enchanted in New Mexico

East Coast transplants embrace their classically Southwestern-style home

When Vito and Marilyn Taleon relocated with their two daughters from Washington, D.C., to Las Cruces, they were prepared for a change in lifestyle, but didn’t realize just how much they would come to love the Southwest. Cautious at first, they avoided finding a permanent home, but after touring the Pueblo-style abodes Wayne and Kiki Suggs had designed at Classic New Mexico Homes, the Taleons decided to fully embrace Southwestern style.

“We fell in love with Wayne and Kiki’s homes because they’re so different from anything we have back home,” Marilyn says. “We figured if we were going to move from the East Coast to the New Mexico desert, we were going to jump in with both feet.”

In Maryland, the Taleons lived in a traditional, trilevel colonial. Here, they wanted something completely different in terms of both layout and style. Marilyn, in particular, voiced very specific goals for her ideal floor plan: “In our old house, I often felt like the kids were in the basement, I was upstairs working on my scrapbooks, and my husband was downstairs in his study. We were very disconnected,” she explains. “I wanted the main living area to be one space, so if I was cooking, the girls could be watching TV, my husband could be doing paperwork in the loft, but we could still be talking and connected.”

Marilyn’s short list also included a palette reminiscent of Mexican Talavera tile, an exposed brick wall in the kitchen to counterpoint the home’s wood and wrought iron elements, and a lofted space for her creative endeavors. “Our very first apartment had a loft,” she recalls. “I just loved it and knew from the beginning I wanted to re-create that here.”

Vito, Wayne Suggs remembers, had only two requests: a pull-out table for his jigsaw puzzles and a red-tiled roof. “What we came up with was very traditional,” Wayne explains. “In the early 1900s, people had these Pueblo houses, but if the family came into money and wanted to dress it up, they added on a mission-style roof. You see a lot of this up in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.”

When it came to Southwestern styling, the Taleons completely deferred to the Suggses’ well-regarded design eye. “They are so good about paying attention to every single detail,” Marilyn says. “I told Kiki, ‘If you give me too many choices, I’ll be paralyzed. I’ve seen a lot of your houses, and I’ve loved every single one. If you build me one, I will love it, too.’”

“All we had to do was say yes,” Vito adds with a laugh. “Every idea they came up with—yes, yes, and yes.”

Adept at infusing her clients’ personalities into classic Southwestern design, Kiki began requesting inspiration. “She told me to bring in some things that show her who we are, whether through color, texture, or themes,” Marilyn says. “One of the things I brought was a mirror with flowers in the corners that remind me of my mother.”

Kiki subtly but deliberately repeated that flower motif on the tile backsplash above the stove, in the custom-designed stained glass pantry door, and in the light fixtures and wrought iron balusters throughout the home. She also managed to find drawer pulls similar to ones Marilyn remembers from her grandmother’s home. “I love things that remind me of people in my life,” Marilyn notes with a smile. “I see these things every day, and I automatically think of those people.”

The Taleons also visited the Classic New Mexico Homes showroom, where Wayne and Kiki keep assorted items just waiting to captivate just the right homeowner. Through this, Marilyn found a set of double mirrors for above the master bathroom vanity and an old pair of shutters to adorn a decorative nicho in the entry hall. Marilyn says, “I feel like in many ways the house itself is so beautiful that I didn’t have to do a lot of decorating.”

Vito and Marilyn’s teenage daughters naturally had their own opinions about their personal spaces. Older daughter Abigail chose silvery blues and cream tones in her suite. Younger sibling Veronica shares her mother’s love of color and opted for bold reds in her room, which includes the cozy reading loft where she devoted hours to preparing college applications.

Marilyn notes that her daughters, now both attending prestigious out-of-state universities, were reluctant to endure the move to New Mexico, yet now both consider the desert—and their inviting, personalized spaces—home. Marilyn can relate to that sentiment. While she admits to missing her loved ones back East, she has no desire to leave Las Cruces.

A back porch kiva fireplace, for Marilyn, is the icing on the cake—or perhaps, now that she’s in the Southwest, the honey on the sopaipilla? The Taleons and their bulldog Boo Radley are often enticed to spend evenings beside the fire, admiring the Organ Mountains and listening to the choir of coyotes howling in the distance.


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