Jay Carroll recalls his first glimpse of the former El Rey Inn in artsy Santa Fe, New Mexico. He immediately knew that this Adobe Revival structure — as it has never been out of operation since opening in 1936, and welcomed thousands of guests over the years — needed a major rehab.
"A lot of Santa Fe is in this 'Santa Fe style,'" Carroll tells Hunker. "We didn't want to go too strongly in that direction." Yet, Carroll did take inspiration from Santa Fe's most famed artist, Georgia O'Keefe, as well as Alexander Girard, an architect, textile artist, and interior designer whose works are at the city's Museum of International Folk Art. The result is a modernized southwestern aesthetic that's still intensely local, with wood-fired ceramics sourced from Abiquiú and textiles out of Chimayo. ("They do this style of weaving in their little town that's known the world over," says Carroll.)
Updating the plumbing and electrical—then adding a bar/restaurant in the main building, born out of a former breakfast nook—helped El Rey Court (christened with a new name) sail into cool status. Carroll, who has a background in fashion (at Levi Strauss & Co.) and also works in photography, brought back the old logo.