After working with his longtime clients (and even their extended family) on projects throughout the country, New York-based designer Marshall Watson teamed up with them again, this time near the scenic mountain town of Telluride. The homeowners—a couple with three daughters—had recently acquired the four-bedroom furnished condo in an alpine-style village, and they called on the designer to bring their new vacation home into alignment with both their aesthetic and lifestyle. “They wanted to replace the existing ski-lodge look for something lighter, brighter and more contemporary,” says Watson about the highly active family. “They live in California but didn’t want to bring a California aesthetic with them. This is their escape, so they wanted to feel like they were in the mountains.”
With his clients’ desire for a clear sense of place—as well as keeping a vision of interiors that were clean, elegant and deeply comfortable in mind—Watson began by removing dark textiles, weighty window treatments and ornately carved furnishings. The unveiling revealed a happy surprise. “Once we took out the heavy décor, it exposed a condo that had contemporary lines and lots of natural light,” he says. “The mountain views were spectacular.” Watson moved forward with a goal of “emphasizing the positive and eliminating the negative,” says the designer.
Working with Dan Witkowski of Full Circle HOA Management, who acted as the owners’ representative and oversaw the subcontractors, Watson first focused on the structure’s shell. Woodwork, moldings, walls, floors and finishes were all modernized, and Watson remodeled the powder room and teamed with Thurston Kitchen & Bath to update the kitchen.
In the main living areas, Watson treated the walls with a plaster finish in a creamy greige so the family would feel enveloped in warmth and richness after a day spent outside. “The light in the late afternoon is extraordinarily blue because of the snow, so if we used cool colors, the interiors would have become very cold,” explains the designer. The neutral backdrop, combined with furnishings and fabrics in soft hues of chalk, caramel, terra cotta, sage, blue and lilac, keep the attention focused on the outdoor views as well as the textures and extensive woodwork inside.
Watson then stained the oak floors a light honey color to echo the shade of the 16-foot-high knotty-fir ceilings and complement the built-ins made from alder. Rather than tear out the multicolored stone fireplace, he had a local fine art and decorative painter, Nancy B. Frank, apply a gel stain to give the stone a gray-whitewashed look to blend better with the new décor. For the designer, collaborating with local artisans was an integral part of the project. “They have a strong grasp of the mountain aesthetic and local resources,” he says, “and the materials used are indigenous, so the home feels like part of the community.”
Furniture was selected to salute the contemporary architecture, as well as give a nod to the mining town’s history. Light linens and leathers were combined with the clean lines and practical nature of such pieces as a Parsons-style table in lacquered linen, chairs made with natural rush backs and an aged-zinc mirror. “The furniture harmonizes with the geometric quality of the condominium while also exuding a casual, handmade feel,” says Watson. “Everything has local appeal and is still modern.”
A clear sense of entry into the home is established by a rotunda with honed Crema Marfil flooring and a view of the village. The creamy walls and waxed caramel-color moldings surround the clients’ table featuring a lodgepole pine stump base; a large slice of the tree serves as the tabletop. From there, the living area, library,media area and formal dining area sit in one open room divided by the fireplace. Furniture groupings and area rugs delineate the spaces to allow the family to enjoy separate activities while still remaining together; swivel chairs make interaction with adjacent spaces natural and easy. Watson chose window treatments fabricated with diaphanous fabrics to let in natural light and to create a private cocoon-like setting when drawn at night. Clerestory windows were left uncovered so sight lines to the mountain peaks remain unobstructed.
To play off an existing iron light fixture in the dining area, which appears as if it could have been hand-forged, Watson brought in Donghia glass lamps to add modernity, shimmer and coziness to the living area. Bookshelves were styled with vintage German pottery chosen just as much for its pale color as its quirky shapes, and books were covered with white parchment paper to keep the palette calm. “The couple wanted bookshelves,” says Watson, “not a cacophony of color.” In the master bedroom, Watson kept to an equally muted palette. A four-poster bed covered with heavy quilts was replaced with a custom modern bed dressed with fine Italian sheets. A round mirror and linen draperies with a circle motif introduce gentle curves into the space, underscoring the softness and offering a counterpoint to the wood ceiling beams above.
Watson’s embrace and thoughtful balance of the architecture, natural materials and neutral tones enabled him to create interiors for the home that are as lavish and loft-like as they are cozy and comfortable. “It’s inviting, and it doesn’t feel untouchable,” he says. “You can come in, relax, have a good time and feel special all at the same moment. It’s luxury at its most subtle.”