American Style: Santa Fe & The Pueblo Revival


(image: karol m from arizona, USA – Flickr)

In honor of Independence Day that’s just passed and all things Americana in general, we’re introducing a new column we’ll be running over the next while: American Style.

From the plantations of Georgia to Santa Fe’s Pueblo Revivalism, through to California Cool and Polynesian Groove, American Style offers arguably the most diverse decor stylings you’ll find in one country’s borders.

Today we give you New Mexico’s contribution to our American Style. Home to both Pueblo Revivalism and Santa Fe interior style, New Mexico is a great example of how geography and architecture often go hand-in-hand.


While California was the birthplace of Pueblo Revival style (1894), it’s Santa Fe that really lays claim to it today. 1908 saw the remodeling of the now-classic Hodgin Hall at the University of New Mexico, and nearly a century ago, in 1917, the New Mexico Museum of Art designed by Rapp & Rapp, was the first fully-realized Pueblo building, a homage to the people who define the culture of New Mexico.

The form hit its peak in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and, by then, adobe-style buildings were appearing everywhere from California to Arizona. By 1957, Santa Fe was the center of Pueblo style and a city ordinance was passed making it the chosen style for Central Santa Fe — a law that still stands.

adobe architecture Southwest US

(image: Carsten ten Brink)

What’s Adobe Construction?

Adobe homes are made of natural materials (like sand, clay, water, straw, sticks, etc.) and are similar to earthen homes found in most dryer climates, like Africa, Spain, and South America.

Cobb homes and rammed earth homes are different in that their walls are built solid. Adobe is made with bricks then plastered over, resulting in hardiness with a beautiful textured surface. Think of the iconic Painted Desert Inn as a masterpiece in Pueblo architecture.

Pueblo and Santa Fe American Style Design

Beautiful Inside & Out

As striking as adobe homes are on the outside, there’s a distinct feel you’ll find in true Santa Fe style adobe homes. From exposed beams to terracotta and stone, adobe homes should never let you forget that they’re made of earth.

High ceilings, arched doorways, open floor plans, plaster walls, abundant texture, woodframe well-appointed windows, wood and stone flooring throughout — adobe construction is as “sustainable” as it gets.

A style embraced by people who live and work in harsh desert climates, the “Santa Fe Style” blends the native traditions of the Pueblo Indians with Spanish colonial influence. You’ll see this influence strongest in the woodworking found in true adobe homes, like exquisite carved ceiling beams (known as vigas) and trim. But then it’s also heavily infused with cowboy culture.

adobe santa fe architecture

(image: Carsten ten Brink)

From elements of ranching to Hispanic folk style, there are a wide range of flavors that “fit” in Santa Fe, and this is because eclecticism has been a big part of the design from day one.

“Because Santa Fe is a unique amalgam of three distinct cultures, eclecticism has always been part of the Style. What’s more, the artful mixing of design traditions need not be strictly limited to Native American, Hispanic and Anglo influence. Local designers long have mixed American and European antiques, Mission furniture, and Southeast Asian woodwork into Santa Fe Style homes with great success. Furniture and artifacts from other parts of the world that build with adobe, always seem to have an affinity with Santa Fe. In the past few decades, eclecticism has become a byword in design nationwide, but Santa Fe was there at least half a century before everyone else.” Read the whole article here.

The Art of Expression

Wherever you find the eclectic, you’ll find artists soaking it up. It’s no wonder then that Taos and Santa Fe lay claim to a huge population of artists and creators, and has done for nearly a century. For photographers and painters, the desert captures light like nowhere else.

Unlike the dense forests of the Northwest, the Southwest’s rugged terrain is vast and exposed. It’s all raw earth. From striations streaking through the red rock to the endless big sky, artists have loved capturing light and color out on the mesa since the early-1900s.

sante fe architecture street level

(image: Robert Wilson)

Add in the funky style, the embracing of different cultural influences, and the surging population, and Santa Fe is a city that found a visual identity quickly in the 20th century. Its artists and creators are a large part of why.

Built of Earth

From the earthen construction to the way homes are oriented on the land, through to the appointment of windows for catching the amazing desert light, there’s nothing unnatural about the Santa Fe style.

Many architectural styles are built to stand out — just look at the Victorian Painted Ladies in San Francisco or the Antebellum plantations in the Deep South. Nothing subtle there. But Santa Fe style is all about being at one with the landscape around it. True to the native influences of the Pueblo people, Santa Fe architecture seeks to reflect and incorporate all that is around it. The often reddish or sandy hues used on exteriors make buildings seem a part of the landscape rather than being built apart from it.

History of American expansion

In some ways, the Santa Fe style speaks of early American expansion — the push to California, the rise of the American cattle-ranching tradition, the birthplace of the cowboy.

Santa Fe’s effortless blending of native tradition, Spanish colonial influence, and cowboy culture, while celebrating eclectic flavor and artistic temperament, is a testimony to the melting pot of the United States, and it’s a big reason why we think it’s the perfect place to have begun our tribute to American Style.

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