A Vail Valley Mountain Residence with Natural Elements


Modern Mountain Exterior with Outdoor Areas

Architect Michael Suman incorporated natural materials for the stunning exterior, including random-square sandstone, split brownstone, copper cladding, and clear cedar siding.

Neutral Mountain Living Room with Walnut Built-Ins

For the living room, designer Kari Foster selected a Berman Rosetti sofa from John Brooks and a chair and ottoman by Hempt’s Furniture, all in muted tones to complement the natural surroundings. The walnut built-ins are by Woden Woods, and the Ashley Collins painting is from Forré & Co. Fine Art Gallery.

Neutral Mountain Master Bedroom with Chaise Lounge

Roller shades integrated into custom walnut valances help control light and privacy in the master bedroom. Foster designed the chaise, topped with pillows in Pollack fabric, and the bench, which sports a Rose Tarlow Melrose House selection. Next to the chaise is a Magni Home Collection side table.

Neutral Mountain Kitchen-Adjacent Seating Area with Walnut-Clad Ceiling

A sculptural walnut-clad ceiling delineates the kitchen from the rest of the house. The owners use the adjacent seating area as a place to read and relax. The chairs, chaise and floor lamp are all by Promemoria; the rug is Fort Street Studio; and the Pierre Marie Brisson painting is from Forré & Co. Fine Art Gallery.

Neutral Mountain Kitchen with Sea Granite Island

The kitchen features cabinets fabricated by Woden Woods and a center island draped with honed Wild Sea granite by European Marble & Granite. Moura Starr counter stools provide seating at a walnut slab extended for just that purpose. The Holly Hunt light fixtures are from Kneedler-Fauchère.

Neutral Mountain Dining Room with Walnut Table

Hudson Furniture’s solid-slab walnut table and Promemoria chairs keep a low profile in the dining room so that the views can take center stage. A branch and bubble light fixture by James Lockridge is in keeping with the home’s organic theme; the silk rug is by Fort Street Studio, and the painting is by Kris Cox.

Neutral Mountain Living Room with Stacking Glass Doors

Stacking glass doors in the living room display a spectacular view, while high ceilings outfitted with custom steel trusses contribute to the home’s spaciousness. A Fort Street Studio rug tops the wide-plank walnut floors, featuring a natural oil finish, from Arrigoni Woods. The sofa table and lamps are by Promemoria.

Neutral Mountain Master Bathroom with Window Wall

The master bathtub by MTI was placed along a window wall to simulate an outdoor bathing experience. Topped with honed bluestone from Decorative Materials, the vanity, crafted by Woden Woods, features open cubbies for stowing towels. The Pagani Studio sconces are from Allan Knight Associates in Dallas.

“What I love about the house is that you don’t step into it like some kind of great big open room. You get there slowly, through other spaces; it evolves,” says builder Kevin O’Donnell about the concept behind the Vail Valley home he helped build for a sophisticated couple with three teenage sons. “The couple had been renting a house in East Vail designed by architect Michael Suman that had aspects they liked a lot,” adds O’Donnell, who had collaborated on previous projects with the architect. “So when they decided to build, he was the obvious choice.”

Sidling up to a golf course on a gently rolling slope dotted with old-growth spruce trees, the new site offered dramatic views of the fairways and the iconic Gore Range. On it, though, stood a bland older house. A quick deconstruction of the existing residence left Suman with a blank canvas. “Our thought was to protect and enhance the natural characteristics of the site, incorporate the house within it, and capture the views,” he says.

Exterior materials, including random-square sandstone, split brownstone, copper cladding, and clear cedar siding, were chosen for their beauty as well as their ability to integrate with the surrounding environment, while the tri-level floor plan was angled to bring in the views and sunlight. “It makes you feel like you’re out in the woods, away from everything,” Suman says.

The public and private living spaces are separated by what he calls a “glass spine,” where a sculptural stairway provides the vertical connection. Early on, the homeowners expressed a desire to be on board in the design process. “If we wanted it to be something we really loved, we knew we needed to be involved,” says the husband, whose wife had the idea that the staircase handrail should have steel tree branch details; she also contributed suggestions about the front door and fireplace design. “The owners were very committed to ensuring that each decision reinforced the concept whole,” says Suman, who collaborated with designer Kari Foster and project manager Rachel Blackburn on the interiors. The architect handled the selection of all the primary millwork including heart walnut flooring, cabinetry, and window, wall, and trim detailing—while Foster chose wall colors, fixed finishes and furnishings based on the owners’ love of the mountains and desire for a more organic aesthetic overall. “The wife has a very wholesome and peaceful way about her, and they were both very concerned that the house be open and light and that it be pulled from nature,” the designer says.

To that end, Foster focused on natural materials in neutral tones. Furniture was custom-upholstered in leather, suede or organic wool, cotton and mohair, and the carpets were made from wild silk. “Wild silk has plusher, thicker pile, less shine, and an even more organic feel than the domestic variety,” notes Foster. Seating, from the living room sofas to the dining room chairs, was deliberately low-backed so as not to block views, and floor-to-ceiling windows and stacking glass doors were fitted with all but invisible motorized shades for the same reason.

According to landscape architect Kathy Aalto, the obvious emphasis on the front of the house was again those mountain and golf course views. “Out back we paid special attention to softening the hardscape and providing natural transitions,” says Aalto, who selected lawn and rock groupings planted with perennials to define patio and seating areas and to tie the house and landscape back to its surroundings.

“It was so refreshing to have the owners involved in making every material be as beautiful as it could be,” says Suman about the project’s success. “It helped all of us achieve the home’s most dramatic expression and is the reason why, in the end, everything looks so appropriate.”

— Linda Hayes