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Here Comes the Parade of Homes

Here Comes the Parade of Homes Courtesy of The Essential Guide.jpg

Imagine being able to magically step into the pages of a design or architecture magazine that is filled with photos of breathtaking homes. It’s one thing to ooh and aah over photographs, but what a thrill to see and feel stunning spaces in person. This doesn’t have to be just a dream: simply come to Santa Fe.

Thousands of people from near and far relish the opportunity to tour, inside and out, the most fabulous homes in one of the world’s most design-savvy cities, Santa Fe. In the annual Haciendas — A Parade of Homes, experts in every niche of the home-building process compete for recognition among their peers and by tour-goers. One home is crowned the Grand Hacienda, an accolade revered by those in the home-building business and in the community.

While it’s exciting to visit actual homes that brim with beauty and innovation, the experience doesn’t have to end there. What about taking a taste of inspiration home with you, kind of like a goodie bag? We asked Parade of Homes award winners and other local professionals about their techniques and ideas for getting from the drawing board to handing the homeowner the keys. They also offer advice on how to make big and small changes in your own homes to create spaces like those racking up awards.


Every August since 1992, the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association (SFAHBA), a nonprofit trade association, has hosted Haciendas — A Parade of Homes. Over two weekends, thousands of people grab a map and head out to tour the best of the best in Santa Fe homes. They range from affordable to luxurious, from downtown digs to mountainside mansions. Throughout the years, Association donations and proceeds from the event have benefited numerous local charitable organizations.

Building-industry insiders judge and select the most outstanding home in various categories, such as energy and water efficiency, engineering, craftsmanship and design. The cream of the crop, the Grand Hacienda Award-winner, walks away with bragging rights for the next year.

Kim Shanahan, a former builder of affordable and green subdivisions, served as the SFAHBA’s executive officer for ten years before recently deciding to return to home building. Not only has he presided over the Parade, he has also been a builder participant. He speaks with firsthand knowledge when he says that building is a competitive business and that builders are competitive. “One of the things we always tell our builders is that all the traffic, the thousands of people coming through their homes, that’s the victory,” says Shanahan.

He explains that along with the Santa Fe Opera and Indian Market, Parade is part of the excitement of Santa Fe’s high season. Many people call well ahead to find out the coming year’s dates so they can plan their trip, Shanahan says. He attributes part of the Parade’s popularity to the fact that so many people dream of eventually moving to Santa Fe, and they want to stay abreast of the evolving Santa Fe style and emerging sustainability technologies. “Our homes are nationally recognized for pioneering energy and water efficiency,” he explains. “We are constructing high-performance buildings here. We’re very proud of that, and we put that on display.”

One reason the Parade event was originally created was so builders could show their spec (speculation) homes, ones constructed but not yet sold. For years, the Association had to turn away Parade submissions when it reached its capacity of 40 homes. Then came 2008 and the crash. Today, Santa Fe builders still feel the lingering effects, especially when it comes to obtaining bank loans. Consequently, they now rarely build spec homes, and the Parade showcases homes in which people already live. Last year there were 14 houses, but Shanahan says not to let the reduced number fool you: the event is still spectacular.


The 2018 Grand Hacienda Award-winner was Prull Custom Builders’ massive 5,300-square-foot home, with an additional 3,000-plus square feet of outdoor space. It was built for a blended family, and that was the inspiration for the home’s horseshoe shape, like a pair of open arms extended in a welcoming embrace. “During the Parade, so many people came back three, four, five times with friends and family,” says Jodi Prull. “They say they had to keep coming back to capture all the aspects of it. It’s quite remarkable. It’s a really special home.”

The Prulls believe the Parade of Homes is a great way for people to get hooked on design and gather ideas for their own homes. “It gives people the idea they can work with materials they hadn’t thought of before [as ways] to accessorize or change their home.” Will Prull jokes, “I must have been asked about the granite countertop material in the kitchen two thousand times.”

Will says other attendees are interested in contemporizing their more traditional Santa Fe homes. He points out that a few structural changes, such as constructing more glass windows or opening a wall onto a portal — an attached, covered porch supported by posts, with corbels and beams — can go a long way. He notes that in their Grand Hacienda home, you have to look closely to see where the indoor ends and the outdoor space begins: floor-to-ceiling glass windows and disappearing pocket doors create a seamless transition between the two. Jodi adds that there’s no sense of any barriers, so you can engage directly with the landscape. Homeowners, she says, want to be part of their landscape and want the natural terrain coming in. Of their award-winning home, she says, “The outdoor/indoor balance and rhythm is so harmonious.”

