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raise the heat

with cozy firepits

El Paso & Southern New Mexico

inspiration ideas resources

enchanted in New Mexico Southwestern style in Las Cruces

bold ceiling designs

hot springs eternal

adobe farmhouse makeover

relaxing getaway VOL. 4 NO. 1 WINTER 2016



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El Paso & Southern New Mexico



Jesse Ramirez

inspiration ideas resources

On the cover: Adobe walls, iconic tiled roofing, and a rustic blue door elevate the traditional Southwestern style of this Las Cruces home. Read all about on page 30. Photograph by Jesse Ramirez.

30 enchanted in New Mexico



20 bringing balance Harmonious colors, textures, and art highlight a serene adobe farmhouse. East Coast transplants embrace their classically Southwestern-style home.

42 reimagining the dream

A thoughtful renovation adds a second life to a charming El Paso ranch home.



4 Inside Su Casa

6 Life+Style Southwest A smarter layout for a family-oriented, West El Paso kitchen; low-maintenance houseplants; blazing custom fire pits; and Steve Thomas on being a serial renovator.

14 Design Studio

Things are looking up with bold ceiling design; Moll Anderson’s tips for creating welcoming guest spaces; and a roundup of fun pet products.

50 Vida Buena

Relaxing hot springs getaways in New Mexico and Colorado; plus advice from cardiologists on maintaining a healthy heart.

52 L ive Performance Calendar 56 Su Cocina Rustic Italian fare at Café Italia; decadent winter cocktails; and James Selby on how new world wines are enjoying an old world revival. 2

S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

Jesse Ramirez

Concerts and happenings around El Paso and Las Cruces through April.

Quality Builders of Traditional New Mexican Homes * Remodels * Casitas * Grand Haciendas * Design Services * No matter the size, no matter the price, we make all homes unique and classically New Mexico View hundreds of photos at

Wayne and Kiki Suggs 575-525-9530 office 575-644-5327 cell

Inside Su Casa

tearing down the walls


Bruce Adams



t last, all the holiday parties are over, and we’ve turned the corner into a new year. At this particular time of year you might be evaluating how well your home accommodated the holiday festivities and possibly a growing family tree.   When your home is designed right, it works for festivities year-round, so there’s no harm in beginning your creative process right now. Not only will your home be more enjoyable during the next winter holiday season, but you’ll be able to enjoy it long before then. The topics covered in this issue of Su Casa El Paso & Southern New Mexico provide enlightening inspiration as you consider the many possibilities. The bottom line is for your home to work better and be more beautiful for the life you and your family enjoy.  I am especially drawn to the story in which an older home was retrofitted to the preferences of the current homeowners and their entertaining needs. We all know how large, open floor plans work to bring guests together. Removing certain walls in your home allows for gracious entertaining, and social walls will fall as well. After the socializing, houseguests will be retiring to the guest room that you have designed for their comfort and rest. We’re going to show you how others have accomplished this. I personally feel it’s an opportunity for your guests to gain a more intimate perspective of who you are. I decorated my guest room with photos of scenes around the city, as seen through my vision. It gives my visitors a sense of place and a better sense of me. In the midst of all this creativity, don’t forget to look up. The ceilings in our homes are one of the most overlooked opportunities to create a room’s mood and reinforce its design. The story on ceiling design will change the way you look up. Looking up is something we all want to do, both literally and figuratively in this new year. Our home is a great place to start.  I certainly wish each of you a year of happiness and peace in a home you truly love. “Creating inspiring built environments that exceed expectation.” 550 S. MESA HILLS DRIVE STE. D2 EL PASO, TEXAS 79912 P. 915.533.2288 F. 915.533.2280


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

El Paso & Southern New Mexico

inspiration ideas resources

Published by Bella Media, LLC

Publisher Bruce Adams Business Development Bob Skolnick Associate Publisher B. Y. Cooper Editor Danielle Urbina Executive Editor Amy Gross Editorial Assistants Stephanie Love, Dylan Syverson Contributors Moll Anderson, Jessica Muncrief Stephanie Rodriguez, Donna Schillinger James Selby, Steve Thomas Graphic Designers Jenny Grass, ValĂŠrie Herndon Michelle Odom, Allie Salazar Sybil Watson Photography Nohemy Gonzalez, Jesse Ramirez

For advertising information contact: office 915-581-2300 mobile 575-649-8340 mobile 915-603-8434 Operations Manager Ginny Stewart

Please direct editorial queries to For subscriptions, call 818-286-3164

El Paso Office 550 South Mesa Hills Drive, Suite D-1 El Paso, TX 79912 915-581-2300 Santa Fe Office Pacheco Park, 1512 Pacheco St, Ste D-105 Santa Fe, NM 87505 505-983-1444

Su Casa El Paso & Southern New Mexico Volume 4, Number 1, Winter 2016. Su Casa El Paso & Southern New Mexico is published quarterly in December, March, June, and September byBella Media, LLC, at Pacheco Park, 1512 Pacheco St, Ste D-105, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA, Phone (505) 983-1444. ŠCopyright 2016 by Bella Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is strictly prohibited. Basic annual subscription rate is $9.95, Canada & Mexico is $23.95, other international countries is $27.95. U.S. single-copy price is $5.95; back issues are $6.95 each. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Su Casa El Paso & Southern New Mexico, P.O. Box 15305, North Hollywood, CA 91615-5305. Subscription Customer Service: Su Casa El Paso & Southern New Mexico, P.O. Box 15305, North Hollywood, CA 91615-5305, Phone (818) 286-3164, Fax (800) 869-0040,

Life+Style Southwest After years of being cramped in a small kitchen, Chanel and Ed Assi decided the old layout had to go. Their new, open floor plan includes more counter space, plenty of cabinetry, and an eat-in kitchen where family members keep the cook company.

the gathering place

a smarter layout was just the recipe for this West El Paso kitchen


t the culmination of their son’s football season, Ed and Chanel Assi threw a team party at their El Paso home. When weather forced the festivities indoors, they realized that despite ample square footage, their space wasn’t right for entertaining. “We were really cramped,” Chanel remembers. “That was the final straw. We’d been thinking about remodeling for years, and we decided then it was time to get it done.” They embarked on a complete revamp of the main living spaces, with a kitchen redesign at the very top of the priority list. Envisioning an approachable, open design with all the modern conveniences for their family of five, along with plenty of room for guests, they started knocking down walls. Relocating the mud and laundry rooms made way for a new dining space that flows from the kitchen. The Assis battled with a support beam to raise the ceiling to generate extra light. The cook-


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ing space was entirely gutted, and A-1 Kitchens by Sierra brought in custom maple cabinetry, a massive island that spans the length of the room, and all new stainless steel appliances—the five-foot long stove is equipped with double ovens, six burners, and a griddle. “This kitchen is very family-oriented,” notes A-1 Kitchens owner Sergio Villarreal. “It’s very friendly to use because it has all kinds of accessories, from a coffee system to warming drawers.” This kitchen, Villarreal emphasizes, is “designed to have people in it. There is a raised space on the island specifically for eating, and there is even more bar seating near the sink.” To encourage the welcoming atmosphere, Villarreal added warmth with a customdesigned range hood and a rustic, maple butcher-block top on one end of the island. “So far, we’ve still been using cutting boards on it,” Chanel laughs. “It’s so beautiful, we can’t bear to cut on it.” A nearby walk-in pantry, big enough to be a room in itself, gained a touch of charm with sliding barn–style doors. Designer Lori McCuaig

by Jessica Muncrief photographs by Jesse Ramirez

Lots of storage and more gorgeous maple cabinetry are among the features in the walk-in pantry. Stylish sliding barn–style doors make it easy to hide the space.

