When a Florida couple with two children were looking for a place to breed horses and train them for their daughter, who rode competitively, they settled on a picturesque 146-acre ranch in Vail Valley. The rambling site, positioned between east lake creek and west lake creek, offered everything they were looking for: a main house and equestrian facilities, plus a separate caretaker’s house and an old log cabin. However, as time went by, they decided to make some changes to their retreat. The existing house—which the husband describes as “bright white stucco molded into minimalist cubes”—didn’t embrace the landscape. “It stood out like a sore thumb,” he says. “We wanted to make it more indigenous to the area so that it would blend in.” to reimagine the house, both inside and out, the couple assembled a dream team that included designer Andrea Monath Schumacher, architect Tom Cole, and builders Tom McCord and Patrick Barrett to meet that goal—and that was just the beginning.
Shortly after the couple met Cole at a neighboring house, the architect and the husband embarked on a multi-day design charrette, during which a workable concept—for both the main house and other new buildings—was formed. “He liked the original layout,” Cole says of the existing main house. “So aside from removing a common wall and adding a 20-foot-wide retractable glass-and-steel wall to the dining room, we kept the floor plan as it was, essentially.” the exterior, however, was another matter. The entire structure was re-skinned with horizontal bands of western red cedar, which are set off by black steel fascias and piers of stone quarried from Colorado’s Front Range. “They’re native mountain materials appropriate for the beautiful site,” says Cole.
Although the original cabin was left untouched, the caretaker’s house was taken down to the foundation and rebuilt as a guesthouse, which Cole designed along with additional new structures. An exercise pavilion—fit with pocket doors and a sundeck integrated into its green roof terrace—and a garage that opens on two sides to double as an entertaining space for large groups round out the site. Given the scope of the project, Barrett oversaw the renovations to the main house, while McCord tackled all of the additional structures.
These renovations and additions to the property, however, were not without challenges, but the team met them head-on. “We exported at least 75 truckloads of boulders during the excavation,” explains McCord, “some of which had to be blasted out.” the excavation made way for extensive landscaping features, the exercise pavilion and modifications to the main house. “We had to extract the materials to create a canvas we could build on,” adds the husband.
To appoint the interiors of the updated and new buildings, the owners turned to Schumacher and her singular approach. Staying clear of heavy furnishings or a predictable mountain look, the designer opted for “mountain style with a twist,” she explains. “I like a little edge and for rooms to feel like they’ve been put together over time.” as a starting point, the designer worked with the owners’ existing pieces. “I’m all about retaining things, taking what people already have and repurposing or re-covering them,” she says. “I was able to blend in different styles, custom pieces and antiques with things they already owned.”
With extreme attention to detail and a penchant for layering color, pattern and texture, Schumacher created a rich sensory experience that extends throughout the main house. In the living room, for instance, she worked with a muted palette of pale hues and rich materials. “We wanted to bring the outside in and make the views stand out,” says the designer, who reupholstered matching back-to-back sofas with soft chenille and re-covered a pair of side chairs with gray velvet. A vintage Moroccan rug grounds the room with a subtle pattern, and antelope-hide pillows lend a nod to the locale. “A little mountain goes a long way,” she says. In the dining room, which doubles as a study, bookshelves line the walls, and Schumacher had three tables custom-made to roll on casters and be reconfigured as needed. She then carried the rich material palette into the master bedroom, where the bed stands against a wall upholstered with curved vertical padding, and a tactile shag rug softens the floor.
When it came to outfitting the renovated guesthouse, Schumacher created playful yet sophisticated interiors with the owners’ daughter in mind. Graphic black-and-white wallpaper crowns the bedroom, where a bed is flanked by ikat draperies on one end and a kilim-upholstered bench on the other. “I love a mix of large and small patterns,” she says, “but I also like to keep the colors correlated.” in the family room, whimsical details—such as wallpaper marked with a log motif and a fanciful fabric featuring squirrels— hint at the alpine surroundings.
Tackled as a collaborative effort among Cole, McCord, the husband, excavators at Fischer Construction, and landscape firms landmark environments and seeds of thyme, the landscape “became a day-by-day challenge because we kept unearthing truckload after truckload of massive boulders,” says the husband, who lived on-site during the renovation. “There was no way to design the landscape unless you were living amid the evolution of the terrain.”
That attitude proved crucial to the overall success of the ambitious venture. “From the start, this was an unusual project,” says the husband. “We never let the plans interfere with other possibilities.” the whole team worked in unison to follow those creative opportunities. “We’d all sit in the kitchen and pore over house photos and drawings and elevations, and throw around ideas,” says Schumacher. “It was a dynamic process and the project of a lifetime.”