, one of the nation’s largest artist demonstrations, invites “the public to interact with working artists as they demonstrate how they create,” says Nancy Leeson, owner of Canyon Road Contemporary Art and executive member of the Canyon Road Merchants Association. Continue reading

The Alchemy of Space

The Alchemy of Space

Lisa Samuel wanted to change her world. At 19, the Santa Fe native found herself divorced and a mother of two. “I knew I needed to do something to make my life work,” she says. “And I knew I couldn’t do it here.”

With dreams of designing, Samuel packed up her small children and moved to San Diego, where she lived on welfare for two years while studying architecture and construction at The American College. When she finished, she moved back to Santa Fe and tried to find a job with an architect. “But it was the late ’70s,” she says. “I was young and I was a woman. I couldn’t get an architect to hire me.” Continue reading

Leonel Capparelli

Leonel Capparelli

The small wooden sign on Rodeo Road belies the significance of what rests at the end of a long dirt driveway. From the outside, the Hands of America building is modest, with two entrances facing an expanse of bare earth that lacks delineated parking spaces.

Inside, it’s a different story. A striking array of old furniture defines pathways into shadows and around corners. It’s hard to know where to look first. Continue reading

Cannupa Hanska Luger

NM artist Cannupa Hanska Luger


Back what seems a lifetime ago, before phones were smart and airports had security guards, I remember projecting ahead to the time that is now. My friend Deb staunchly maintained that humans could and even surely would extricate ourselves from global crisis. “But it won’t be the scientists or techno geeks or politicians who lead the way,” she said, “it’ll be the artists.”

“How does a painting in every living room save the world?” I argued.

“Not just the art,” she said. “The process of making the art.”

Continue reading

Confessions of an Author: David Naylor

Confessions of an Author: David Naylor

story by Tania Casselle
photos by Kate Russell

Interior designer David Naylor played hard to get for nearly two years before agreeing to write his book Old World Interiors: A Modern Interpretation — mainly because the book that publisher Gibbs Smith wanted from him wasn’t the book Naylor wanted to write.

“They wanted it to be very Italian or Mediterranean, and that’s an influence, but it wasn’t a focus for me. I look at lots of cultures when I’m designing for a client.”

This is despite the fact that Naylor spent a summer in Anacapri and traveling round Italy as an impoverished art student, trading paintings for lodgings. He stole lemons and ate the candied almonds thrown at weddings. “It was a meal!” he says, agreeing there are worse places to be broke.

“But I couldn’t do a book on Italian architecture. That’s not how I approach a job. I’m trying to get so many things happening in a house.”

Naylor set the book idea aside, but Gibbs Smith himself, the man who founded the eponymous publishing company, kept knocking at his door. So Naylor presented photos of recent projects, explaining his design process. “Why something was made, and how it was made, and what it was made from, and who it was made for. Gibbs Smith was very allowing. He said, ‘Write the book you want to write, tell the story of your workrooms and your projects.’ That’s when I signed the contract.”

The resulting book is beautiful, smart, and inspiring, revealing the interior design philosophy of Naylor’s Visions Design Group, which sources unique pieces from around the globe, and works with artisans to create custom designs.

So once the focus of Old World Interiors was agreed, it was all plain sailing?

Naylor laughs, as he frequently does during our interview. We’re sitting in his Santa Fe showroom beside a gnarled frangipani trunk from Indonesia that serves as an architectural column, the marble spheres nesting in its knots lending a Tolkienesque fairy tale vibe. Although all the pieces surrounding us are dramatic, some boldly contemporary, they also feel comfortable. Naylor’s designs aren’t new and different purely for the sake of it, there’s a sense of organic tradition, albeit with a twist, and that’s what’s reflected in the book — the book that Naylor now had to write, although he was surprised to discover that a publisher doesn’t tell you how to actually DO that.

“It was daunting, so I thought: Right, let’s break this down in the same way I would for a job. You don’t eat an elephant in one day.”  As might be expected for a designer, he decided to photograph everything first, trusting that the book’s structure would emerge from the images.

Naylor and photographer Kate Russell (whose photos also illustrate this article) spent ten months shooting homes Naylor had worked on over the last decade in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California and Oregon.

“I go into a house and see what I want to shoot, but Kate sees things differently and I find if I leave her alone, if I don’t tell her what I want, we get a better shot. She shows me something I wasn’t expecting, a surprising point of view. ”

He points at the book’s cover, where Russell shot a raised dining room through a rotunda entry hall. She stood her tripod in the powder room to get the angle she wanted, manipulating the lighting to glow through an archway, perfectly illuminating the textures in a carved bench that looks as if it’s lived several centuries in a Medici palace, but is in fact new from the workshop.