helped Chanel select accent pieces for the kitchen, including the tile backsplash above the stove and the heavy, iron chandelier over the island. For Chanel, who loves cooking everything from freshly baked cookies to pastas, soups, and chili, the kitchen is not only inviting and functional, it’s helping

For Chanel, the kitchen is not only inviting and functional, it’s helping her stay connected to her children as they grow up. her stay connected to her children as they grow up. “There’s enough space that I can be cooking while the kids do their homework,” she says, “We’re working alongside each other, and I’m there if they have questions. They also have their friends over, and they all hang out in the kitchen. Having them around is what we really wanted. I love that it’s such a gathering place.” The renovated space passed the ultimate test when Ed recently made dinner for his wife’s birthday. “It was his first time cooking in the new kitchen,” Chanel remembers, “and he raved about how fun it was. That pretty much solidified this project as a success.”

A narrow pull-out drawer houses a wooden knife block near the prep area. Left: Butcher block at the end of the island is an organic counterpoint to the granite counters.

resources Above: Much of the renovated kitchen is devoted to the central island, which serves as a prep space and a place for the kids to enjoy a quick snack at the bar seating.

A-1 Kitchens by Sierra




Life+Style Southwest

by Danielle Urbina

easy to


low-maintenance, low-light houseplants

PEPEROMIA Peperomia caperata Appearance: Heart-shaped, deeply ridged, and highly textured leaves in dark shades of green, sometimes with red veins Maintenance: Easy to maintain; just don’t overwater it. The soil should be slightly dry before watering again and watered more sparingly in the winter. If it outgrows its planter, repot it in the spring in a container with proper drainage. Why it’s great: Peperomia doesn’t require direct sunlight, and its small, compact size makes it the perfect accent plant.

CAST IRON PLANT Aspidistra elatior Appearance: Glossy, dark leaves, sometimes speckled Maintenance: As its name suggests, cast iron plant is tough. It should not be overwatered, repotted often, or placed in direct sunlight, as it doesn’t like disruptions. The soil should dry out completely before watering, with less water in the fall and winter. Why it’s great: Since it essentially thrives untouched, cast iron plant is popular with homeowners who are new to indoor foliage.


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

Life+Style Southwest

by Steve Thomas

confessions of a serial renovator always having a “next project” means your tools never get rusty

Steve Thomas


hen I renovated my first house right out of college, my tool kit consisted of a circular saw, a drill, and some hand tools. Over the years (and 10 or so more renovations), I’ve put together a princely tool collection—a shop, a well-equipped job-site trailer, a beefy pickup truck, even a small backhoe. Occasionally I’ll head out to the shop just to hang out with my tools; they give me a sense of substance, of well being, of wealth. More importantly, tools allow me to do stuff, to build stuff, to renovate— and that’s part of my identity. As my current renovation of a shingle-style Victorian began to wind down, I incautiously declared this one to be my last. My wife archly suggested that I sell my trailer and tools and settle down. I was dumbfounded. Not so much that she came up with the suggestion—after 30 years of marriage, she knows how to get my goat—but at realizing this probably was not my last renovation. I wasn’t about to “give up” renovation any more than a painter would give up painting. 10

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There’s something deeply satisfying about taking an old house at the end of its cycle and breathing another 100 years of life into it. You can’t ignore or cover up these problems once they’ve been uncovered; they must be fixed, and the structure must be strong and code-compliant. Then there are problems pertaining to how to make a renovation of an old house look right. Most old houses are out of plumb, level, and square, and in these conditions you pretty much disregard your fancy laser level and simply use your eye. As in boatbuilding, if it looks right, it is right. Except when it’s not! Likewise, there’s an art to installing a level kitchen counter beneath a level kitchen window, on an old, way-out-of level kitchen floor—without making it look or feel obvious. Which heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems will you choose? Appliances? And finally, there’s the little issue of trying to stay on something that resembles a budget. There is an old quip: “How do you determine the true cost of your renovation project? Get three bids and add them all together!” Unfortunately, that’s not too far from the truth; it’s routine to go 50 percent (and over) the initial budget.

So why bother? (I’m often asked). Why not tear it down and start from scratch? It’s true that some houses are not worth renovating. But most of the houses I’ve done are historic; they’re either in a historic district or, like Sea Cove Cottage, have been part of the fabric of the village for over a century. At the end of the day, I’m not the owner of my buildings as much as the steward. When I pass a house on to another family, and they pass it on, I want to know (as the owner, the carpenter, and the renovation contractor) that I’ve done right by the building—that it will live on because of the time, money, and care I put into it. So, will I ever stop renovating? Doubtful. As I say, I like the work. It’s inherently satisfying, and besides, it gives me an ever-ready excuse to buy new tools!

Douglas Merriam

The fact is, I like the work. There’s something deeply satisfying about taking an old house at the end of its cycle and breathing another 100 years of life into it. And it’s challenging. Old house renovation presents a series of unique problems that often start with structural issues: sills, beams, headers, rotting wood, rotting brick, rotting adobe.

Above: Steve Thomas at work on a historic Santa Fe adobe in 2012. Most recently Thomas completed an extensive renovation of a Victorian cottage in Maine. What’s next for this serial renovator?

Steve Thomas is a home renovation expert and the spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity International.

Life+Style Southwest

by Stephanie Rodriguez

bring the heat whether functional or purely aesthetic, fire pits offer year-round enjoyment

Matching stone seating around this fire pit captures the views and encourages conversation.


Fire pits, both custom-made and off-theshelf, can easily transform a backyard into a go-to-place during any season. Right: A poolside fire pit combines the elements. Above: Flames blaze through the manmade media of a contoured fire pit.

