When Terry and Al Papay decided to swap their urban loft for a quieter lifestyle in a golf course community, Al knew he wanted to build their home around a private courtyard. A retired engineer, he imagined a retractable skylight as the apex for an atrium that celebrated the union of Cancer, his astrological water sign, with Aries, his wife’s fire sign. Architect John Matthews and designer Ashley Campbell ran with the concept, offering up an indoor/outdoor plan that included a fire pit encapsulated by a “moat” and a waterfall that cascades into a long reflecting pool. “This was the central organizing element of the entire house,” Matthews says.
The project was a labor of love, with every detail a conscious choice and every player passionately involved. While Matthews commandeered the façade, structural aspects and systems, Campbell focused on creating a compelling interior that was as much retreat as party house. Collaborating with them was builder Kirk McConnell, who fielded challenges as they came. “I enjoyed making all the details work together,” says McConnell, who, between the fabrication of the curved steel-and-glass staircase and the drainage required for the water feature, made a lot of on-the-spot calculations.
The collaboration gave rise to a two-level layout that flows as effortlessly as the waterfall it was built around. The Papays spend most of their time on the main floor, where all of the living spaces back up to the courtyard. “Integral to the concept are exterior door systems designed to open up walls, creating a total connection to the atrium, terrace and golf course beyond,” says Matthews, whose fenestration plan included banks of transoms to maximize the natural light. Landscape designer Chris Huxtable laid the atrium groundwork with a mixture of sandstone and Mexican river pebbles before adding plantings such as black heavenly bamboo and Japanese maples. “These are not your typical Colorado plantings,” says Huxtable. “Instead, they give it a more contemporary bonsai look.”
For the interiors, Campbell conscientiously tempered the home’s dominant gray palette with warm taupe hues and a pop of bright color. “There were concerns about the house looking too modern and feeling cold and sterile,” says the designer, who also looked to nature for inspiration. For flooring, Campbell chose elegant yet earthy sable-colored marble and ran it through to the terraces. The tile is polished on the interior spaces and honed and tumbled on the exterior floors. For additional warmth, the 12-foot-high ceiling coves in the kitchen and dining room are papered in grass cloth.
Campbell’s design breeds a simultaneous feeling of emotional calm and material rapture. The peace comes from the overall blanket of neutrals; the bliss, from whimsical furnishings such as the chartreuse leather seat belt dining chairs. “Terry totally understood the whimsy and excitement that these chairs bring to the space,” says Campbell. In the downstairs recreation area, a spunky chevron banquette fabric is a playful modern spin on a Southwest motif, while chandeliers throughout display star quality. “For this particular project, I was very inspired by the lighting choices and designed each space centered off of the fixtures,” she says about her lacquered twigs, shimmering discs and crystal orb selections.
The house also possesses an inner layer that may go unnoticed but adds to the overall livability. Matthews can wax poetic about the state-of-the-art HVAC ventilation system, radiant heating that warms the stone floors, and soffits designed to conceal solar shades when the sun gets too intense. And the kitchen, a collaboration with kitchen designer Anna Gustason, features cabinetry that looks calm and effortless on the outside while concealing a hardworking storage system inside.
The home’s easy, flowing nature belies the 16-month-long journey that required a feat of engineering in the courtyard and a high level of trust throughout to complete. “The relationship between the architect, contractor and myself was a very synergistic one,” says Campbell. “We all just wanted the client to be over-the-top thrilled with every aspect of the process.” And in the end, the Papays got some of what they imagined and everything they wanted.