Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving. After all, if the first thing you see upon entering a house is a dividing wall swathed in a delicate hand-painted and hand-embroidered wallcovering reminiscent of chinoiserie, you might reasonably expect more traditional interiors to follow. Instead, designer Mikhail Ocampo Dantes transformed the Denver residence with clean-lined modern rooms that defy those expectations. “When you have a very strong element that can be seen from everywhere as a backdrop, you want to go simple in the foreground,” he says.
Not that modern is simple, necessarily. To the contrary, Dantes—co-owner of the city’s sophisticated showroom Town—knows it takes a carefully calculated selection of materials, furnishings and accessories to create that seemingly uncomplicated and effortless look. “I like to begin with the kitchen and work my way out from there,” says the designer, who kicked things off by remodeling that space to include a patterned pale gray and taupe marble backsplash with dark rift-cut oak cabinetry. “Materials make a good starting point and, in this case, the contrasting finishes set the tone for the rest of the house.”
The light-meets-dark theme continues in the living room, where Dantes designed a limestone fireplace offset by dark wood panels above, and again in the dining room with its warm-toned leather chairs surrounding a wood table. On the staircase, the existing light-pine treads were stained a deep espresso to distinguish them from the custom marble floors.
“The staircase was one of the few things we saved from the existing house,” says builder Michael Manczur, who after taking the entire interior down to the studs, redid all of the electrical work and added radiant-heat flooring. “The structure was only about 10 years old, but we stripped it down to add in the complex lighting systems and state-of-the-art home automation features the owner wanted.”
According to Dantes, the homeowner used words such as “new,” “modern” and “uniquely mine” when expressing her goals for the design. “I’d worked with her on a previous house, so I already knew that she wasn’t fussy and that she likes a neutral palette,” says the designer, who covered most of the walls with his favorite Benjamin Moore paint, Linen White. “It’s one of those perfect background colors that people never get tired of, and here it works really well with the creamy tones in the overall scheme.”
Throughout the first floor, Dantes placed an emphasis on comfortable seating and kept the accessories to a minimum. In the living room, he complemented silk-linen sofas and leather chairs with two silk Fortuny light fixtures, which add interest and create a sense of intimacy in the space. Similarly in the formal dining room, the designer chose a striking rock crystal chandelier and then used a Capiz-shell fixture to anchor the breakfast nook. “Amazing fixtures always complete a setting,” he explains. “And these add another element with their unusual finishes and materials.”
When it came to the private quarters, the homeowner switched to words such as “calm” and “soothing.” To fulfill those requirements in the master bedroom, Dantes points to a litany of textures that include grass-cloth walls, a suede-upholstered bed, silk bedding, cashmere pillows and a hair- on-hide-topped bench. “It’s those layers that make it warm and welcoming, and the silk drapes and wool sheers are transformative,” he says.
The master bathroom was reconfigured as well for a more spacious feel. “It allowed us to include a two-sided glass shower with an infinity drain,” says Manczur. The room’s finishes, with the marble slab walls and custom oak millwork, take you back full circle to the kitchen, where the design concept began.
“Continuity and flow are important to the eye, and they create a peaceful environment,” says Dantes, who also credits the success of the project to the warm palette, luxurious materials and, perhaps most important, a “great client with an open mind, who trusted me to take her desires and expectations a lot further.”