Courtesy Outdoor Fire Concepts

inter is the time most of us typically retreat inside to the warm, cozy comforts of home rather than spending time outdoors. Talk to a fire pit owner, however, and they’ll likely tell you there’s nothing better than relaxing, sipping a glass of wine, and enjoying a blaze during the coldest—and for that matter, even the warmest—months of the year. Fire pits, both custom-made and off-the-shelf, can easily transform a backyard into a go-to-place during any season. “People love fire pits because they like the warm, inviting look of the flame,” says Pat Klohr, owner of Outdoor Fire Concepts in Las Cruces. Klohr has been designing and installing custom outdoor


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pool and landscape features for over 20 years, so he cautions that when adding a fire pit, homeowners should first determine whether they have sufficient backyard space to do so, even before considering design. Klohr notes that most fire pits are commonly three to four feet across, and homeowners must have at least a 10 x 10-foot area where a propane or natural gas line can be installed. Outdoor Fire Concepts specializes in customized fire features and offers the All Weather Electronic Ignition System (AWEIS), which ensures that your toasty fire stays lit in wind and rain and turns on and off with the touch of a button. Today’s fire pit styles range from sleek and modern to rustic and Southwestern. They might be raised, flush with the ground, or built to run along a wall. Some fire pits are freestanding, while others are incorporated into courtyards, pool areas, and other backyard settings, often with matching seating constructed around the pit itself. Another design option is to add cultured stone to the sides of a fire pit, which replicates the appearance of real stone and can be matched to the design of many home exteriors. For do-it-yourselfers, there are many inexpensive fire pits that come pre-manufactured in various styles. Jerry Oakes of El Paso’s K.D. Scholten Co. says the most popular designs for fire pits are linear or round; however, no matter the style or shape, they can be easily accented to complement the outdoor living area. In fire pit lingo, the term media refers to the material through which the flames rise, such as tempered glass or ceramic rocks, stones, and logs. Glass media reflects the heat and light of the flames for an extra elegant glow and a custom touch. “It’s all in the imagination how you can put the media together to give your fire pit the look you want,” says Oakes. With numerous material options and accents available, the sky’s the limit when it comes to designing a fire pit—and this season, the best accessories may well be comfy outdoor furniture, throw blankets, and a warm pair of mittens.

Courtesy Outdoor Fire Concepts

resources 150 Sunset K.D. Scholten Co. Nash Patio & Gardens Outdoor Fire Concepts Western Stoves & Fireplaces

Enchanted Spaces

by Moll Anderson

company’s coming creating beautiful, comfortable spaces for guests

“Mi casa es su casa—my house is your house. That is truly the way God intended us to live, opening our homes with love and warmth, and sharing our food, wine, fellowship, and laughter.”—Moll

Moll appointed her compact, 900-square-foot guest casita with all of the comforts of home plus the luxuries of a fine hotel. The bedroom (above, top) features sumptuous linens, ample reading lighting, storage space for clothing and suitcases, and a romantic fireplace. Hisand-hers vanities in the bathroom (above) are a lovely touch, along with plush towels, a walk-in shower, and a medicine cabinet. 14

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Above: A smartly designed kitchenette allows guests the convenience and freedom to stay in for meals or keep their favorite snacks handy. A comfortable seating area brings it all together—a cozy spot for coffee or cocktails.

John Hall Photography


y husband and I love opening our home to family and friends, so no matter where we call home, I make sure we have plenty of room to host guests. When designing for company, it’s important to create a comfortable, welcoming retreat—one with the necessities of home and the luxuries of a fine hotel. With our family and friends living away, Santa Fe became a destination for us to gather together for an extended stay. I added casitas to accommodate our guests, and even though the spaces are small, there’s room for all the essentials. In this casita, I packed a lot of punch in under 900 square feet of living space. It’s appointed with a bathroom with two fab sinks and a walk-in shower, and a kitchenette with a refrigerator and freezer drawers, double burners, a coffee station, and a stackable washer and dryer. A table for two in the kitchen invites intimate dining and a place to relax over morning coffee or evening cocktails. But it’s the casita’s bedroom that’s the star of the show with a huge bed, oversized plush pillows, and luxurious Matteo linens. The fireplace lends ambience and a touch of romance to the space, and is always a welcome addition on those chilly Santa Fe evenings.

No matter the size of your guest space, you can create a welcoming guest room or suite in your home. Here are some tips:

Luxurious Linens A comfortable mattress is the most essential piece for your guest room. Add sheets of Egyptian cotton of at least 400 thread count, as well as a selection of pillows from soft to firm. Your guests may be allergic to down, so include some hypoallergenic options. Have extra blankets available even in the middle of summer; everyone has a different body temperature. A Seating Area Create a sitting area for guests to relax and share coffee or a glass of wine. If there’s room, a desktop for electronics and a card with the Wi-Fi network and password will be appreciated. A notepad and stationery are nice additions to your well-appointed guest suite. Beverage Bar No space for a mini-fridge? Add a bar cart or tray for your coffee and beverage station. Lighting Have ample lighting for reading, including bedside lamps and extra lighting in your sitting area. A Well-stocked Bath In addition to bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths, provide guest robes, a basket of quality toiletries, a vanity lighted mirror, and a hair dryer. A little medicine drawer is always a lifesaver.  Storage Guests appreciate a place to store their clothes. An empty closet with hangers or a designated place to hang or store clothes and luggage will make them feel right at home.

Jeff Katz Photography

Flowers Always welcome your guests with fresh flowers!

Moll Anderson Life stylist and philanthropist Moll Anderson is an Emmy Award–winning television personality and the best-selling author of four books, including The Seductive Home.

Life+Style Southwest

by Danielle Urbina

pampered pets your furry friends will love these tail-wagging finds In many households, where the family isn’t quite complete without a pet (or two, or three!), the home is just as much their space as it is yours. With advances in pet furniture, food storage, feeders, and toys, choosing quality items for your pet is a lot easier, with plenty of options for every animal, in every style of home. Here are a few favorites that will keep your own loyal companion safe, healthy, and happy.

KONG Satellite When there’s just no time to head to the backyard to play, toys that are safe, entertaining, and mentally challenging are a great investment for your dog’s wellbeing. The KONG Satellite is a translucent toy that randomly dispenses food and treats, providing hours of mental and physical stimulation while teaching rapid eaters to slow down. Price upon request, Pets Barn,

Pet Toy Storage Basket Dog owners are all too familiar with the clutter that toys can create around the house. When your pups aren’t busy tugging or fetching, this bone-shaped organizer keeps toys out of sight. The sturdy, attractive basket comes in three sizes, holds up to five pounds of toys, and comes with a carry handle that makes it easy to transport. $30, Bed Bath & Beyond,

Motorola Scout66 Pet Monitor Need to keep an eye on your pet from afar? Motorola’s Scout66 is an HD Wi-Fi capable camera that turns a smartphone, a tablet, or a computer into a functional pet monitor with real-time audio and video. For an added sense of security, the monitor’s motion detector immediately alerts owners of any suspicious movement around the house. $120, Bed Bath & Beyond,

Petsafe Drinkwell Platinum Fountain It’s important for dogs and cats to stay hydrated, especially in the Southwest where temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer months, and many pets—especially cats—prefer aerated water that comes from a tap. Petsafe’s Drinkwell Fountain provides your pooch or kitty with fresh, filtered water whenever they need it. The free-falling stream encourages pets to drink more, and the carbon filter keeps unpleasant bacteria, odors, and tastes from permeating the water. $70, Petco,


