A Redesigned Traditional Palladio Home


When architect Donald H. Ruggles walked into a house in Aspen’s historic West End that a client was thinking of acquiring and renovating, something felt, well, right. It inspired him. It spoke to him. It whispered: “Palladio.” “I realized that the underlying notion was really strong, and that the fundamentals were there; they were just covered up by a lot of remodels and decor,” Ruggles recalls. It turns out the original home, designed by Colorado Springs architect Stan Mathis and built by Aspen-based Thomas Daly, in fact had traces of Andrea Palladio’s nine square grid arrangement. “It occurred to me that we could enrich and expand it,” says Ruggles.

The clients, a young family who lives in Hong Kong but vacations in Aspen, wanted something sophisticated without any fuss. After they searched for the right getaway for four years, “finally,” says the wife, “we found this house.” Its classic roots appealed to their tastes. “The owners grew up in traditional homes, but they also love a clean-lined aesthetic,” Ruggles says. “We let the traditional speak to the modern.”

Along with colleague Melissa Mabe-Sabanosh, Ruggles incorporated the nine square grid pattern in the redesign, as well as other classical proportions like the Golden Section and the Fibonacci series. “We used a mix of threes and fives repeatedly (for instance, one door on each side of three windows),” he says, “to represent the parents and children.”

Other elements include a two-story bump-out window on the south end of the house, revealing views of Aspen and Shadow mountains from the dining room, a new family/media room and a refurbished basement that includes three bedrooms, three baths and a playroom. But Mabe-Sabanosh says the most impressive transformation can be seen in the newly vaulted kitchen, where the firm created an open bridge spanning two upstairs bedrooms. “This creates an easy flow from room to room yet still allows the spaces to carry distinct identities,” she says.

Aptly responding to the architecture through color and texture were Atlanta-based designers Susan Ferrier and Jessica Moore. “It’s really harmonious,” Ferrier says. “There’s no arguing with the architecture.” With the project being triangulated—the designers were in Georgia, the owners in Hong Kong and the house in Colorado—the team gave new meaning to the term collaboration by using Skype for all design decisions. “We talked about using texture in a white, neutral palette— something that wasn’t going to date,” the wife says. “Living in Hong Kong, I’m massively influenced by British and European design. I felt like there had to be a way to bring something new to a Western home.”

Ferrier set the neutral palette by washing the walls in a warm, inviting beige hue. “When you have a house that gets this much light, you must select a color that’s going to absorb it,” she explains. “And by using a combination of textures, even if the palette is neutral, you’re going to have a dynamic result. You should work with the light, not against it.”

To connect the interiors to the outdoors, landscape architect Gyles Thornely created a modern Victorian planting scheme by blending classical geometric forms with contemporary materials, colors and textures. Multipurpose spaces embrace fire and water elements, and a variety of ornamental grasses “speak to a modern sensibility,” he says.

The revitalization of the house is a welcomed addition to its surroundings. “It’s really added to the flavor of that neighborhood,” says builder John Silich, who helmed construction during the renovation. “It’s like some- one opened a curtain to unveil this beautiful jewel of the West End.”