Karen White, Karen White Interior Design
Rich Carr and Gage Reese, CCY Architects
Greg Woods, G.F. Woods Construction
Ryan Vugteveen and Jane Lanter, Lift Studio
Hosting family and friends is easily a point of pride for any homeowner. Less of a flex: the prospect of those loved ones stumbling around outside at night in search of their sleeping quarters. Such was the scenario for this Aspen vacation home purchased by a pair of Chicago-based empty nesters. “The original house had a critical flaw,” observes designer Karen White, who has worked with the couple for over a decade. “Some of the guest bedrooms had to be accessed from the exterior, which was a bit awkward.”
Luckily the property had other things going for it—particularly its location. Situated in a quiet neighborhood that’s still considered “in town,” its dramatically sloping land overlooks Maroon Creek and offers easy access to urban amenities while wilderness lies just steps from the back door. “The lot itself is what our clients reallyloved, because it’s private and feels like you’re in the country,” says architectural project lead Gage Reese, who, with CCY Architects principal Rich Carr, helmed the redesign.
While the owners were fond of the home and their memories there, they decided to start anew and raze the original structure after putting up with its quirks for a few years. To minimize the site’s steep drop-off, the team, which included general contractor Greg Woods as well as landscape architect Ryan Vugteveen and landscape associate Jane Lanter, regraded the property so the new house’s main level would be flush with the land. Like Janus, the two-faced Roman god of transitions, the new, largely L-shaped residence has dual visages: one crafted of stone and wood to afford privacy from the public-facing street side, and another made of glass that opens to the verdant scenery out back. “We wanted the design to refocus you toward the creek and away from the rest of the neighborhood—not to disconnect from it, but have more of an orientation toward nature,” Reese says.
The home had to fulfill a double duty in another sense, too: The couple, who have three adult children, wanted a comfortable place for just the two of them, but also enough space to host their whole clan. To accomplish that, Reese grouped the owners’ suite and primary living spaces together, “stretching the house out as much as possible in order to get all the program requirements on one main level.”
The material palette—a contemporary-leaning trio of cedar siding, glass and Tuxedo Gray limestone—is remixed and repeated throughout. Upon entry, the two-story foyer is flanked with cedar-wood planks that conjure major drama, while floor-to-ceiling windows offer visitors a generous slice of creek-side and garden scenery. Fulfilling the owners’ wish for rich and warm finishes, the team incorporated various whiskey-hued wood tones, redefining what a cozy, modern mountain house can be. For the furnishings, White relied on streamlined silhouettes in snowy whites, frothy creams and stony grays, punctuated by the occasional statement light from Lindsey Adelman. “We wanted these interiors to be neutral and feel timeless,” the designer says, noting that the couple’s A-list art collection, which includes acquisitions by Frank Stella and Chuck Close, was also a factor. “It was important not to compete with the art or the views, as we were trying to achieve a harmonious balance.”
That approach extends to the exterior entertaining spaces, which include an outdoor kitchen, fire pit and spa area. The interior floor tile—chosen because it can withstand fluctuating mountain temperatures—flows uninterrupted out to the patios, blurring the line between indoors and exterior. And to further connect the abode to the valley below, Vugteveen and Lanter created a gradual progression of plantings from the terraces down to the creek. “We kept the sense of manicure in the front and back yards, but reduced the lawn, introducing less consumptive perennials and shrubs to give the house a hint of the wildness beyond,” Vugteveen explains.
With all that lush terrain right at their door, it’s no wonder the couple chose to stay put and rebuild their family retreat on this site. “The owners love the Aspen area and truly connected with the land,” White notes. “They have strong roots here and wanted that to continue for future generations.” No doubt those generations will be grateful for a mercifully short commute come bedtime.