El Rey Court — the hotel "where fast lives slow down"

El Rey Court — the hotel "where fast lives slow down"

If you ever find yourself on a road trip driving along the old Route 66 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then you have to make sure to book a stop over at El Rey Court. This recently renovated motor inn offers 86 rooms with a contemporary southwest vibe, modern amenities, an outdoor spa, pool, courtyard for hanging out, and other places to explore on its five-acre campus. While staying be sure to check out the bar, La Reina, which offers signature cocktails and a list of curated local spirits, in addition to live music on select nights. The feeling while in El Rey is best encapsulated by the slogan painted above the fireplace, "where fast lives slow down." Music plays a key role in that feeling with turntables at the ready for guests and Model One BTs in many of the uniquely designed rooms.

We were lucky enough to talk to Jay Carroll, partner and creative director of El Rey Court, about the renovation and design of this incredible oasis in the desert.

The entrance to El Rey Court in Sante Fe, New Mexico

How did you get involved in El Rey Court?

I’d been traveling to Santa Fe often for work, both as a travel writer and before that for my role at Levis. I was working with weavers in Chimayo, natural dye houses in Northern New Mexico, as well as visiting our late pal Scott Corey at Santa Fe Vintage, one of the best vintage clothing showrooms in the country. Through those experiences, I was coincidentally reconnected with an old friend and my now partner Jeff Burns, a hotelier who had then recently purchased the iconic old El Rey Inn. I fell in love with the place and was able to partner with him and our other partner Matt Comfort.

What was the property like before you started renovations?

It was great, beautiful lush 5 acres of old-growth trees and gardens. The old adobe walls have so much history and character. The place had been built up from 12 rooms to 86 over the decades, each section ringing in a new style of building and guest room. Our job was really more than anything to take away as much as we could and let the bones of this beautiful property be shown in a more prominent way.

A guest room at El Rey before renovations

A guest room at El Rey after renovations

the breakfast room at El Rey before renovations

the breakfast room at El Rey after renovations


What was your inspiration for the décor?

I looked to the history of the region to create something at once familiar and new, the goal to create a really unique sense of place. I looked mostly to the Pueblo Revival style, the work of Alexander Girard, Georgia Okeefe's homes, and the counter-culture history of the region in the 60s and 70s.

A whimsically decorated room at El Rey Court

A room decorated with a tapestry, fireplace, and Tivoli Audio Model One BT at El Rey Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The website says that each room’s design is unique. Which room is your favorite and why?

That's right, almost no two rooms are exactly alike at El Rey. That’s part of the charm. Hard to pick a favorite as I have several but if I were hard-pressed I would say one of the original historic rooms like room 2.

Room 2 at El Rey Court with a 70s photo wallpaper

What are some of your other favorite design touches throughout the property?

I love the wallpaper we had printed out of a party scene at the Mable dodge luhan house in Taos from when Dennis Hopper owned and inhabited it in the 70s.

I love the Baron Wolman photos we have scattered about. I love all the artists we worked with like the Chimayo weavers (Centinela traditional arts) who created our headboard textiles.

For me the lobby and La Reina have such a good overall soul with the mix of history in what was there and the way we adapted it simply for something new.

El Rey Court Lobby

We noticed records and even live events at La Reina, the hotel’s bar. Why was it so important to bring music into the space?

We're all such huge music fans with a lot of musician pals both local and from afar. Music is always key to a great experience. It's the soundtrack to the scene and to the memory. Gotta have it.

La Reina entrance, the bar at El Rey Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico

A music gathering a La Reina, the bar at El Rey Court

What drew you to incorporating Tivoli Audio in the guest rooms?

Tivoli’s are great — they’re stylish, well designed, and pack a punch in a small package. It’s gotta be the perfect hotel audio setup. The first thing I do whenever I check in to a room at El Rey is queue that thing up!

A room at El Rey Court with a Model One BT on the nightstand

El Rey Court stationary with a Model One BT

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Model One BT
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