Although clients can’t always articulate to design professionals how they want their home to look, they can often express how they want it to feel. That turned out to be the case for a couple who, after seeing their work in The New York Times, approached husband-and-wife designers Susan Collins Weir and Chris Weir about renovating a house they had purchased in Carbondale. The wife explained they were looking for a design that felt durable and understated. In response to that description, Collins Weir, a co-owner with Weir in the duo’s Sausalito, California-based firm, suggested the house should “be like a pair of Levi’s: comfortable and classic at the same time–something effortlessly stylish,” she says. “That idea really resonated with her.”
The house itself was a commanding modern structure that had been designed by architect Glenn Rappaport of Black Shack Architects with a distinctive angular roofline, an open floor plan, walls of retractable windows and protected outdoor living areas. “The exterior angles mimic the surrounding mountains and break up the scale of the house,” Weir says. “This knits the building into the site in a very convincing way.” Inside, however, the designers aimed to update the spaces to reflect their clients’ lifestyle while still honoring the original architecture. “Our goal was to quiet it down and to reinforce the exterior connection from every single room,” Weir says.
Situated beneath a sloping roof that soars to 18 feet at its highest point, a multipurpose great room contains the main living areas of the home. At its core, an existing hefty blackened-steel-and-cast-stone replace dividing the living and family rooms provided a focal point and an opportunity for an update. “We worked to lighten it up with a more detailed split-face limestone,” explains Weir, who handled the interior architectural changes. “We also introduced a cast-in-place concrete hearth and added adjoining Douglas-fir cabinets.” In realizing the redesigned fireplace, builder Craig Barnes, who oversaw the project on-site, created a system of new concrete pads to hold the steel columns supporting the hearth. “The replace was the most intricate part of the project,” he says. “It took a lot of coordination of details.”
Significant updates were also carried out in the kitchen, which extends off the great room and opens onto an outdoor gathering and barbecue area with wide-open mountain views. The room’s cabinetry was refreshed with new Douglas-fir door and drawer fronts as well as open shelves to replace upper cabinets. “The existing cabinetry was different in every room,” Weir says. “One of our primary goals was to unite the interiors with a common palette.” To round out the room, the glass backsplash came down and new Heath Ceramics tile went up in its place.
Complementing the new warm-finish palette, the furnishings–overseen by Collins Weir–offer another thoughtful layer. Over original wood floors, which were sanded and refinished, the designer placed handwoven and vintage rugs in key living spaces. She then worked with a combination of contemporary pieces–such as a Flexform sofa and quilted Moroso armchairs in the living room–vintage items and custom designs, including walnut dining tables the duo had fabricated in California. Creating one-of-a-kind furnishings is “something we do in all of our projects,” says Weir, who handles the custom pieces. “These items are very special in that they’re crafted to fit the specific place and time in a client’s life. The designs represent something completely unique to their experience.”
Other personalized additions include a streamlined bench and bookcases the designers added to a simple hallway to create a reading area. Next to that, a flight of stairs they reworked with a glass-and-steel railing leads to the master suite and a guest bedroom. In both rooms, the designers customized upholstered headboards that reach out to incorporate nightstands on both sides. “The headboards add scale and ground the beds into the spaces,” Collins Weir says. “The heavy woven fabrics we chose lend warmth and texture to the rooms.”
Despite the vast number of tailor-made pieces and the geographic distance between the designers and the house, the project came together seamlessly. “It was a great collaborative effort,” Collins Weir says. “I went out to Colorado, and the clients came to San Francisco a few times to shop with us. They were really into the pieces we designed and were very trusting of us and our process from the moment I walked in to interview with them.” As such, just a brief six months after the renovation began, the owners were living in and enjoying the house as they had intended. “They could relax, be comfortable with family and watch the light changing over the mountains throughout the course of the day,” Collins Weir says. “It was a perfect fit.”