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.
Carroll, a multi-hyphenate creative with a resume that includes creative director at Levi's and founder of boutique olive oil brand Wonder Valley, completely overhauled the old motor inn's 86 rooms and rechristened the place El Rey Court.
"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.
The Native American portrait on the wall, says Carroll, was a gift to the property in exchange for a guest's stay back in the 1950s.
In the lobby are items sourced by several artists and creators, starting with the table and benches (by local woodworker Michael May, of Traveler Fine Furniture). Hanging above the sofa is a John Zabawa painting; Zabawa was also a partner in branding the property. The pendant lights are from Lostine, the rug from Nordic Knots, and the Tulip coffee table from Knoll. The Equipale chairs were already at the property.