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Plan A Santa Fe Getaway

Our expert shopper reports back from Santa Fe—everything you need to know about where to shop, stay, and eat.
In addition to beautiful scenery, luxurious accommodations, and fine dining, you’ll find some of the best shopping in the country in Santa Fe. Delight in the exotic elegance of The Inn of Five Graces (left), explore Seret & Sons for ancient treasures (below right), or stop in Spirit and add a few pieces of Elliott Golightly’s beautiful, handmade pottery (below left) to your collection.

Santa Fe Getaway
Ken Knight’s list of the best places to shop, dine, and stay in the Land of Enchantment.

Below sunny skies, in a land of 17th-century missions nestled among some of the best retail in the country, New Mexico offers a treasure trove of pleasures, from dining and lodging to, of course, shopping “all with a respectful nod to its heritage. Rivaling the top destinations for tourism in our country, Santa Fe ranks second in the nation (tied with Los Angeles) in fine-art sales, with more than 200 galleries. And where you find such a people-magnet you’ll also find plenty of shops. Entrepreneurial spirit abounds here, and during the last few decades, as Santa Fe has exploded from dirt streets to five-star hotels, a growing number of global offerings for the home have made Santa Fe a shopping adventure.

Similar to the scale of shopping in Venice or Kyoto, Santa Fe provides an easy, walkable setting, situated upon narrow, winding streets. I expected to find carved wooden chairs and Southwestern furnishings from the region, but my first step into Seret & Sons set into motion a surprising, color-filled, magic-carpet-ride of an experience that I will never forget.

Back in the days of Andy Warhol’s Factory, Ira Seret dated Tiger Morse, a fashion maven who introduced him to the artist, as well as Vogue’s Diana Vreeland, interior designer Angelo Donghia, and the inimitable Anne Klein. He was soon winning acclaim for his colorful interiors in Bloomingdale notable vignettes. (His design credo: Color and pattern keeps us young, like watching the stars or reading good books.)

Today, Ira’s chockablock emporium, Seret & Sons, is a kingdom of wonder. Picture 75,000 square feet of ancient artifacts: 14th-century Tibetan trunks, life-sized wooden horses, ornately carved doors, and mounds of kilims and dhurries. Ira ushers me behind a large rug hanging on the wall, and I find myself inside a steel bank vault filled with the most valuable antique rugs—a lockable room for the more serious players. Thirty minutes into this journey, I feel more like a tourist in Afghanistan than Santa Fe.

MIX MASTER: Mary Corley’s store showcases a carefully chosen, refreshing mix of antiques and accessories that work as well in Provençal-inspired interiors as Southwestern. She also carries striking silk and dried floral designs by Claudia Buccieri and Connie Durand.

Next on my hit list of home furnishing haunts is the soothing world of antiques and carefully chosen accessories inside Mary Corley Antiques. One of many Texans who have brought great talent to Santa Fe’s retail scene, Mary settled here in 1987. And here she has masterfully painted a joyful world of offerings in 18th- and 19th-century English and French country furniture and accessories “something else I hadn’t expected to find in such abundance. For Mary, mixing these periods with Southwestern and Spanish Colonial furnishings was an easy transition, as she has astutely connected the similarity of light, plastered walls in the south of France to the core environs of Santa Fe.

Mary’s store also features the exuberant work of floral designers Claudia Buccieri and Connie Durand; their freeze-dried and silk floral arrangements blend with the furnishings, providing serious shopping theater. It is rare to find such fine artistry in the field of silk and dried florals. Connie and Claudia’s creations are inspired by garden settings—much as the impressionist painters were inspired.

A true find for lovers Orientalia, Shibui features one of the best and largest collections of fine Asian wares and antiques in the nation, plus a great web site. Inside, a delicate sense of order rules. I found Shibui a refreshing antidote to the trinket shops that dot the landscape. Here, my eyes were soothed with elegant forms of hand-woven baskets, clean-lined Tansu chests, and very affordable Japanese porcelain objects. I bought a stoneware bowl with a cherry-blossom pattern for $9. Dane Owen, the owner, spent 20 minutes gift-wrapping this small purchase—as if it were a treasure. “Shibui” refers to Dane’s credo for selecting all objects in his store, what he calls “a rare, palpable essence of quality and timeless beauty.”

SPICE OF LIFE: Long known for its natural beauty and spiritual sense, Santa Fe’s boutiques are littered with ethereal furnishings that are good for the soul as well as the house. Add organic elements to your life with Casa Natura’s Earth-friendly linens, clothing, and accessories (above), or add mystery and beauty with Seret & Son’s exotic artifacts (below left).

