Sometimes the best houses are hiding in plain sight. Such was the case with an Aspen residence that just needed the right renovation to unveil its potential. Originally built in the 1980s at the foot of Ute Trail, the house had few outdoor spaces, and inside, the home’s leopard-print carpets and other outdated surfaces typified the need for an overhaul. “We didn’t get out of the car the first time we went to see it,” the owner recalls, “but, luckily, the broker brought me back a couple of days later. I immediately called my wife after taking a tour and said, ‘You need to come here right away.’ It had the potential of being the multigenerational home it came out to be.”
With the help of architect Steev Wilson, interior designer Kristi Will and builder Steve Smith—all of whom had worked with the couple before—a plan emerged to utterly transform the house. “I believe the reason why we were successful is that we know them so well,” Will says. “I’ve watched them change from being a couple to a young family. So I’m not just thinking, ‘What are the floor plan and finishes?’ I’m thinking, ‘How will it work when their baby is crawling on this rug?’”
To start the transformation, Wilson had the hillside excavated and designed a series of terraces for a pool, fire pit and outdoor dining area. While affording more space, this also exposed two subterranean levels on the home’s back façade to streams of natural light. “The existing lower level had only an 8-foot ceiling height,” Smith recalls. “We gained about 3 vertical feet by excavating and underpinning the foundation.”
In updating the structure, Wilson took advantage of the newly created outdoor spaces and the privacy afforded by the mix of perennials, aspens and spruces brought in by landscape designers Brady Smith and Jim Baker. Wilson added a succession of large windows and glass doors oriented toward the back. “You can open an 18-foot sliding-glass door, and the pool deck is a half-level down,” Wilson explains. “The pool deck connects to a sunning patio, a dining deck and a fire pit. Those connections activate the space and make it a wonderful place for entertaining.”
Inside, Wilson removed numerous walls to create one main living space on the top floor, where the kitchen, living, dining and family rooms overlap. A long row of walnut cabinetry in the kitchen acts as an anchoring device. Cabinetmaker Shaum Sinawi chose a vertical-grain walnut that seamlessly matches the rich hue of the walnut floors.
Another essential element of bringing the great room together was placing the dining table correctly under a dramatic chandelier. The custom fixture by Nancy Corzine has more than 25 individual lamps, and Will and Smith created full-scale mockups on-site to get the configuration right. “To me, decorative lighting is the key to the success of a home,” explains Will, who worked closely with lighting designer Elise Streeb of Lacroux Streeb. “If the lighting is right, everything else falls into place.”
And everything else did come together. Will paired a comfortable sofa from Marco Fine Furniture with shapely Dessin Fournir chairs in the living area, and she chose a creamy antique rug to define the space. She then covered bar chairs in the kitchen with a soft yellow leather and selected a similar tone for the walls of the master bedroom.
That hue, and the rest of the house’s cohesive palette, was inspired by the brilliant colors of the Aspen landscape. “In the fall, the leaves change to beautiful yellows, soft oranges and reds,” recalls Will, who proceeded to work with a layering of those shades throughout. “It’s almost like looking at a fall tree,” she adds. “It’s not one color, but they all go together.”