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Design Studio

by Donna Schillinger

things are looking up


oo long overlooked, ceilings are now capturing the gaze of builders, interior designers, and homeowners. Color, texture, patterns, and creative lighting can transform a formerly forlorn space into a lofty showcase for intricate detail and finishes, specialty paintings, and sculptural effects. This part of the home is best considered in the planning stages of remodeling and building, or when shopping for a home, since higher ceilings provide more options for custom finishing. Edgar Garcia, president of Bella Vista Custom Homes says that when it comes to a room’s loftiness, “The higher the better.” However, a home with eight-foot ceilings is not beyond remedy. Depending on the placement of the trusses, an architectural inspection can determine if raising a ceiling is possible. Unfortunately, homeowners can’t expect much return from this costly improvement project. Alternately, removing dated popcorn acoustic material—a messy task best tackled prior to moving day—or any other outdated style, can drastically help a short room appear taller and more modern. It is recommended to paint the ceiling a shade lighter than the wall color and add a four-inch crown molding to expand the perceived visual height of a low ceiling. Any space can also significantly benefit from track, can, or pendant lighting, strategically pointing downward or on an angle to create different vertical levels, each with its own mood. In new construction projects, the sky is the limit for ceiling heights. “Many of the homes we build have ceilings 18 feet and higher,” says Garcia, who has adorned these spaces with unexpected finishes such as wooden flooring. To create a seamless space, Myriam Montes Navarro, owner of Myriam’s Faux Finish Studio, prescribes using the same color tones on walls and ceilings. For more complexity and richness in traditional, Tuscan, or Southwestern homes, she recommends a decorative finish. “My favorite faux finishes have a specific design in a metallic finish. Decorative finishes work with the color and décor of the room to harmonize the space.” A metallic finish or darker color on the ceiling enhances the character, depth, and interest of the space.


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Above, left: Architecture and design come together in a bathroom ceiling designed with groin vaults, exposed brick, and chandeliers. Above, center: A bricklined barrel vault ceiling adds a dramatic element to an entryway. Above, right: Elegant, painted scrolls on this soaring ceiling complement rich tones on the walls.

Bill Faulkner

Tony Skarlatos

go bold up above with eye-catching ceiling design

Who says art is only for walls? Integrating handpainted murals onto the ceiling adds a dose of color that draws the eyes upward.

Additionally, plaster molding is experiencing a revival, particularly in historic home renovations. “Plaster crown molding adds pleasant warmth and a sense of grandeur,” says Armando Uribe of Plaster Queen. At $10 to $30 per linear foot for eight-to-ten-inch-wide detailed moldings, with installation, its price is comparable to premium wood molding. With a style that complements and completes the rest of the home’s interior, a well-designed ceiling will undoubtedly turn heads—upward.

resources Bella Vista Custom Homes

“Make day “Make each eachmasterpiece!” day your your masterpiece!” John John Wooden Wooden

Designs by L.L. Power & Assoc Myriam’s Faux Finish Studio Plaster Queen

distinctive distinctive custom custom homes homes and and renovations renovations A close look at decorative finishing available through Myriam’s Faux Finish Studio.

bringing balance

Nancy Benson’s newly remodeled adobe farmhouse keeps with the Southwestern aesthetic by combining earthy colors, natural wooden vigas, and plush furnishings. Large picture windows overlook one of the homeowner’s many gardens.


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harmonious colors, textures, and art highlight a serene adobe farmhouse

by Jessica Muncrief photographs by Jesse Ramirez


here’s no routine when it comes to Nancy Benson’s morning coffee. One day she may enjoy it at the bistro table in her sunroom. On another, she may savor a cup at her dining table or in her bedroom overlooking a Zen garden courtyard. “I feel so relaxed in every space that I kind of rotate and pick and choose a new spot each morning,” she says. While Benson has always loved her home, an adobe farmhouse hand-built by its original owners in the 1970s, it didn’t always invoke the comfort and serenity that she now feels. After acquiring the home in the early ’80s, Benson embarked on several remodeling upgrades. The brick flooring, built directly on sand, was replaced with bamboo wood slabs and porcelain tiles. A kiva fireplace that had caused some fire damage in the attic was swapped out for a rustic, cast iron stove. Several walls came down and skylights and windows were incorporated for more open and airy spaces.

The open floor plan of the great room includes a formal living room (right) and a dining area (above). Designer Connie Hines infused the room with dÊcor, paintings, and finishes symbolic of the home’s surrounding culture and environment.


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Intricately carved furnishings serve as distinct statement pieces throughout the home. To keep the design from looking cluttered, both Hines and Benson chose a color palette that’s vibrant but doesn’t distract from the beauty of the neutral-toned wood.

Longtime friend and designer Connie Hines of Connie Hines Interior Design provided expert guidance on various projects over the years. When she caught Benson literally on hands and knees repairing a leaky clay tile roof, Hines convinced her to trade it all in for a metal version. Hines also advised Benson on plans for the expansive sunroom addition that doubles as an office space. However, something was still missing. “It was just the feeling it was giving me,” Benson remembers. “I had these nice things on the walls and places

“Painting walls is such a simple thing to do, yet it made such a dramatic change in the mood of the spaces.”—Nancy Benson to sit, but it still wasn’t comfortable.” She decided to call in Hines for some serious design work, and they’ve spent the past four years assembling the vision with custom furniture, ethnic artwork, and rich wall colors. Hines calls it a “global approach” that still fits snugly into the adobe farmhouse ambience. “Farmhouses were built a certain way to accommodate certain functions, but Nancy wanted more than just the norm,” Hines explains. “We’ve taken that adobe farmhouse and morphed it into Nancy’s personality. It’s a little eclectic, but still true to

A cozy lounging area in one corner of the master bedroom is dressed with some of Benson’s favorite pieces of art. A rust-red accent wall brings warmth to the room.

Above: An eye-catching metal pendant light hangs from exposed beams to illuminate the kitchen. Right: Benson’s eclectic taste is portrayed through art and décor. Each piece has its own origin and story and perfectly complements the home’s style. Left: Elegant scrolls and patterns are carved into the woodwork of the custom dining room table.


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the architectural elements that were in place from the beginning. We just embellished a little.” Staying true to the home’s bones, the recessed pocket in the kitchen ceiling was outfitted with traditional vigas and latillas. The girths of the original adobe bricks—ranging from 22 to 36 inches—are still visible in archways and window recesses throughout the home. “With those very thick walls, the home had a lot of substance to it, but the colors weren’t rich enough, and the furnishings weren’t heavy enough for it,” Hines recalls. Color, in fact, was almost nonexistent. Benson’s assumption that white provided the most serenity was proved wrong when Hines started incorporating deep wall colors like warm gold in the main living areas, sea green in the sunroom, and copper red in the master bedroom. “What has surprised me the most is the difference between a white wall and a colored wall,” Benson says. “I can’t believe the difference it made. Painting walls is such a simple thing to

The relaxing master bedroom mixes items with Asian and Moroccan influences while still staying within the overall rustic, Southwestern design of the rest of the home.


