history in the remaking
the spirit of New Mexico’s cultural legacy is preserved in a gracious restoration
A retablo made by famed New Mexican Santero Roberto Gonzales is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C. Its companion piece, however, is housed in a tiny private chapel in a Corrales, New Mexico, compound that recently underwent a comprehensive restoration and remodel. “I wanted to showcase the artistic talent and uniqueness of New Mexico folk art and also create a room dedicated to reflection and prayer,” explains the homeowner, Dr. Reza Mehran, who added the chapel during the renovation.
The stunning Spanish Colonial/Pueblo Revival home known as “Hacienda de Reza” was restored and renovated with loving consideration and painstaking attention to the area’s history. “Every detail was thoroughly considered, so the project was done almost academically,” says interior designer Susan Westbrook, president of Susan Westbrook Interiors, Inc., who consulted exhaustively with her client and recruited many of the craftspeople, artists, and subcontractors involved in the 18-month-long project. “We worked so diligently to adhere to the historic and cultural sensibilities involved.”
A native New Mexican designer and historical preservationist whose work has garnered international acclaim for over three decades, Westbrook employed her expertise in regional architecture and New Mexican folk art to turn an old home into an authentic domestic celebration of the region’s rich cultural legacy. (See the article she contributed to this magazine, “Inspired by Faith,” page 60.)
“We wanted to create a vintage sensibility,” says Westbrook. “Reza really wanted a sparse, monastic feel, and I think this was successfully communicated.”
The compound includes a modest caretaker’s residence, a 700-square-foot casita, a meditation koi pond, horse stables, and countless details that collectively enhance the sanctuary-like feel of the place. Set on five acres in the bosque along the Rio Grande, the 5,200-square-foot home is a graceful homage to New Mexico’s early Spanish heritage and a cherished retreat for a world-renowned thoracic surgeon who spends most of his time abroad.
“The best escape for a surgeon is nature, and I get a lot of that at the hacienda,” says Mehran. “Everywhere you go in or outside . . . you find something which triggers emotions—surprise, curiosity, admiration. There is no boredom here.”
Altogether, the doctor’s colorful and rustic retreat is his own personal prescription, though his demanding schedule does not allow him to benefit from it as much as he’d like. Professionally, Mehran has perfected a number of surgical procedures, though lately, he says, his research has been on improving pain after thoracic surgery. “We are so successful at this that often patients can go home after a major surgery in as little as a day.”
A polylinguist whose interests extend far beyond the scope of medicine, Mehran has often been described as a renaissance man. A native of Switzerland who grew up speaking French, Mehran learned Farsi living in Iran and learned English while studying medicine in Montreal. After serving two tours of duty as commanding officer for the advanced surgical team with the United Nations Peacekeeping Services in Yugoslavia, he learned to speak Spanish and even fly helicopters in Central America. Additionally, he pilots twin-engine planes, enjoys scuba diving, and entertains an active interest in paleontology. Mehran is also a big fan of alpacas—which explains the enclosure that holds eight of the llama-like creatures—and chickens. Twenty or so freely roam his property.
Mehran found himself drawn to the Land of Enchantment’s unusual color palettes, which he describes as “bright and contrasting. I wanted to see this in the hacienda. Despite all its colors, nothing is overwhelming, because they’re all earthy and in balance with the nature that abounds around the hacienda.”
As for the home itself, unusual features include a unique entry mudroom with antique Mexican star lights hanging from the ceiling and a stately cottonwood growing straight through the roof. But much of the true success of the renovation is due largely to the details in the design and interior of the home, suggested and designed in large part by Westbrook.
In the kitchen, for example, which is replete with modern Viking appliances and custom cabinets with European detailing, Westbrook designed the traditional blue-and-white Mexican Talavera tile work. The backsplash highlights a noteworthy feature: a ceramic bowl set concavely into the wall above the stove that was made specifically for the project by Gorky Gonzalez, a famous ceramicist from Guanajuato, Mexico. Westbrook also worked with the late Joe Carr in designing all of the hand-wrought candelabra-style chandeliers and farols (lanterns). Honed Taos flagstone countertops blend seamlessly into the hand-hammered copper Mexican farm sink.
“I also found a number of rugs that were inspired by early Persian designs, but were customized to complement the local palette,” says Westbrook. “The wall finishes by Fresco Harmony are intentionally soft plaster that mimics the clay-lime whitewashes originally used in Spanish Colonial architecture.”
Outdoors, portales, corbels, and nichos characterize much of the walled-in, Saltillo-tiled plaza, which connects the buildings and contains a swimming pool, a covered outdoor kitchen, and fountains. On the wall of the courtyard, a charming colorful mural, painted by Swiss artist Reto Messmer, depicts a pastoral scene with Saint Francis walking among familiar chickens and alpacas, a stand of cottonwoods lining the banks of the Rio Grande and the majestic Sandia Mountains beyond. Greeting visitors, and bidding them farewell, are enormous, antique French wooden gates that open onto the actual scene of the estate’s lush and sprawling grounds. The gates, relics from the 17th century, instantly transport the imagination to another time. And indeed, that was the idea.
“I wanted to create the feel and look of a hacienda,” says Mehran. “The way it could have been then.”
Interior Design, Décor, Lighting, Rugs, and More
Susan Westbrook Interiors, Inc.
Art, Antiques, Antique Front Gates, and Reproductions
Sumner and Dene Art Gallery; Palms Trading Post; Sara Smith Contemporary; Joe Carr Antiques & Iron
Kitchen Cabinetry, Murals
Project Manager, Landscaping
Granite Countertops, Guest Bath Cabinetry
Rocky Mountain Stone
Pebble Floor, Master Bath
Architectural Surfaces, Inc.
Artesanos; Casa Talavera; Tiles de Santa Fe by
Watson; Vargas Tile
Window Coverings (Hunter Douglas)
Sierra Pacific Windows