Naylor is grateful for his clients’ enthusiasm as he re-entered their lives and their homes. “They were all flattered. They were vying for the cover.” His influence continued as he tweaked their rooms for photography. In one, where the client hadn’t bought art yet, Naylor placed a striking John Bonath photograph over the fireplace: a mythical male nude with cigar and snake. (Satisfy your curiosity by checking it out in Visions Design’s showroom.)

“It was a classic living room,” says Naylor, “and I wanted to put something in there a little shocking, a little racy.” The client loved it, and bought the print.

Once Naylor had his images, the themes for the book’s chapters emerged over the next ten months as he selected photos, writing around them and organizing into sections to illustrate his favorite design styles. He acknowledges that his method was frustrating to colleagues, and to the publishers who wanted his written text early. “The process had to come out of seeing the whole. It was easy to sequence when I could see all the photos. I didn’t want to write anything till I saw every shot.”

He admits to “a proud moment” as he surveyed 300 photos from his career spread out on the floor around him, as a kind of retrospective of his work. He could have edited out earlier designs to focus on recent projects where he had bigger budgets and more experience, but he realized that the older work was still relevant. “Even my beginning work had a moxie and big thinking. The decisions I made then were decisions I’d make now.”

Naylor provides his original design sketches beside the final photos — fine drawings of stained glass, or a carved Casablanca-style ceiling panel, to be custom-made in the workshop. “New homes sometimes have no link to history, and I try to add the history. That’s a killer ceiling isn’t it? I think that a house with a lot of handmade things is a nice house to be in.”

While Naylor reads six books at once on subjects as eclectic as his design tastes (currently Jean Genet, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters, Annie Leibovitz, Barack Obama, and the memoir Eat, Pray, Love) he’s not into the writing side so much, and for a design book, it’s all about the visuals. He’s too kind to state, “a picture speaks a thousand words” to a writer interviewing him, but he’s probably thinking it. Still, he wanted to make the text as spirited as possible, including a personal touch in the ‘Confession’ sections that sprinkle the book, sharing intimate and often irreverent insights into his process, likes, and dislikes. One Confession reveals that it’s “kryptonite to my power” when clients hand over pages torn from interior magazines, especially when they add, “I don’t like anything in this picture, but I like the overall feeling.”

Fortunately Naylor didn’t have to upset any clients about the shot that won the cover. Gibbs Smith, who’d been out of the process after the initial discussions, returned to make cover decisions. “That was a nice full circle,” says Naylor. “He told me what was a good front cover, a good back cover, and I listened.” Then he adds with a wicked grin that for the cover, he himself fancied a shot of a roll of bathroom tissue, hanging against tiles embedded with an ancient spiraled ammonite.

Naylor feels the book highlights his advice to new designers that if they don’t like what’s available already in the market, to figure out a way to make the pieces they want. He prefers watching the cooking channel, but when he’s seen TV design shows, he’s amazed at how differently other designers work. “I can’t imagine grabbing a client and taking them shopping through a design center. I had to create my own design center here in Santa Fe. We make our pieces, and I didn’t see anyone in the industry talking about that. I’ll make a table that looks contemporary, but it’s 100-year-old teak wood, or wood that’s dredged from the Mississippi River, that’s been petrified underwater. This hand of history weaving with the modern context.”

Old World Interiors is selling well, proving especially popular in Europe, and Naylor is working on a companion volume. Meanwhile, on this warm February morning, I spy a hint of a tattoo beneath his short-sleeved black shirt. He obligingly rolls up his sleeve, and there’s a large Mona Lisa, another Italian inspiration, although he acquired it in London. “We all went for tattoos with our last $100.”

A Mona Lisa on the arm of a very modern man, living in a city that blends the old and the new so seamlessly. It fits perfectly with Naylor’s philosophy. “We have a historic approach to how we do an interior. It’s not faddish, or what’s in vogue. We reach back for what we need instead of forward. There’s so much big play on contemporary, but I like to interpret it differently. ”


Visions Design Group is located at 111 N St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe. 505.988.3170. www.visionsdesigngroup.com. Copies of the book, Old World Interiors: A Modern Interpretation by David Naylor,


The Alchemy of Space

Lisa Samuel wanted to change her world. At 19, the Santa Fe native found herself divorced and a mother of two. “I knew I needed to do something to make my life work,” she says, “and I knew I couldn’t do it here.”

