A Serene Aspen Vacation Home


The concept behind the serene Aspen vacation home that Zone 4 Architects was commissioned to design for a London-based couple and their teenage daughter was as clear as the burbling Roaring Fork River along which the residence was set. “The idea was that the house look like a set of old European farm buildings that had been rediscovered and then renovated using the materials of the place,” says the husband. “And that it have a modern interior.”

Architect Bill Pollock headed up the design and drew plans for four distinct structures, or pods—to house a great room, the master wing, a guest wing, and a garage—each marked by stone bases, barn wood siding and copper roofs. “The elements are simple,” Pollock says of gable and shed roofs over rectangular spaces. “Glass connectors bring it into the more modern world and also help clearly define the masses.”

Inside the great room pod—which contains the living area, kitchen and dining area—Pollock used a 10-foot-high wall as a key design element to help define the entry and separate it from the living area and kitchen beyond. “The idea behind the wall, which doesn’t go to the ceiling and lets in light, is that when you come in the door, you’re not looking straight through the house to the river,” explains Pollock. “We wanted a more Zen feeling, where you have to come into the space and then experience the view.”

With the owners so distant, communication was vital to keeping things on track with their vision. “The husband wanted to make sure things were done right and that someone was looking after their interests,” says Dylan Johns, who filled that role as Zone 4’s project manager and as an owner’s representative. “We did more than usual, sending design documents done on a 3D modeling program for approval and spending a lot of time in the field.”

Another crucial component to the house’s success was its carefully selected material palette. In the great room, walls made with a curated composition of four stone types surround a fireplace topped with custom-stacked steel panels. Reclaimed rafters and custom-built trusses of fir found in Montana crown the ceiling and a poured concrete slab with integral color grounds the space. “The stone walls and timbers were meant to express the idea of the old structure,” says Johns, “and the kitchen cabinets, concrete and fireplace were designed to appear as the modern interventions.”

That timeworn palette was complemented by additional finishes, such as tile and plumbing fixtures originally chosen by designer Kari Foster of Associates III. Designer Chris Powell implemented those elements and then selected additional finishes, lighting and furniture pieces, including a clean-lined sectional sofa from Bombast for the living area and a custom 8-foot-long dining table crafted from a single walnut log. “The pieces all have very elegant lines and are made from beautiful materials,” notes Powell, who opted for designs that would resonate with the house’s modern elements. “The fabrics are inviting, and the upholstered pieces are detailed very simply.”

When it came to the residence’s private quarters, things were kept purposefully understated. “We don’t like super-large bedrooms,” the husband explains. “They feel impersonal and people get lost in them.” Furnishings are minimal, and in the master bedroom, materials such as reclaimed wood used on the ceiling and above the metal fireplace surround reference the great room’s rustic palette.

Builder Briston Peterson, who worked with project manager Chris Madigan, had built several homes near the site and was familiar with the potential difficulties it presented. “We knew a lot about the property and the constraints of its high alpine mountain setting,” says Peterson of dealing with access, weather, staging, and sequencing. “So we were able to work closely on the design package and mitigate challenges like sourcing materials.”

Of his contributions, which included creating stone retaining walls that define the outdoor spaces and mimic the curvilinear riverbanks, landscape architect Richard Camp shares: “The design grew from the owners’ sense of connection to the land. The framework of this planning disappears, and what remains is a fluid interweaving of the home and its place within the forest.”