The organically inclined will love Casa Natura’s home furnishings and bedding, which use only Earth-friendly materials. Blankets, quilts, children’s clothing, pillows, and scarves—all are carefully selected for each manufacturer’s adherence to organically grown cottons and respect for the Earth. Be sure to see the delightful recycled quilt creations—a patchwork of whimsy and color. The staff was very pleasant, informative, and not on a mission to force-feed me granola. I learned about the process of growing and processing appropriate materials and left pleased with the experience.

Primarily a women’s boutique with modern clothing and handmade jewelry of delicate proportions, Spirit offers a few home items, including a few pieces of hand-formed pottery from Australia’s Elliot Golightly, which I love. On every trip to Santa Fe, without fail, I stop into this shop, finding it enchanting in a new way each time. It is evident that one tasteful eye selects each piece in the store with care and deliberation.

If you’re shopping for pieces with a true and refined Southwestern spirit, you want local artisan Ernest Thompson’s handcrafted Spanish-influenced wooden furniture. His chairs, tables, armoires, chests, and screens fill homes throughout the area, because of the high appeal of the sense of history and heritage in his designs. You may have pieces custom-made, or choose from a wide range of styles influenced by Arts & Crafts designs and European patterns. After shopping here for the basic elements, finding the necessary items to fill in your hacienda should be fairly simple.

West of town, affordable imported accessories await you at Jackalope, everything from hand-carved furniture to Mexican pottery to Moroccan textiles. Kids (and husbands) will love the “Prairie Dog City” within—a real-life installation of these cunning and charming creatures that will keep them mesmerized for hours while you shop.

All in all, Santa Fe offers a crisp, dry, sun-drenched respite from your basic routine—and it definitely refreshes the senses. There is always something new to discover here. It may take several trips—at different times of the year—for you to find your center, but when you do, you will find that it’s worth the effort to spend your time exploring these centuries-old trading routes.

Where to Stay in Santa Fe
Two of Ken Knight’s favorite homes away from home.

The Inn of the Five Graces
150 E. DeVargas St. 505-992-0957. www.fivegraces.com.
The Five Graces—named for the Tibetan philosophy that we are graced with five ways to experience the splendors of the world: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste—features exotic interiors with carved skylights, Moroccan grillwork screens, and brilliant colors. Each room has an elaborate, hand-tiled bathroom and many include a fully equipped kitchen—stocked in advance with each guest’s special request for alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, along with pâté, cheeses, crackers, candy bars, even fresh milk for coffee—all included in the room rate, which begins at $295. Also included are a communal breakfast and a walking tour guided by hotel manager Niall Reid, who is very well versed in Santa Fe’s culture and early beginnings. Five Graces’ parent company, The Garrett Group, is known for its five-star Lake Placid Lodge in New York, among others.

The Bishop’s Lodge Resort & Spa
1297 Bishop’s Lodge Rd. 505-983-6377. www.bishopslodge.com.
The Bishop’s Lodge provides an unpretentious, simple sense of luxury: room décor is subtle, with comfortable, tasteful furnishings, appropriately framed prints of Native American artwork, and creature comforts such as thick bathrobes and rosemary-scented soaps. Rates vary according to the time of year, averaging $195. Dining in the award-winning Las Fuentes Bar & Grill, I hear children gleefully recalling the day’s events, which included horseback riding, bird sightings, and teasing their uncles. The Lodge hosts a number of weddings and family reunions, and it’s easy to see why—there’s a lot to do: yoga, hiking, skeet shooting, tennis, swimming, water aerobics, and a special camp program for the kids. And for the adults, the ShaNah Spa & Wellness Center. Guests are encouraged to luxuriate in the arms of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, with open-air rooms for massages that are focused upon vitality and energy—a nurturing by Mother Nature within the culture of the Anasazi, the ancient ones.

Where to Eat in Santa Fe
A list of Ken Knight’s favorite local restaurants.

Don’t miss the Coyote Cafe. Chef Mark Miller started the gourmet craze here in 1987 with his predilection for locally grown organic produce and his mix of old Mexican, Pueblo Indian, Tex-Mex, and Spanish-influenced recipes. 132 W. Water St. 505-983-1615. www.coyotecafe.com.

La Casa Sena, located in one of the most beautiful enclosed courtyards in the city, offers simple, elegant dining—with an extensive wine collection—amid some of the city’s best shops. 125 E. Palace Ave. 505-988-9232. www.lacasasena.com.

Cafe Pasqual’s is the locals’ favorite stop for Southwestern breakfast and lunch; expect a line. Or drop in for dinner. Excellent food, great coffee, and speedy service at affordable prices. 121 Don Gaspar Ave. 505-983-9340.

Rociada serves elegant French Country fare and offers an extensive French wine list. 304 Johnson St. 505-983-3800.

Geronimo, a masterpiece of clean, simple elegance, developed within a 1756 adobe home, with beautiful white adobe walls and unparalleled sophisticated dining. 724 Canyon Rd. 505-982-1500.