Complementing the landscaping with outdoor furniture allows homeowners not only to look outside, but to live there too. Whether in the mountains or on their own portals, Santa Feans get great enjoyment from the outdoors. But perhaps you are among those thinking, “After decorating the interior of their home, who has the time, energy or money left to think about the outside!”

“The outdoors is the last thing people think about,” concedes Gloria Moss, of Moss Collection. “But we spend so much time outdoors,” she says. “You want to create an environment to enjoy the quality of the air, the sun, the temperature. It’s lovely to be outside.” She advises people to pick one outdoor space and make it a showstopper, rather than get bogged down by the small portals a house may have. “Pick one important space,” she says, “and that’s where my products come into play. It’s an investment, yes, but it will enhance your environment.”

Over the years, items from the Moss Collection have been showcased in numerous Parade homes, both inside and out. It’s hard, though, to call her pieces simply “furniture.” With their bold colors, unusual materials and conversation-starting designs, they might be better described as “functional art.”

Says Moss, “It’s so much fun and gratifying to hear people touring the Parade of Homes ask, ‘Where did you get this? It’s so cool! I’ve never seen anything else like this.’” She adds, “That’s been my goal all along. I want my clients’ homes to look different from what everyone else around them has.”


It’s hard to think of Santa Fe homes without “Santa Fe style” coming to mind. After all, it’s something we hear about a lot. Each designer has his or her own interpretation on the concept, but even so, Parade of Homes winners meld seamlessly with the landscape and locale. Heritage and history seem to seep into the blueprints. Kurt Faust, of Tierra Concepts, says honoring that sense of place and purpose inspires every one of his homes, including his six Grand Hacienda Award-winners. “I can remember the first one that we won, and I was ecstatic for a year,” says Faust. “It’s an honor to be there and be able to have the public come in and experience it.”

While each winning home is different, Faust says what defines his team’s style is their way of intertwining contemporary lifestyles with the artistic flare of Santa Fe — in other words, achieving the perfect balance of very contemporary finishes with artistic details. He cites, for example, using glass and stone in the same room in order to prevent the contemporary vibe from seeming cold and hard.

Faust explains that they have developed what they call “contextual modern design,” which incorporates indoor/outdoor living and lots of light. “It’s a modern style that celebrates that we’re living in Santa Fe . . . and also has the sense of the artists’ craftsmanship,” he says. “It takes a certain eye to come up with that balance.”

Santa Fe may be short on rainfall, but there’s no drought of artisans. Designers, including HVL Interiors, love collaborating with skilled local artisans to incorporate one-of-a-kind touches in clients’ homes. Steffany Hollingsworth, a partner at HVL, points out that it’s not as expensive as people think, and in fact is quite accessible here. “We really dig deep in terms of showcasing the artisans,” she says. “We’re always looking for opportunities to use locals, whether it’s [to do] plaster, tin, copper, glass or hand-painting around the home. The Parade is a nice opportunity to showcase their work, too.”

HVL founder Heather Van Luchene says these special touches add soul to the home, especially since the artisan pieces aren’t something made far away. “Our clients really enjoy knowing the artisans and knowing their story,” she says.

Designer Stephen Beili has his own unique interpretation of Santa Fe style: playing with the old and new in the same house, an approach to which he attributes his Parade successes. Five of Beili’s homes have won Best Design, and two Tierra Concepts homes on which he worked won the Grand Hacienda Award.

“In both Grand Hacienda winners, we presented a fresh approach on what’s happening in Santa Fe,” Beili says. One home featured an open living room with large windows on three sides, while the home’s surrounding wings were designed with smaller windows in a more traditional Santa Fe style. Another home showcased bold geometry, including a big arch and extensive stonework. Beili says people seemed really captivated by it.

When trying to decide how you and your lifestyle might fit in Santa Fe, Beili recommends, “Take a fresh approach in your homes and in life. Question the rules you’re following without realizing it, and listen to yourself about how you actually like to live. Is there something unique about how you’re living? That could be architecture or that can be grocery shopping.” He notes that because the Parade provides fresh ideas about the ways people are living, it’s a great opportunity to see a lot of different choices other people make. “You can evaluate if they resonate for you,” he adds.

