Designer Lynni Hutton is emphatic about timing. “When we start a project, we always tell people not to rush into it, to take their time if things come up along the way,” she says. “That way, you can do everything properly and get it right.” Such was the case with Susan and Jon Diamond, a Florida-based couple who had been using their Aspen vacation home in its original state for years before they got the itch to make some changes. “It was chalet-style with big, beefy furniture,” says Jon, “and after 12 years, we felt that it was time to refresh.”
Although they were ready for a change in style, after considering their options and looking at penthouse apartments in downtown Aspen, they couldn’t bring themselves to part with their home’s location. “It was the only single-family home on its part of the block,” says Jon. “It was also on the river and had mountain views.” With that in mind, they set out to keep and reimagine their own home. “We adore Aspen and thought the house was worthy of the investment,” adds Jon.
To get things started, the Diamonds called on Hutton, who had worked on the homes of many of their friends in Ohio, where the couple originally hail from, as well as the Colorado houses of some of their family members. Hutton, in turn, called on noted local architect Bill Poss to help with the structure’s much-needed formidable overhaul. The Diamonds had a concept in mind of an open loft-like living space, but as it was, a large winding staircase separated the upper-level living room from a deck facing the mountains, effectively dividing the living space and limiting indoor-outdoor opportunities. “The entire project was predicated on moving the staircase,” says Jon. “If that wasn’t a possibility, we would have moved. We needed an architect who we knew could carry out what we envisioned.”
Julie Maple, a principal at Poss’ firm, stepped in to reformulate the home both inside and out. “It’s a unique property, perched over the river in an urban setting,” she explains. “It was important to open the front of the building to the mountain and the back to the sound of the river.” Outside, the home was completely contemporized. Outdated lapped-wood siding was replaced with tongue- and-groove Western red cedar, a closed-in upper deck was exposed via sleek glass rails, and the garage was made over with frosted-glass-and-steel doors set in a quartzite base. Landscape architect Ben Morgan reconfigured the entry, and Mariana Tedin Salazar, who had worked with the Diamonds for years, put in flowering gardens of annuals and perennials with white, blue, purple and pink blooms “to give a splash of color,” says Salazar. Carlos Salazar handled the property’s irrigation.
Inside, the changes were equally dramatic. Moving the problem stairway off to one side and replacing it with a sleek new design marked by oak treads and decorative blue-glass panels enabled the reconfiguring of the main upper level. “The clients wanted an open loft-like feel,” says Maple. “And we created a totally open living space.” Adding to the spacious feel, the level opens on one side through 16 feet of glass doors to a deck with views of Aspen Mountain and on the other, a pair of sliding glass doors reveals the river. Topping off the resulting loft-like effect required a feat that builder William H. Baker considered more challenging than dealing with the stairway—replacing the old glulam trusses with new steel versions. “We had to build temporary walls to support the roof, then take out one truss at a time and replace it,” explains Baker, who worked with project manager Andy Braudis. “It was extraordinary.” Adds Hutton: “Poss did a heroic job with the architecture; it’s exactly what the Diamonds had imagined.”
Building on that strong architectural start, the designer’s concept for both the interior finishes and furnishings underscored the sleek, airy effect of the newly opened space. Working with a neutral color palette, Hutton selected custom-finished European white-oak flooring and treated the upper fireplace walls with upholstered-leather panels. Furnishings were lightened up, as well. “My main focus was to get away from the heaviness that existed before and to create seating areas that could be used when the owners entertained, or when it was just the two of them,” she says.
A Minotti sectional with cashmere Loro Piana throw pillows provides ample seating before the fireplace, while a custom walnut dining table by Berman Rosetti can be configured to seat as many as 14. For contrast, Hutton installed a striking Pacifica Blue lacquered cabinet system by Florense in the open kitchen. “It isn’t a color you usually see in the mountains,” says Hutton. “I asked the clients, ‘Are you bold enough to go with the blue?’ ” They were. Hutton picks up the shade again with Tech Lighting pendants hanging above the island and in the stripes of the Elizabeth Eakins rug in the nearby sitting area. On the opposite side of the open room, a Saarinen table anchors Minotti chairs, creating an additional seating area near a bar and the large opening to the deck. “I tried to provide as much warmth and flexibility as possible, without over-furnishing the space,” says Hutton.
Additional benefits of relocating the staircase was that the street-level master suite was reconfigured to include a spacious deck, and the formerly window-less master bath was also relocated and opened up. Now, natural light floods the space, and a soaking tub sits beneath a window facing the river. Hutton appointed the bedroom with a custom striped carpet and sleek Minotti bed, and she freshened up the lower-level guest master, guest bedroom and media room with new furnishings, as well.
In the end, the success of the project is attributed to the efforts of all involved, by everyone involved. “The owners get credit for having a concept of what they wanted. Lynni and Julie brought wonderful ideas to the table, and Bill Baker provided quality construction,” says Poss. “It was an amazing transformation.”