With dreams of designing, Samuel packed up her two small children, sold everything she owned, and with nine-hundred dollars in her pocket, moved to San Diego. She lived on welfare for two years while studying architecture and construction at The American College. When she finished, she moved back to Santa Fe and tried to find a job with an architect. “But it was the late ’70s,” she says. “I was young and I was a woman. I couldn’t get an architect to hire me.”

Samuel made her living for years working for civil and mechanical engineers, but the job never satisfied her; she longed for something more creative. She found some release in raising her by-then three children. When they were grown, she went back to school at Santa Fe Community College, this time studying interior design. Even then, in her forties, her path wasn’t smooth. In order to maintain scholarship money, she had to go to school full-time, and she did that while continuing to work full-time and take care of her second husband, who had gone legally blind (they’ve since divorced). Somehow, in the same breath, she started her own business, the Samuel Design Group.

Today Samuel has the air of someone who’s fulfilled her dream. Sitting in an office flooded with natural light, the white walls juxtaposed with exuberantly polychromatic abstract paintings, she looks a little like a queen who has finally found her empire—a queen, that is, with Buddy Holly glasses and brown hair streaked with silver. She’s frank about her past, because she’s proud of it and because it’s deeply influenced the way she runs her business. “I don’t see things as obstacles very easily,” she says. “If I wanted something specific, I would just make it happen.”

That philosophy runs through every vein of her interior design firm, which has been open since 2002 and has worked on homes throughout northern New Mexico and up into Colorado. It’s most readily apparent through the artisans and craftsmen she commissions for her work, who are all local. “It’s about supporting the community,” she says, “and more so the community that belongs to me, or that I belong to.” Samuel makes a point of finding whatever she’s looking for close to home. She recalls only one time in her firm’s nine-year history when she went outside this rule, flying in an artist from California to paint a table for a client.

Otherwise, Samuel is strict about staying within the local economy. She sees it as a way of helping to foster the aspirations of likeminded souls. “I know what it’s like to struggle. And a lot of creative people have a life path of somehow working in a way that expresses their creativity,” she says. “Many of them work for themselves. I love supporting that.”

From a practical perspective, relying on artisans and craftsmen who are nearby provides other advantages, like being able to keep an eye on projects as they develop. “If it’s something that’s done far away, I can’t be there to watch it grow,” she says, adding that when she commissions a piece, she has specific ideas about the outcome and wants to be around to help guide it.

Samuel’s employees follow the same guidelines. The two other designers at her firm are Jennifer Ashton and Leonardo Baca, currently in training. Her husband, Les Samuel, acts as her business consultant. He has a 35-year history working in the fashion business in high-end women’s wear, and the two met through a mutual colleague.when she hired him as her business coach. Although Samuel oversees every project at the firm as its owner, each designer also brings a unique aesthetic to her or his projects. While Samuel refers to her own as an “organic sensibility” that features clean lines and simple forms, she says Ashton’s centers on “bold and more exotic flavors” and calls Baca’s “clean and tailored.”

What Samuel likes most about the designers’ different approaches is the collaboration that comes from joining them together. She also wants people to question her and not be afraid to disagree. “If no one challenges you, you don’t stretch,” she says. That’s also one of the biggest qualities she looks for in the artists she works with—the ability to speak their mind.

Even though Samuel works exclusively with local artisans and craftsmen, she doesn’t consider her work classically Santa Fean—at least, not in the way that many people interpret Santa Fe style. “People think it’s all Native American and bright colors,” she says. “I interpret it as nature-inspired, ethnic-inspired to a point … a blend of Mexican, Native American, Victorian and Spanish influences.” Samuel likes to design for that style with a modern twist, using her aforementioned clean lines as much as possible. The designs she creates and the work she gets from local artists can fit any style, though, she says. Ultimately what matters is “creating spaces that are wonderful and inspiring from something ordinary and uninspiring,” she says. “That has been my life.”

Growing up as the ninth child of eleven, in a large Catholic family, Samuel found privacy hard to come by. She found ways to express herself and create something personal by carving out whatever small spaces she could find. “It’s all about making you feel a certain way,” she says, referring to the art of design as “the alchemy of space.”

Samuel believes she got to where she is because of her father, who she calls the biggest influence on her life. “My father had a couple of things that he taught me that really play into my life every single day,” she says. “One is there’s more than one way to do things and accomplish the same result. And the other is you can do anything as long as you have the right tools.”

The Samuel Design Group is located at 703 Camino de la Familia, Loft 3101 in the Santa Fe Railyard. 505.820.0239. samueldesigngroup.com.

Story by Christie Chisholm