If they don’t, that’s fine. The owners of Violante & Rochford Interiors strongly believe your home should reflect your personality, your travels and your unique stories. “Buy things that you like; there’s a way to curate them that pulls them all together,” says Michael Violante. “People think they have to buy only Southwestern. We do like indigenous touches and sprinkle them in, but we’d rather it not feel clichéd.”

Not only have Violante and Paul Rochford been decorating homes in the Parade since its inception, but one year their own home was a contender. Talk about pressure: it’s like a chef hosting a dinner party. Expectations were high. In partnership with Woods Design Builders, the duo did a major renovation of their 2,100-square-foot historic adobe home in Santa Fe’s Eastside.

“When people come into the house, the first thing they look at isn’t tile or architectural details. They get an immediate feeling and thought,” Rochford says. “Usually the interior furnishings and artwork are the person’s first introduction. That’s a huge responsibility and something we take sincerely and seriously.”

Their advice: find the flow. “Find common denominators to repeat throughout the house. Repeat textures and colors. Try using different shades of the same color,” counsels Violante. “Let it ebb and flow to create a sense of connectedness. Various rooms should always have different feels and flavors, but there’s always a connection between all of them, perhaps a color choice or pattern.” He says they always try to find a common thread that adds cohesiveness, but isn’t matchy-matchy.

“Also, don’t be afraid of white walls,” Rochford goes on to say. “White walls are very classic and calming. They brighten up spaces and make them look bigger. White is a great backdrop for art. Everything looks great against white.”

And the pressure on them that year? No problem. Their home won both Best Historic Renovation and Best Craftsmanship. Those trophies undoubtedly look fabulous against those plain white walls!


Jeanné Sei, of Kitchens by Jeann., agrees that whites and creams are always good choices because they create a soothing, timeless environment. She suggests adding pops of color in ways that are easily changed, such as towels and mats, and in countertop appliances and décor. “You want to select colors that will be around for years,” she says. She cautions that busy tile patterns can get tiresome. Fortunately, a wealth of classic, yet gorgeous tiles is available.

Erin Williams, of Ernest Thompson, a maker of furniture, cabinetry and closets, suggests a beautiful neutral white or gray palette for the kitchen. If their high-end, custom wooden cabinetry isn’t in your budget, she says a fresh coat of paint on your existing cabinets can make a world of difference.


Parade of Homes houses are impeccably put together, but when you’re thinking about your own project, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Lynsey Storm is the owner of Statements, a Santa Fe business specializing in tile, lighting, kitchens and flooring. She says, “You just need to find one piece that you really, really love and you can build your design around that.” She notes that it can be a chair, a mantle, kitchen cabinets or tile —anything. “The homes that are the most special are the ones with stories behind their pieces.”

Storm and her husband, Chip, both Santa Fe natives, recently bought the long-established Statements, a designer destination for high-end products. Storm recalls a Parade home that featured tile from Statements and was particularly special because every piece of furniture and art had significance: each represented “something, someone or somewhere.” She says, “People were enamored by the house because it had so many stories. It makes it feel like home. You can tell there’s love and richness, and so much travel in their life.”

Storm explains when it comes to tile, a little can make a big impact. Putting beautiful tile in a small area, such as in a shower or a kitchen, she says, can transform an entire room. While beautiful tile may catch your eye, Lette Birn, of Form + Function, says effective lighting shouldn’t draw attention to itself. Instead, it should enhance a room’s mood and atmosphere, not take center stage. Birn, who has been participating in the Parade of Homes for many decades, explains, “You want the light to help the artwork stand out, not be the artwork itself.” The exception, of course, is when your light fixture is a work of art, and Form + Function features stunning, contemporary indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures.

Birn also reminds people that light shouldn’t come only from the ceiling and that you shouldn’t use only recessed lights. Having all of the lighting coming from above gives a space the atmosphere of a hospital waiting room, and it’s also very bland. Birn recommends having a variety of light sources in a room, including lamps, pendants and sculptures. “You should have light coming from the floor, tables and walls. That is where you can be artistic and create the atmosphere you’re looking for,” she says. “A variety of lighting is how you generate feelings, whether it’s to create drama or a cozy, calm space.”

