breaking new ground

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by Jessica Salopek
photographs by Scott Weaver

A contemporary smart home unlike anything else in the Southern New Mexico desert

Anyone making the move from Atlanta, Georgia, to Las Cruces must be looking for a change of scenery. And that’s exactly what Larry and Rene Snyder found when they retired to an ultra-modern smart house, built right at the base of the Organ Mountains.

Larry has a long-held side interest in architecture, dating back to an award he won in high school for a model house constructed out of balsa wood. Over the years, he designed the couple’s Atlanta home and two of his offices, drawing out plans by hand with a T-square. He eventually purchased a design software program, and by the time he and Rene started looking for builders in New Mexico, his dream home was pretty well mapped out. He found the right contractor for the job in luxury homebuilder Robert Sandoval of R. Hines Construction.

“We clicked immediately,” says Larry. “Robert was able to see where I was coming from and really worked to bring my concept to life. He’d make suggestions about things I wasn’t sure about and give his input here and there when he thought we should go a different way.” He adds with a laugh, “The best testament I could give is that I still considered him a friend after the project was complete, so I think that says something.”

In Atlanta, the Snyders lived in a four-level home and the weather sometimes kept them from taking full advantage of their outdoor spaces. Here, they wanted something very different. The streamlined gray stucco and stone structure boasts high ceilings, but all the living spaces are confined to one level. A multitude of windows take in the surrounding desert and mountain views, and the outdoor living areas are as much a part of the design as the striking interiors.

“We have a bit of a different view of the Organs because we’re in a caldera,” Rene explains. “As one of our new geologist friends in the area explained to us, when the volcano erupted, instead of pushing upward to create the mountains, the lava flow caused this area to collapse inwards. The scenery is just breathtaking, and it’s such a new experience for us because we’re used to trees and wetlands.”

Since moving in last July, the Snyders have been delighted to discover just how often they can utilize their open-air spaces throughout the entire year, whether it’s enjoying breakfast poolside (without first having to sweep leaves and clean sap off the table, as they would in Georgia), grilling in their full outdoor kitchen, or enjoying a glass of wine while taking in the desert sky on their west-facing rooftop terrace.

Inside, the Snyders have turned their home into a modern art museum of sorts, decorating it fully with pieces they picked up on their travels throughout the world.

“We get great sunsets, and we’ve certainly gotten into the stars since moving here,” Larry notes. “It gets pitch black out here and we can just take our phones and turn all the lights off. The sky is filled with giant clusters of stars, and the city all lit up below is really spectacular.”

Inside, the home is just as eye-catching. The Snyders have turned it into a modern art museum of sorts, decorating it fully with pieces they picked up on their travels throughout the world. Sculptural glass orbs and statues hold court in most every nook, while the walls are graced with original paintings and reliefs in remarkable colors and brushstrokes.

Stunning fixtures and finishes make each room a work of art in itself. In the foyer, it’s the oversized orange entry door, the geometric furniture, and the sleek glass staircase leading to the observation deck. In the powder room, it’s herringbone-patterned floors and a hammered nickel vessel sink. In the kitchen, a three-dimensional concrete backsplash, a contemporary gas fireplace, and shimmery granite countertops.

While Larry is the primary design eye, Rene did have input into furnishings and fixtures, particularly in her domain—the kitchen—where she selected a full array of stainless steel Miele appliances, including a built-in coffee station and an induction stove. “We love Asian cuisine and Mediterranean, Indian food, and comfort food,” she says. “I love to cook anything and everything.”

“We get great sunsets, and we’ve certainly gotten into the stars since we moved here.  … The sky is filled with giant clusters of stars, and the city all lit up below is really spectacular.”—Larry Snyder

Behind the scenes, this true smart home is just as modern as its décor. Not only is it “off the grid” with its own water and solar electricity systems, but pretty much every feature is automated and can be controlled with the Snyders’ phones or tablets, from the pool chemicals and the landscaping irrigation to the temperature, sound, and lighting. They’re also in the process of getting it all Alexa-compatible so simple voice commands will open window shades, warm up the hot tub, or dim the lights. Other modern day conveniences that the couple say they use on a daily basis include the heated floors and the steam shower in the master bath.

Having just entered into retirement, the Snyders were looking for privacy, quiet, and relaxation—and their new home has fit the bill perfectly. “I love how the home flows,” Rene says. “There are a lot of conversational areas, and different places to just sit quietly and read. I like being able to look out pretty much every window and see the mountains. We’re really enjoying living outside most of the year, as most people in this area do. It has really afforded us a different type of lifestyle than we were used to, and we’re excited to just be starting this new chapter of
our lives.”



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