A New England Family’s Aspen Mountain Retreat


When a New England family heads westward to build a mountain retreat in Aspen, the result is bound to be pioneering. “They’re East Coast through-and-through,” Massachusetts interior designer Liz McCabe says of the homeowners and their children. “So the house reflects that very traditional vibe, but with fresh elements of the West.”

Architect John Galambos, working with project architect Jodie Fielding, captured that mix starting with the exterior. Designed as a clean-lined mountain lodge, the structure features brown and buff stone, cedar trim, and a combination cedar shingle-and-copper roof. But then the regional influences take a turn. “The shingle siding is an homage to the homeowners’ East Coast roots,” says Galambos of the unconventional choice used “instead of the log or barn wood siding more commonly found out West.” The metal-clad windows are another effective blend as some sport New England-style mullions and others reflect the area’s expansive picture windows for framing the peaks outside.

“I worked with the topography to maximize the Red Mountain view directly across from the front façade,” says Galambos. “I also created a walk-out rear patio that looks out to Ajax Mountain.” This siting lent itself to designing the home “top-down,” he explains. “The living spaces and master suite are on the upper floor, and the entry foyer and kids’ bedrooms are on the ground level.” A finished basement, with a recreation room and two bedrooms, is below.

Inside that carefully arranged floor plan, the East Coast thread is carried through, both architecturally—with simplified crown moldings and trim—and, of course, decoratively. “My client spent a lot of time looking at local houses and found either very modern styles or typical mountain-lodge interiors,” says McCabe, who strove to create a third option. “She wanted a warm and cozy look but didn’t want it to be dark and heavy.”

To achieve this end, McCabe began the design process with her own version of a Rorschach test, pulling together fabrics, patterns and textures to share with her client. Nympheus, a beautiful wildlife-inspired print by Lee Jofa, was an instant hit. McCabe upholstered two side chairs in the living room with the linen and then pulled out its rich creams, seaglass blues, sage greens, and toasty orange-reds to form the home’s entire palette. “The fabric incorporates the winter whites of an alpine

ski season, the fresh colors of spring and summer in the mountains, and the warm golden hues of the aspens in the fall,” says McCabe.

The designer also referenced an East Coast style with classic plaid accents and antique wood furniture. In the master bedroom, architectural detailing underscores that feel as well. “In this region, we do a lot of clean plaster walls,” notes builder Shaun Kennedy. “But this room has painted V-groove walls and a painted V-groove, gabled ceiling.” Within that traditional frame, McCabe gave the room an elegant look with a cleanlined canopy bed and understated fabrics. “Most people would face their bed toward the fireplace,” says the homeowner, “but we chose the window. We wanted to wake up each morning and enjoy the view.”

In a nod to the region, McCabe brought in Western touches throughout, including furniture upholstered with leather and accented by nailhead trim. She also had a hefty wood table custom-made for the dining room and found most of the art from local galleries. “The lighting is also Western-inspired,” adds McCabe. “It’s heavy wrought iron in overscale fixtures to fit the expansive rooms.”

The family is embracing their Western retreat and finds it functioning exactly as they’d hoped. “The kids and my husband ski from the crack of dawn until the last lift,” the homeowner says. “But after that, we’re together. It’s important to spend time with our children, especially as they get older and their lives get busier. That’s why we built this house.”