Jennifer and Mark Hopkins were no strangers to building custom homes—having commissioned two of their previous houses—when they made the move from North Boulder to Cherry Hills Village. But this time felt different. This time, the couple wanted a place where they could settle down for good. To help them realize that goal, they put together a masterful team that included architect Don Ruggles and his partner in the firm and director of design, Melissa Mabe-Sabanosh; interior designer Suzanne Kasler; builder Jeremy Larson; and landscape architect Alec Michaelides. The Hopkinses asked for “a magical piece of architecture,” says Mabe- Sabanosh. “They wanted it to stand the test of time.”
Ruggles and Mabe-Sabanosh spoke with the couple extensively about how to capture the enchanting quality they were looking for. “We knew the style we wanted, and we worked jointly with them to create it,” says Jennifer. “Don and Melissa are experts at the subtle elements of traditional design that we believe made the house great.” What evolved from those discussions was a symmetrical Georgian-style design. “Our brains are hardwired through evolution to respect symmetry,” says Ruggles. “That is why so many of our historic, iconic buildings are symmetrical. We transfer the notion of health, safety and solidity to the form when we first view it.”
Building upon that notion, the duo designed the exterior with a classic stone façade and entrance portico; an equestrian-inspired porte cochere stands perpendicular to the house. Inside, Ruggles and Mabe-Sabanosh turned to Palladio’s classic nine-square room grid to achieve the right scale and layout, and then they worked with the homeowners to develop architectural elements, such as an interior colonnade, detailed ceiling plasterwork and dentil crown moldings. “They were patrons who were willing to spend the time to work out the detailing,” says Mabe-Sabanosh.
The owners also wanted interiors that would honor the architecture, and so the couple brought in Kasler—an Atlanta-based designer known for her sophisticated and artful interiors—to make that happen. “I was looking for a designer who could help capture the style I was looking for,” Jennifer says. “And I kept finding projects of Suzanne’s that I really liked.” Influenced by the elegant aesthetic of the architecture, Kasler took an equally classic approach to the interiors. “They wanted a foundation of tradition but not traditional,” she says of her clients. “They wanted it to feel fresh and young and have a little bit of an East Coast sensibility.” Kasler first went to work establishing “an architectural envelope,” as she calls the palette of soft whites she chose to highlight rather than overwhelm the structural elements. “I like to keep the focus on the architecture of the space,” she says. “Then, you can do less decorating.”
Executing that architecture posed an exciting challenge for Larson, who worked on the project with his father and partner in the rm, Rick Larson. “The entire house is one large architectural element, and hundreds of hours were spent analyzing each detail,” says the builder, noting standout features such as the porte cochere’s handmade copper cupola, the intricate exterior crown molding and extensive interior paneling. “There was not one thing that wasn’t discussed, drawn, redlined, mocked up and tweaked before installation.” The efforts didn’t stop there. In assembling the master bathroom floor, for example, Larson and the tile setters measured and cut the marble, onyx and glass tiles on-site by hand in order to set them into the correct pattern. “The house is not only a piece of art,” he says, “it’s a testament to classical architecture very rarely seen in Denver.”
The architectural team was equally rigorous when it came to initially siting the home on its property, which was punctuated with mature trees. “We placed the mass of the building to work with those existing tall trees,” Ruggles says. That thoughtful step allowed the sun’s path to dictate where certain rooms would go: The kitchen and family room face east to catch the morning and midday sun, while the dining and living rooms capture the soft afternoon light.
In appointing those spaces, Kasler kept to understated hues. “Suzanne works with a beautiful color palette of neutrals with accents of color,” says Jennifer. The designer used this strategic approach in the main level’s central living room, which forms an intersection with nearly every other space on the floor. “You walk through the living room to get everywhere,” Kasler says. “Everything flows visually from that room, so we wanted to use pieces that have a lot of style.”
In the expansive room, Kasler positioned matching sofas near the replace along with eye-catching gilded armchairs. An armless sofa from the designer’s own Hickory Chair collection stands against the opposite wall beneath an abstract work by Dusty Griffith. Topping it o are “little splashes of peony pink,” says Kasler about two accent pillows and two side chairs. “In a neutral room, if you use limited color, you almost notice the color more than if you do a whole room full of it.”
Ruggles and Mabe-Sabanosh opened the anchoring space through French doors to a columned terrace on one side and used more columns to define the entry, dining room and study on the other. Kasler hung a hefty lantern above a walnut center table in the entry and wrapped the adjoining dining room with a wallcovering that she custom-designed through Arena Design; a rock-crystal chandelier and silk draperies lend glamorous touches to the space. Flanking the living room’s opposite axis are the kitchen—for which Kasler worked with Christopher Peacock in New York on the cabinetry—and a two-story library.
The architectural duo modeled the library, which opens into the master suite, after the Library of Trinity College Dublin. The narrow yet intimate space has an arched ceiling that’s as tall as the room is long. A month went into its planning before master cabinetmaker Anton Kary of Kary Cabinets built the shelving and millwork. Kasler then brought in James Kirkpatrick of Fauxscape in Atlanta to give the wood a custom finish. “The paneling was beautifully detailed in white oak,” says Kasler. “We wanted an unusual lime wash finish that we could only achieve with an artisan.”
Outside, Michaelides, also based in Atlanta, used the house as his guide. “We almost always get our cues from the architecture first and then work outward,” says the landscape architect, who worked with project manager Catherine Everett. The portico’s columns are referenced in an allée of six Autumn Purple ash trees that frame the formal entertaining garden off the rear terrace, for example, while the vegetable and cutting gardens extend conveniently from the kitchen area. His plan, which was executed by Lifescape Colorado, was also sensitive to the dry climate: Gravel replaces water-loving ground cover, while meadow grass grows on the perimeter of the property. “We were trying to be conservative with the areas that require a lot of irrigation,” says Michaelides.
Sustainable beauty could serve as the theme for all of what the Hopkinses were trying to accomplish with their new home. As Mabe-Sabanosh says, “They wanted people in 100 years to drive by and see that the house is as fresh and new as the day they built it.”