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Above: A mélange of exotic décor adorns hallways throughout the home.

do, yet it made such a dramatic change in the mood of the spaces.” Hines custom-designed most of the furniture through her company, Renaissance Woodworks, to ensure each fit the bill both in style and in function. The coffee table, for instance, needed to be a statement piece in the living space as well as the appropriate height for seated guests to play cards on game nights. New lighting fixtures and leaded bevel glass changed the ambience. The artwork, however, is where Ben-

son’s personality truly shines through. Hines says the two are kindred spirits in this regard, and she found herself “living vicariously” through the process of selecting works, such as a piece from Argentinean artist Fabian Perez’s Geisha series. Benson also found a trio of handmade Moroccan leather pieces hanging on the wall in Hines’s fine art gallery that are now displayed throughout the home. “Nancy’s tastes do lean toward a subdued ethnic or exotic style, but the pieces are not over the top; they fit in

beautifully with her other selections and look like they belong,” Hines says. “We were very deliberate with our selections because there’s a certain balance that we wanted to achieve.” It’s that balance, harmony, and flow that Benson initially sought and that she finally feels she attained in her renovated surroundings. “I truly feel comfortable here,” she notes. “It’s spacious enough, and it has all the light, color, and beautiful art that really opens up the best part of my psyche.” SUCASAMAGAZINE.COM


Opposite, top: With the picturesque backyard as a backdrop, the outdoor kitchen is the perfect place to cook and enjoy meals in the New Mexico sunshine. Gardens that surround the home feature colorful foliage (above) and decorative accents like metal flowers (right) and a trickling fountain (opposite, bottom).

Celestia, by local artist Jesus Mata, stands tall in a private garden outside the master bedroom.


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

resources Designer, Accessories, and Furnishings Connie Hines Interior Design Custom Woodwork Renaissance Woodworks DÊcor and Tile Casa Mexicana Tile and Brick Installation Vinny’s Custom Tile SUCASAMAGAZINE.COM



in New Mexico East Coast transplants embrace their classically Southwestern-style home


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Saltillo floors, large, wooden beams, and a kiva fireplace adorned with tile evoke the feel of the Southwest, which is just what the family strived for in designing their New Mexico home.

by Jessica Muncrief photographs by Jesse Ramirez


hen 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.” 32

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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

Above: In the center of it all, the living room serves as one of the main gathering places in the home, its soaring ceiling and picture windows offering an optimal view of the Organ Mountains and the valley below.

Above, right: A long staircase in the living room leads to a loft where Marilyn spends time putting together elaborate scrapbooks full of family memories.

Right: The Suggses used a series of decorative Talavera tiles to beautifully enliven the risers in the wooden staircase.



Above: The kitchen is an eye-grabbing combination of neutral and bold tones, such as the custom royal blue refrigerator cabinet, the cobalt range, and the sea green island. Natural light gently illuminates those same colors in a coordinated stained glass door.

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

“I feel like in many ways the house itself is so beautiful that I didn’t have to do a lot of decorating.” —Marilyn Taleon 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 34

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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

The careful use of traditional materials, like iron in this chandelier (above), elegantly pulls the kitchen and dining room together.

Above: Just off the kitchen, a cozy and casual dining area faces the outdoors. Flowers that remind Marilyn of her mother are found throughout the home, including in the kitchen backsplash (above, right), which uses a combination of tile and rustic brick.



Transform your home and community! By shopping, donating and volunteering at Habitat ReStore, you become part of a movement dedicated to ensuring everyone has a decent place to live. Habitat ReStore’s ever-changing merchandise and one-of-a-kind finds give you the opportunity to be creative. Visit Habitat ReStore!


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

Youngest daughter Veronica spent many an hour completing college applications in her bedroom’s snug reading loft.

Marilyn Taleon enjoys the serenity of her backyard from a second-floor loft.

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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

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The upstairs loft has plenty of space for Marilyn’s scrapbooking supplies, as well as a large crafting table and a kitchenette for convenience. 38

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A peaceful ambience in the bedroom makes the master suite a comfortable place to relax.

The Taleons are often enticed to spend evenings beside the fire, admiring the Organ Mountains and listening to the choir of coyotes howling in the distance. 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. 40

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Features like a prep and cook area and a nearby dining space allow the outdoor kitchen to function like the indoor kitchen on days when the family likes to spend time outside.

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.

resources Builder and Interior Design Classic New Mexico Homes Appliances Builders Source Appliance Gallery Cabinetry Classic New Mexico Homes Greg Duff Countertops Stonemasters Granite Tile Casa Mexicana SUCASAMAGAZINE.COM


reimagining the dream a thoughtful renovation adds second life to a charming El Paso ranch home


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by Danielle Urbina photographs by Jesse Ramirez


hen Bobby and Becky Villa envisioned their ideal home 18 years ago, they had an exact location and layout in mind, but there was just one problem: They couldn’t find it. “We had been looking for a new home for years,” says Becky. “We wanted a one-story, brick, ranch home in the Ysleta district, and that was really hard to find.” Every Sunday after church, the couple would embark on yet another house hunt. One such Sunday sent Bobby, Becky, and their children, Paula and Roman, to two open houses in a prime East El Paso location. However, when they visited the neighborhood, it wasn’t the open houses that appealed to Becky, but rather a red brick house with a For Sale sign perched in the front yard. “I just loved it so much from the outside,” she remembers. It wasn’t long before the family called it home. The Villas’ single-story ranch sits in the middle of a timeless neighborhood in East El Paso, a quiet area untouched by the hustle and bustle of other areas of the city—which adds to its low-key appeal. When their children grew up, married, and started their own families, Becky and Bobby decided it was time for a few renovations.

The kitchen now features all-new cabinetry, a large, granite-topped island with bar seating, and brand new appliances.

It was love at first sight when Becky Villa laid her eyes on what is now her home’s charming, red brick exterior. The ranch-style abode’s expansive layout fit exactly what she and her family were searching for.

Bobby recruited the help of El Paso interior designer Ross Landers to create an unforgettable surprise anniversary gift for his wife: a brand new kitchen. With a domino effect, the new kitchen sparked a revamping of the rest of the home. “Once I got to know Becky better and took a look around the house, we just started repainting, redecorating, and shuffling around furniture,” says Landers. “Becky already owned nice things; it was just a matter of simplifying and reworking everything.” SUCASAMAGAZINE.COM


The combination of niches and a custom fireplace make this wall a centerpiece in the newly remodeled den. The niches showcase décor but also provide a storage space for a TV and electronics.

Above: A painting of Bobby’s aunts, a.k.a. “Golden Girls,” by local artist Laurel Roberts. Layered patterns add spark to the formal living room; deep red and earthy hues in the rug, ottoman, and accent chairs are balanced by the otherwise neutral palette.


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

“We really just envisioned more of an open concept in the main living area,” says Bobby. Their first priority, then, was to tear down walls separating the kitchen from the den. Landers continued by removing a bar, pantry, and a row of cabinetry to form the desired open area. This new spacious layout of the home is functional not only for everyday life, but also for all the entertaining the couple enjoys. The kitchen now features all-new cabinetry, a large, granite-topped island with bar seating, and brand new appliances. Landers also added contemporary elements to the traditional theme, implementing a stainless steel, basket-weave backsplash and a curved hood above the range. Special accents in the den, such as a custom fireplace and new ceramic floors designed to resemble wood, refreshed the space and added warmth. Wanting to keep the bones of the rest of the home intact, Landers and the Villas focused on adjusting and simplifying throughout the rest of the house, rather than eliminating more walls. “That part of the project was really about taking those existing nice furnishings and rearranging them so the home could really take shape,” notes Landers. “You don’t always have to go purchase a slew of new items to change the look of a home.”

Left: During the remodel, designer Ross Landers removed a desk and workspace from the far end of the kitchen and replaced it with double ovens and narrow pull-out drawers for more storage space.

Right: Basketweave stainless steel meets granite in the kitchen. Landers used a combination of the materials to create a distinct look in this area.

