Designer pushes to build 16,467-square-foot mud estate in Santa Fe [This story first ran in V Life's February '06 issue.]

Ever since Shirley MacLaine tried to erect a compound atop Atalaya Mountain in 1993, the citizens of Santa Fe, N.M., have been a bit hypersensitive about celebs in them thar hills.

So when Tom Ford, who earned fame as the top designer at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, presented plans for a 16,467-square-foot adobe home with courtyards and shaded portals on 10 acres on the much-prized Talaya Hill, a hew and cry arose. One angry neighbor has described the proposed complex as “a Wal-Mart perched on a hill.” But Ford’s architects, Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner, say they have designed a structure that would be barely visible above a “bowl” that was cut into a hill a century ago as a reservoir.

Ford, 44, who is planning a foray into the industry, already has pads in Los Angeles and London. But his cowboy-boot–clad feet are firmly planted in New Mexico, where he lives in the Santa Fe home he grew up in, his grandmother’s former abode. His Talaya Hill home would be a single-story adobe with living spaces and patios surrounding a tiled courtyard. The architects, whose goal is to build a “historically sensitive and timeless home,” plan a dark mud tone for the exterior. And they plan to landscape with indigenous pinion pines and junipers.

Ford has already reduced the home’s size from 17,147 square feet and will reduce it again before Santa Fe’s Historic Design Review Board reviews his case in February, but winning approval for a development is a dicey prospect. A previous owner at Talaya gave up his plans for an even smaller home after it was mired in opposition. MacLaine backed off plans for her aerie and then sold her 35 acres to the federal government. It’s now part of a national forest.

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