When a couple with three boys first got a glimpse of a property in Vail—complete with towering trees, a gently flowing creek and a pond bursting with aquatic life—they knew it was the ideal spot for their second home. The family had been visiting the area for years, and while they wanted to pay tribute to the beauty of the natural setting, they also wanted their getaway to be decidedly modern. “The owners didn’t want a typical mountain home,” says designer Eddy Doumas. “They wanted something contemporary and clean without being too fussy, and they also wanted to look for new and different ideas for the home.”
Setting things in motion, architect Brian Judge designed a distinctive trilevel home that would cascade down the sloped site. “The clients, myself and Eddy are all modernists at heart,” Judge says. “We wanted the house to look out toward the environment and allow light and connectivity to flow into the space. That led us toward a contemporary yet midcentury modern-style architecture. The glass lines, the floor lines and the butterfly roof are all interpretations of midcentury modern architecture, but at today’s proportions, which allows a connection back into nature.”
The couple have a lot of family who often visit the home with them, so the house was designed as a series of gathering spaces. The structure comprises two perpendicular stone-clad spines that run east-to-west and north-to-south, with portals along the way that connect to the bedrooms and more private spaces upstairs. Those spines intersect with glass sections, which house both public and private spaces. “The parti of the home is very simple and was developed through our discussions of volume, light and either open or private spaces,” Judge explains.
Wrapping the exterior of the structure are various tactile materials that complement the wooded surrounds. “The materials are all somewhat exotic,” says Charlie Dolan, the project’s builder. “Oak siding is beautiful and is not a common exterior feature. There are also copper and black-zinc siding panels, and the limestone, which is on both the interior and exterior, is just striking.”
Inside, Doumas—who worked with designers Olivia Grayson and Dana Hugo, a former colleague, on the project—collaborated closely with Judge on the finishes to select surfaces that were “contemporary but still appropriate for the mountain setting,” says Doumas. The designer picked up that theme when it came to the furnishings, as well. “It was really about the views and the artwork, so we tried to keep things relatively neutral and light,” he says. Using a muted base, the designer brought in strong colors as accents: red touches set off the living room, and several other spaces—including the family room, appointed with verdant-hued velvet chaises—received pops of fresh green, which “relates to what’s happening outside,” adds Doumas.
To ensure that the spaces weren’t too fussy, the designer kept the furnishings to a minimum. “It’s better to have a few really good pieces than to fill a house full of stuff,” he says, noting the simple yet sleek Orestes Suarez table lamps in the living room. “They have a bit of cocktail conversation to them.” Doumas also let the volume of the room dictate the scale of the pieces. “When you have these high two-story rooms, you can’t have little bits of furniture everywhere—especially with all of the glass, as the room feels so much larger than it really is,” he explains. “So the sofa we placed in the living room is huge, and the four swivel chairs are very large, as well.” Taking into consideration how the family and their guests would use the space, he devised a main seating area and then placed two comfy chairs fireside.
The home’s spacious rooms beautifully showcase the couple’s substantial art collection. “That was a very important part of the design,” says Doumas. “We kept the walls clean to create a restful backdrop for the strong art.” The designer covered Altura Furniture chairs with a graphic black-and-white Dedar fabric in the dining room, where a striking Warren Rosser painting hangs against an ebonized-oak wall. Four portraits become a focal point above the living room sofa, while a series of oil paintings by Richard Mock command attention in the master bedroom.
Though the art was given prominence, the surrounding nature remains a star attraction. The house’s floor-to-ceiling windows, sliding glass doors that connect the master bedroom to a tree-lined terrace and a transom adjacent to the master bathroom vanity all help to maintain that connection. “You really do feel like you’re in the woods,” Doumas says. “There are trees just a few feet away from most of the windows.” Some of those trees, such as mature firs standing at the center of the L-shaped house, had to be carefully safeguarded as the house went up around them. “They’ve thrived and I’m so pleased because of all the care we had to take, maneuvering cranes and other construction equipment around them in order to preserve them,” says Dolan. Working from landscape plans drawn up by Scott Sones of Sones Landscape Architecture Group, Dolan collaborated with the owners and Henkes Landscapes & Design on fine-tuning and modifying the landscape as it was being installed.
By working in concert with the site, the team created a contemporary house that honors its mountain setting while still providing a modern lifestyle for its owners. The progressive design evolved, thanks in part to the combination of input and creative freedom supplied by the owners. “The clients let us experiment,” Doumas says. “They were open to new ideas, and they challenged us to challenge them.”