“In the beginning, I just imagined a simple island for more space; we ended up being very pleasantly surprised,� says Becky of the remodel. Her new kitchen (complete with all-new appliances) now provides all the function and space she needs to entertain loved ones.

Adjacent to the kitchen is the formal dining room, where a lavender accent wall adds a soft hint of color.

Landers changed the layout of the master bedroom by rearranging furniture and placing the bed against a wall so that the couple would have a relaxing view of their backyard. The addition of a multicolored area rug pulls the room together.

In the master bedroom, Landers removed large pieces of furniture, a move that modernized the room’s layout, then added personal and cozy touches—family photos, a colorful new accent rug. A window at one end of the bedroom displays the home’s expansive backyard and outdoor dining area, as well as Bobby’s homage to The Beatles—a custom-made wooden bench adorned with the faces of the Fab Four. Becky and Bobby’s love for each other is apparent, and in their 41 years of marriage they’ve collected sentimental items that truly bring warmth and character to this home, such as a cherished vase crafted by Becky’s late mother and a painting of Bobby’s beloved aunts for their newly remodeled great room. “Three of Bobby’s favorite people are his aunts; we call them the Golden Girls,” says Becky, who commissioned friend and local artist Laurel Roberts to paint Mona, Rita, and Soccorito from a joyful, candid photograph of the sisters. “It brings back so many great memories of my aunts,” Bobby says. 46

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resources Designer Ross Landers Interiors Appliances Ferguson Bath, Kitchen, & Lighting Gallery When El Paso’s often mild weather beckons Bobby and Becky outdoors, the shaded patio is a great spot for the couple to dine alfresco.

Whether used for church gatherings, couples Bunco nights, or large family gatherings, the Villas’ home finally has the space Becky and Bobby have always wanted—not just for themselves, but for everyone they welcome into their home. That includes Landers, who is now considered a part of the family. Bobby recognizes that the relationship between designer and family was always reassuring, noting, “There was a lot of trust there.”


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Cabinetry Java Cabinets Countertops Classic Granite & Marble, Inc. Fireplace K.D. Scholten Co. Tile Emser Tile & Natural Stone

Left: An accent bench featuring an iconic portrait of The Beatles instantly adds personality to the back porch.

Imagine the Possibilities

Editor’s Pick

You Can Teach an You Can Teach an You Can Teach an You Can Teach an Old House New Tricks! Old House New Tricks! Old Old House House New New Tricks! Tricks!

The Organically Clean Home, by Becky Rapinchuk, Adams Media, paperback, $16


hen her oldest child started crawling, Becky Rapinchuk suddenly found herself acutely aware of the chemicals and germs that posed potential threats to her baby. She began seeking out natural and organic ways to keep her home clean and her family safe, eventually discovering she could make her own cleaning products using just a few easy-to-find ingredients. A cookbook of sorts was born. The Organically Clean Home is one of the best recipe books you’ll ever invest in, but don’t expect to eat a single dish from it. The ingredients Rapinchuk uses are refreshingly simple: white vinegar, baking soda, distilled water, lemon juice, Epsom and table salts, hydrogen peroxide. Essential oils—lemon, clove, eucalyptus, tea tree—add a pleasant fragrance to air fresheners, glass wipes, disinfectant cleaners, hand sanitizer gel, and more. Try making Rapinchuk’s recipe for a fizzing tablet (made with all-natural ingredients and scented with lemon and peppermint) that offers a hands-off option for cleaning if you don’t feel like scrubbing. Simple, inexpensive, and the biggie: chemical-free. The Organically Clean Home’s 150-plus recipes for common cleaning products are so effective, says the author, “You might even start looking forward to cleaning your house!” Well, maybe.—Amy Gross

Imagine Imagine the the Possibilities Possibilities Imagine Imagine the the Possibilities Possibilities

Vida Buena

by Donna Schillinger

hot springs


soak, stay, and recharge at one of the Southwest’s ancient mineral springs


or more than 3,000 years, Native Americans have sought health and healing in nature’s mineral waters. Try it once, and you’ll understand why. On-site lodging makes these Southwest-area springs an ideal weekend recharge any time of the year.

Riverbend Hot Springs

Sacred to eight Northern Pueblo tribal communities, waters at the family-friendly Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa ( in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico, offer four mineral soaks: iron, soda, arsenic, and opening soon, a lithia pool. “This area will be enhanced with ramadas, hammocks, and expanded seating, which we believe will be an exciting addition to our loyal Ojo guests,” says Marketing Director Wendi Gelfound. Lodging ranges from camping to the Cliffside suites with kiva fireplaces, private outdoor soaking tubs, and private back patios facing the spectacular cliffs and Pueblo ruins that border the springs. Cliffside, Plaza, and Pueblo suite guests enjoy extended soaking hours in the new circular Kiva pool. After a soak, the Artesian Restaurant offers farm-to-table freshness. Midweek day-use specials include Soak and Stretch: yoga plus springs access ($27); and the clothingoptional Private Pool and Springs Special, which includes entry for two to the springs, mud pool, steam room, and sauna, as well as two daytime hours in a private pool ($90). Ojo offers a senior discount for lodging, a military discount, and free entry to the springs for New Mexico residents on their birthday.

Riverbend Hot Springs’ Riverside Rock Pools (here and opposite) run between 100–104 degrees, making them perfect for longer soaks.

rustic relaxation

Ojo Caliente’s round Kiva Pool is based on traditional design and is centered between the Cliffside, Plaza, and Pueblo suites.

Long considered sacred by the Apache and Mimbres tribes, the mineral-rich water of Riverbend Hot Springs (riverbendhotsprings .com) is just a short walk from shops and dining in historic downtown Truth or Consequences, in Southern New Mexico. Soak by the hour or as part of an overnight retreat at this serene environment geared toward families with children ages 12 and older. Expect an intimate connection with nature, says General Manager Jake Foerstner. “Since we are the only all-outdoor springs on the Rio Grande, guests can marvel in not only the breathtaking vistas of the Caballo Mountains, but also in a plethora of migratory birds and other wildlife.” Purchase a one-hour pass ($10, free for overnight guests) to visit five public pools of different temperatures. Lounge on the shaded patio, relax in the barrel sauna, or take a cool dip in the clear Rio Grande. Private pools, walled on three sides but open to the riverside mountain view, are clothing optional with their own cooling misters, decks, and seating. Fifty-minute sessions are a reasonable $10 for overnight guests and $15 for day visitors.

