Richard and Hildegard Christian Wax have the art of building houses down to a science. In addition to constructing close to 50 homes in the Aspen area over the past two decades through his construction firm, Richard and
Hildegard, who handles the interior design side of things, have also built houses for themselves in places from California to Mexico. And although they already owned a small house in Aspen, the couple felt ready to build a larger, more permanent home for themselves in the area. But, ironically, they didn’t arrive at that decision until they had already purchased another house. “It was a great site, with southern exposure, very nicely treed and with big views,” says Richard. “It had an existing structure on it that we had decided to remodel and fix up.” But after making the purchase, the couple had a change of heart. “My wife asked me what I thought of the house,” says Richard, “and I said, ‘Honey, I hate it.’ ” So, the couple hired architect Jamie L. Brewster McLeod, knocked down the house and got to work building exactly what they wanted.
Enlisting Brewster McLeod was a natural move. “We had built five houses together,” says the architect, “and every one of them had a different soul, site, context and message we were trying to relay. Getting to build their personal home was a privilege.” The architect began by working with the couple to establish the aesthetic of the structure. “It was a little bit of a departure for us, because we usually do a lot of stone and wood,” Brewster McLeod says of the past houses she designed for the builder. “For their own home, Richard and Hildegard had a very specific style they wanted. This house was to be more contemporary, stone and stucco, really light and bright, with a huge play on interior-exterior spaces.”
Working closely with the couple, Brewster McLeod set the tone for the exterior with a 20-foot-high entry and gabled roof forms that give a nod to the surrounding mountains. Inside, the architect devised a three-level floor plan tailored to the couple’s lifestyle. “They wanted to live on one floor that had everything they needed while still offering privacy,” says Brewster McLeod, who situated an offce for Richard near the front door for easy client access and placed the master bedroom toward the rear of the house near the kitchen. A bathroom was designed to open directly to an indoor swimming pool, which was a specific request of the couple, along with a tennis court, a pond and a vegetable garden.
“We wanted to fill that bucket list,” says Richard. Rounding out the floor plan, a trio of bedrooms was set on an upper level, while wine, art and storage rooms were placed a level below.
To amplify a relationship with the outdoors, Brewster McLeod kept the ceilings high and the windows large. The living room is framed with glass on three sides, including sliding doors that open onto a spacious terrace. The dining room, kitchen and master bedroom also spill out onto this generous outdoor area. “I believe every house should have a strong connection with the exterior space,” says the architect. “We live our lives indoors, but the outdoors is what grounds us.” The terrace is finished with a pergola-shaded dining area, complete with a replace and barbecue.
In appointing the light-filled interiors, Hildegard drew inspiration from the natural Aspen landscape in creating interiors with, as she says, “a sense of restraint and clarity.” She mixed pieces from her favorite designers with items gathered during the couple’s travels and her youth in Europe for a sophisticated and collected feel. In the living room, she paired antique tapestry-covered chairs with linen- upholstered Verellen sofas and Ralph Lauren Home tub chairs covered with raw silk. A replace surround salvaged from a château in France anchors the calming space.
For the intimate dining room, Hildegard selected a Baroque-style walnut table and Verellen chairs slipcovered with soft leather. Here and throughout, she kept patterns to a minimum, preferring instead, as she explains, “the look and feel of calming textures and subtle hints of color.” Open glass shelving displays silver collected long before she and Richard were married, and a 17th-century tapestry from France hangs against the room’s stone wall. Hildegard carried the muted palette into the master bedroom, as well, with a buttery leather-upholstered headboard.
Richard, alongside project managers Jeff Davis and Vincent Coghlan, oversaw the structure’s meticulous construction, which involved excavating and building a retaining wall at the back of the house to support the lower level. In addition to handling the build, Richard, who had owned a landscape company and nursery in California years ago, also designed the landscape. Next to a stream that flows through the property, he enhanced an existing pond by using boulders from the site “to create a gorgeous double waterfall that spills into the pond,” he says. For the front of the house, he ensured privacy by planting large spruce trees and 6-inch-caliper aspens along the 1/4-mile- long drive. “We didn’t want to wait for things to grow,” he says. “We wanted to see them now.”
For both Richard and Hildegard, building the home was a rewarding experience. “We did a lot of pre-planning and spent a lot of time putting things on paper to make sure they’d work,” says Richard. “We wanted the house to fit on the site, to be understated and have all the things we wanted.” That unique and personal approach is evident in the final product. “From the design to the palette to the blend of old and new,” says Brewster McLeod, “the house is a great reflection of who they are.”