According to Dahl Plumbing‘s Diana Jowers, plumbing fixtures, like lighting fixtures, aren’t something to dismiss merely as functional. “Faucets are the jewelry of the house. You have your architecture. How are you accenting and complementing it?” she asks. Jowers, who works on Parade homes each year, says when selecting toilets, sinks, tubs and faucets, buyers should think about what’s going to be pleasing to see and use. “You’re going to be touching these pieces every day when you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hands or showering,” she says, emphasizing that you will use them many times throughout the day.

In fact, it was a shower that stood out to Kathy Fennema, of Santa Fe by Design, as having one of the niftiest features of any Parade home she’s worked on over the years. Santa Fe by Design specializes in kitchens and bath, and Woods Design Builders came to them looking for a wall shower drain. “You don’t actually see the shower drain,” explains Fennema. “It’s hidden in the wall. It creates a clean, sleek, uncomplicated look.” Fennema says there’s only one manufacturer in the country who makes this innovative drain, which is on display in her showroom.

Also on display there is The Galley, another unique product featured in some Parade homes. The Galley is a sleek sink that can be easily configured to create a variety of different work and serving surfaces, including cutting boards, serving trays and recessed bowls. The layers in this efficiency-enhancing workstation slide over or under each other. After using The Galley for prepping food, it can be reconfigured to look like part of the countertop when it’s time to serve the food or entertain guests.


Whether it’s their magically disappearing sinks or breathtaking views from the bathtub in the master bath, the Parade houses are inspiring. That said, they can also be a trifle intimidating. Many people stroll through, wondering, “How can anyone be so clean and organized? The owners must not have kids, pets or jobs.”

Of course, that’s not the case. “When people are viewing those homes, no one is living there. They always seem exquisitely organized,” explains Pam Duncan, of Wiseman • Gale • Duncan Interiors. “In real homes where people live, they leave a tea cup in the living room or a newspaper on the counter. It’s harder to make them look really fabulous. My advice: go through your home and organize. Tidiness is the first element of good design.”

Duncan suggests spending a few minutes every day straightening up so that clutter never overtakes the home. For some, it may be an ongoing challenge, but one that’s worth it. “I think people will feel calmer and take more pleasure in the space,” she says. “It doesn’t hurt to open the windows and air [the house] out, either. The way a place smells is as important as it looks. There’s nothing worse than the smell of day-old cooking.”

Jesse Gries appreciates fresh air, so much so that he started Green Star Builders, a small company of craftsmen who build homes that are healthy for both the environment and those who live in them. He says people often aren’t aware of the poor air quality in their homes or that it can sometimes affect their health and mental capacities.

Apparently, almost nobody knows what’s in their home’s air. Says Gries, “Many scientific studies have come out showing the indoor air quality in homes is atrocious, with no way of [homeowners’] knowing or telling [what the quality is].” In homes he builds, he uses only “healthy” woods, cabinets, glues and paints. He recommends heat recovery ventilators, which circulate outside fresh air with indoor air to drastically improve the indoor air quality.

If a construction or remodeling project seems too daunting at the moment, Gries suggests a simple solution for cleaner indoor air: plants. They remove carbon dioxide and put more oxygen into the air. Gries’ own home, the 2012 Grande Hacienda winner, showcases an enormous green wall.

Gries also advises those wanting to reduce their environmental footprint and make an impact bigger [toward doing that] to use the gifts they’ve got. “Here in New Mexico,” he says, “we have glorious amounts of sunshine!” For this reason, he highly recommends solar panels, which are affordable and often come with consumer incentives for switching to them.

He cites an even greater incentive, though. “If we don’t change the way we’re living, we’re not going to leave a habitable world for our children,” he warns. “The shift needs to happen now. It must be radical and pervade our daily lives. You can dramatically lessen your impact on the planet. It’s one of the most important things you can do.”

Inspiring ideas don’t exist only on the fantastical pages of design magazines. As these Parade of Home builders and designers have shown, there are steps anyone can take to create a home that’s beautiful to the eye, comforting to the touch, kind to the earth and soothing to the soul.

By Alana Grimstad

Alana Grimstad is an experienced, award-winning journalist, writer and photographer based in Santa Fe, who loves to meet interesting people and is honored to share their stories.

Leah Pinkus