Julien McRoberts

the hot eye

Courtesy The Springs Resort & Spa

The Sunset Social Pool is one of The Springs’ larger soaking tubs. Up to 20 guests can watch the sun go down while relaxing in waters that average between 98–105 degrees.

adventure plus

Courtesy of The Springs Resort & Spa

Riverbend Hot Springs

Courtesy The Springs Resort & Spa

For more variety in a hot springs getaway, The Springs Resort & Spa (pagosashotsprings .com) in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, offers river rafting, hot air ballooning, train rides, and ruins tours—all of which can be packaged with lodging and soaking in the waters of the world’s deepest geothermal spring, Great Pagosa Hot Springs. “All adventures, romantic or ecotourism, usually end with a relaxing soak in one of our 23 independent mineral tubs, especially as all of our hotel guests receive exclusive 24-hour-aday soaking privileges,” says proprietor Nerissa Whittington. “We are nestled along the banks of the San Juan River and face a wonderful hiking spot, Reservoir Hill.” Four levels of passes (adult $26–$53, child $14–$29) include the 18 family-friendly pools with canteen. Platinum amenities include robes, towels, lockers, reentry, 24-hour access, and the adultonly Relaxation Terrace—five pools that overlook the river, with a waterfall, a Roman shower, and a jetted tub. All lodging, from doubles to suites that sleep six, include Platinum privileges; a new building, the EcoLuxe Hotel, is one of only 22 LEED-certified hotels in the nation.

Right: Walk across a wooden bridge from the main pool to reach The Cliffs pool. The pool and its patio area offer up-close views of mineral-covered formations. SUCASAMAGAZINE.COM



PERFORMANCE January through April


Combining his energy on stage and his focus in the studio, Clay Walker has been a beloved country act since the start of his career in 1993. Best known for some of his greatest hits like “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” and “Fall,” the country crooner will deliver an intimate performance of his platinum-selling music at the Inn of the Mountain Gods.


Under the direction of Sergei Radchenko, the Moscow Festival Ballet stages the age-old tale of Cinderella. The full-length performance features three magical acts with music by Sergei Prokofiev and a troupe of 50 enchanting ballet dancers.


Hailed as one of the most successful guitarists of our time, Joe Satriani already has six gold and platinum discs to his name. In 2015, Satriani released his 15th studio album, Shockwave Supernova. Join the celebration of this milestone as Satriani performs this March in El Paso.


As part of their 2015–2016 season, and in collaboration with El Paso Pro-Musica, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra will perform several classical pieces including Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Brahms’s Variation on a Theme of Joseph Haydn.


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016


Australian rockers Little River Band had one goal in mind when they first began: make it big in the United States. They did just that, becoming one of the most popular vocal bands of the ’70s and ’80s. After 40 years of touring the globe, Little River Band returns to El Paso to perform some of their hit singles including “Reminiscing” and “Lady.”


Known as the global composer of music that transcends borders, Yanni’s world tour continues into 2016 with a brand new show packed with fan favorites and new arrangements of the classics. Yanni and his world-renowned orchestra continue their musical journey in El Paso as they grace the stage of the Plaza Theatre.



Typical percussion instruments won’t make the cut into this program. Stomp, an award-winning percussion sensation, brings their action-packed show to El Paso for an unforgettable night. The eight-person group uses matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, and other unconventional items to present an exciting, rhythmic production.

Every piece is unique and special Pandora I Candles I Fabulous Furs I Holiday Gifts and Much Much More

915 584 1183


Based on the movie starring John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever follows the life and challenges of a young Brooklyn disco dancer in the late ’70s. Presented by Columbia Artists Theatricals, the production features timeless disco tunes like “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive.”

7933 N. Mesa Suite N El Paso, TX 79932 Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm


Since being crowned 2005’s American Idol champion, Carrie Underwood has taken the country world by storm. Besides selling 58 million records worldwide, she has also earned the title of the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year and has become a respected member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. In celebration of her fifth album, Storyteller, Underwood is touring the nation and will hit Las Cruces this April. SUCASAMAGAZINE.COM


Vida Buena

by Stephanie Rodriguez

the heart of the matter

Heart diesease is the number one cause of death for American men and women. Luckily, there are many preventive behaviors that can help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.

February is American Heart Month. Join the low-risk club by practicing these heart-healthy habits.


hough the heart may be small, it does one of the biggest jobs in the body. Every day, the average human heart beats about 100,000 times and sends 2,000 gallons of blood flowing through the body. That’s a lot of work for an organ no bigger than your fist. Year after year, however, more people find themselves at risk for heart disease because of unhealthy daily habits. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death of both men and women in the United States. The scary part? Heart disease can start at a young age if symptoms go unchecked.

“Everything starts with prevention.” —Dr. Mohammad Laiq Raja

The most common heart conditions for men and women are heart attacks, blocked arteries, and congestive heart failure.

resources El Paso Cardiology Associates Many factors contribute to heart health, including a balanced diet and regular exercise.


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

MountainView Regional Medical Center The Hospitals of Providence

The most common heart conditions for men and women are heart attacks, blocked arteries, and congestive heart failure. According to Dr. Mohammad Laiq Raja, an interventional cardiologist with El Paso Cardiology Associates and The Hospitals of Providence, there are several risk factors that can expose an individual to heart disease, among them advanced age, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and living an unhealthy lifestyle. Having two or more of these risk factors doubles the threat of heart disease, says Dr. Raja, who stresses, “Everything starts with prevention.” Many behaviors can be adopted to help strengthen the heart: scaling back on soda and artificial sweeteners, monitoring mental health (individuals with moderate or severe depression are more likely to develop fatal heart problems), getting plenty of sleep, and finally, lacing up those sneakers and going for a run—running can reduce the risk of heart disease by 45 percent. Diet, too, is crucial for maintaining a healthy ticker. Dr. Joseph D’Antonio, a cardiologist at MountainView Cardiology, recommends the Mediterranean Diet or DASH Diet for those looking to make a heart-healthy lifestyle change, as both diets have been shown to lower blood pressure and incorporate foods such as chicken, fish, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. However, Dr. D’Antonio explains, dieting will not work without exercising for 30 minutes at least five times a week. “There’s no one magic bullet,” he says. “It’s basically a lifestyle change, with exercise, an appropriate diet, and an appropriate weight going the longest to good artery health.”

Su Cocina

by Danielle Urbina

photographs by Nohemy Gonzalez

fired up Café Italia uses ancient technology to produce its classic Neapolitan cuisine


here there’s passion there’s commitment, and that’s something Daniel Rangel, owner of Café Italia in El Paso, uses as a principle for how he runs his authentic Italian restaurant. A sophisticated simplicity is the driving force behind Café Italia, which is known for its wood-fired pizzas—pies made from perfectly fermented dough, hand-pulled mozzarella, and an assortment of traditional Italian pizza toppings like fresh basil, garlic, and prosciutto di Parma. But the restaurant, which opened eight years ago, wasn’t born overnight. At the time, Rangel was working two corporate jobs, and his diet suffered for it. “I lived on my own for a long time and literally got sick of hamburgers, hot dogs, and fast food. I started cooking because I realized that all of that was making me sick and very unhealthy,” he says.

“It’s an old way of feeding people— cooking with fire—that’s never going to go out of style.”—Daniel Rangel No over-the-top ingredients here. When it comes to the food, the restaurant focuses on authenticity; all pizza toppings offered are traditional Italian.

On a quest for a healthier lifestyle, Rangel, armed with a course syllabus and several books from the Culinary Institute of America, taught himself how to cook, and discovered that it added a noticeable fulfillment to his life. “I started feeding my neighbors, who would give me really good feedback, and it just took off from there,” says Antipasti featuring roasted vegetables, salami, mozzarella, and panne rustico.

Above: A classic Margherita pizza with tomato sauce and handmade mozzarella, topped with fresh basil.


S U C A S A W I N T E R 2016

A wood-fired oven must be able to reach high tempeatures in order to properly cook pizzas and other dishes. The brick and adobe ovens that Rangel built reach up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

Work starts first thing in the morning at the restaurant; fermented dough (left) and mozzarella cheese (above) are made fresh and in-house, daily.

Rangel. “I built myself an industrial-style kitchen at home and taught myself to cook, but to tell you the truth, I never knew it would become a business.” Though Rangel learned traditional French technique, it was Italian food he really fell in love with. “Italian food is ingredient-based, so I planted a few tomato plants, and some fennel and basil in my backyard, and it just came together,” he says. “The simplicity of Italian cooking is what really got my attention.” Fast-forward eight years. Rangel and his brother Andy have turned Rangel’s passion for food into a thriving business, with Café Italia locations in both East and West El Paso. The restaurants’ interiors are thoroughly rustic, with exposed brick and walls adorned with photos of Rangel and his brother hard at work making dough and mozzarella. But when customers walk through Café Italia’s doors, what they notice first is what gives the restaurants their culinary authenticity: the ovens.

House salad with organic greens, sliced pears, and roasted walnuts with house vinaigrette.



Above: Rangel splashes vegetables with olive oil and sprinkles them with salt before fire-roasting them in the oven.

Rangel and his brother built the brick and adobe ovens themselves after reading some books and watching YouTube videos—and, admittedly, a bit of trial and error. “The first commercial oven didn’t work, so we had to knock it down and rebuild it twice,” he recalls. Clearly, they finally got it right, and make good use of those ovens. The menu is classic Neapolitan and unpretentious: antipasti, spaghetti, linguine, and five specialty pizzas, including Gracie’s (roasted fennel and mushrooms, rosemary, Parmigiano Reggiano, and mozzarella) and Andy’s (tomato sauce, mozzarella, cherry peppers, and salami). But when it comes down to it, Café Italia is primarily a pizzeria, its pies made with an unbeatably airy crust, fresh ingredients, and rusticity that has made a name for the restaurant in the El Paso community. Some days, Rangel is still in awe that he’s been able to make a living by running a restaurant on techniques that are hundreds of years old—but somehow, it works. “It’s the primitive idea of [wood-fired] cooking that I love,” he says. “I get this nostalgia from doing this, cooking this way. It’s an old way of feeding people—cooking with fire—that’s never going to go out of style.”


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by James Selby

back to the future

IPOB Association, Inc.

an old treatment for new wines

The New California Wine, by Jon Bonné, Ten Speed Press (2013), hardcover


efining “old world” and “new world” wines is one of those tip-of-the-iceberg cases. On the surface, it’s a fairly graspable concept: Old world wines come from Europe; new world, everyplace else. A label tells whether a wine is Californian or Calabrian. But beyond geography, discerning essential characteristics of a wine, and the stylistic approach of the winemaker, “new” and “old” become more philosophical stances than adjectives. Generally, European wines are named after their geographical locations. Sancerre is a wine. It’s also a town and a subregion within the Loire Valley of France. Although it’s made of sauvignon blanc grapes, you won’t see that on the label. Bordeaux bottles will show producer (Lafite Rothschild) and appellation (Pauillac); cabernet won’t appear on the label. Exceptions to the “old world” rule occur, like Italian pinot grigio labeled as such. New world wines, on the other hand, are labeled by the grape. For example, New Zealand has several regions, but what’s prominent on a bottle produced there is sauvignon blanc—just as in California, where


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the pecking order is producer (Heitz) followed by grape (cabernet sauvignon) and lastly, region (Napa Valley). What this all comes down to is terroir, terroir, terroir (microcosmos)—the environmental factors of a growing region—which suggests that finer wines come from locations best suited to the grape. Flavor profile is another matter. The thumbnail: Old world wines have lower alcohol, are made with less aggressive oak treatments, and may show more nuance, whereas new world wines typically have higher alcohol, riper fruit, fuller body. A movement, spearheaded by a group of domestic vintners called In Pursuit of Balance (, supports creating wines more appropriate to what the vines and the earth are providing, i.e., letting the grape express what the wine is, versus what an industrial producer might decide it should be. Domestic wines can be made in an old world style, and vice versa. So is the vineyard greener on the other side of the hill? To dig deeper, The New California Wine by Jon Bonné (Ten Speed Press) is an incisive book on today’s profound shift in winemaking. The lesson here: Thin neckties might be in vogue right now, but don’t toss the wide ones just yet. It’s a matter of time and taste.

Attendees at an In Pursuit of Balance conference in San Francisco (inset) sample wines made by supporting vintners like Wind Gap Wines (above, top).

James Selby James Selby has directed wine programs in New York, Portland, and Santa Fe, where he lives and works as a wine consultant and writer.

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Su Cocina

by Danielle Urbina

seasonal spirits warming up with whiskey, cognac, and a flurry of ingredients


ich, festive cocktails are just the fix for wintry weather, and the temptation to stay home, mix up a signature cocktail, and enjoy it by a roaring fire is often more enticing than a night out on the town. Ingredients like cream, seasonal spices, and coffee create truly decadent drinks—joy in a glass. Cozy up to winter with these indulgent cocktails.

Grand Coffee Cocktail This one’s for the coffee lovers. We all know about the iconic combination of Irish whiskey and coffee, but as coffee brewing becomes more complex, so do the combinations of coffee and liquor. Coffee’s fruity, floral, earthy, and nutty aromatics lend themselves to many boozy pairings, like rum and cognac. The combination of Grand Marnier’s citrusy notes and the strong flavor of freshly brewed coffee make this a bold, caffeinated concoction perfect for winter evenings. 62

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Courtesy Star Beverage Company

Nothing says winter like a creamy glass of eggnog. Simple ingredients—eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cream— come together to create a rich, flavorful treat that can be customized with your choice of spirits. This cocktail combines kicky cinnamon whisky with chilled eggnog for a spicy twist on an old classic.

Makes 1 cocktail 2 oz Fireball Cinnamon Whisky 2 oz eggnog (homemade or store-bought) In a shaker, combine whisky, eggnog, and ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Makes 1 cocktail 1 oz Grand Marnier cognac, gently warmed 3 oz hot brewed coffee 3/4 oz brown sugar syrup Pour all ingredients into a mug or heat-proof highball glass, and stir until well combined. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Courtesy Star Beverage Company


Courtesy Paeremarkt

Arbie’s French Kiss Before 2007, you couldn’t get absinthe in the United States unless you had an inside guy; in 1915, the liquor was banned due to its high alcohol content and hallucinogenic effects. These days, absinthe can again be enjoyed in the States, and its strong anise flavor makes it a fun spirit to experiment with in cocktails (in small doses, of course). This chocolatey cocktail gets some oomph from absinthe and makes a perfect addition to an at-home Valentine’s Day date.

Makes 1 cocktail 1/4 oz Absente absinthe 1/4 oz Crème de Cacao 1/4 oz Frangelico 1/4 oz Godiva liqueur Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass.

resources WB Liquors



Su Casa South Winter 2016 | Digital Edition  
Su Casa South Winter 2016 | Digital Edition