David and Stacie McDavid have been longtime fixtures in Aspen, where they’ve skied the slopes, competed in Western-style equestrian events and helped develop the local airport. Although the couple resides in Texas–where they’ve helmed several successful business ventures–much of their lives have been lived in the Colorado town. When they decided to buy a dream vacation home in the area, they went about it with determination, looking at more than 100 houses in a two-year period.
The place the couple finally selected was one familiar to architect Charles Cunniffe. It was a log-and-timber dwelling with massive stone pillars and a sunken living room that left the jaw-dropping mountain scenery almost hidden. Cunniffe, who worked with senior project architect Rich Pavcek on the project, had already completed renderings for the previous owners, who contemplated modernizing the structure. So, when the architect got a second chance to make the dwelling live up to its potential, he jumped at it. “The early plans clued everyone into the new character the house could possess,” says Cunniffe. “As we worked on it this time around, we refined the details.” Those elements included raising the living room’s floor and adding larger windows. When the architect showed the couple the home’s ability to capture the landscape, they were sold on the concept. “I’m a big view guy,” says David. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this. You can see Independence Pass and all four ski mountains.”
Sterling McDavid, the couple’s daughter and designer, was a harder sell. Initially, her parents’ home of choice was shocking to her. “The house was not their taste in any way,” she says, noting their refined Texas residence stood in stark contrast to the rustic getaway with distressed finishes. But the opportunity to remake the home and maximize the scenery ultimately swayed her as well.
The designer’s vision included modernizing the interiors, finishes and architectural details. “My style is contemporary, so I pitched that to my parents,” says Sterling McDavid. “At first, my ideas were a little startling to them.” But the couple eventually embraced the aesthetics of the plan, albeit nervously at the outset. “I was apprehensive,” David laughs, “But we raised Sterling and she knows us and our taste, so I had enough confidence in her to take the plunge.”
In an unusual move, the renovation began by creating a basement. “The opportunity to fully excavate the lowest level was not capitalized on by the previous owners, but the idea really excited David,” says Cunniffe. Senior Project Manager Brian Hanlen, who worked in concert with principal Shane Evans on the construction, explains, “We dug underneath the existing house to make a full basement, and then went deeper by four feet so we could create higher ceilings.” The new space provides an additional 2,500 square feet that allows for a gym and an elegant spa, which the owners count as some of their favorite rooms in the home.
While the basement was expanded, the upstairs was opened, simplified and slimmed. The design team removed walls to make a modern flowing floor plan, jettisoning clunky logs and timbers, widening windows to take in said views and installing rift-sawn oak floors and ceilings for warmer notes.
Outside, the rough-hewn log exterior was reclad with crisp horizontal siding and stone veneer. The thick pillars were drastically thinned, and the multilevel patios beyond them were united and streamlined. “It’s now one contiguous patio on the vista side,” says Pavcek. “It takes advantage of views that weren’t visible before.”
When it came to color, Sterling McDavid selected hues that reference nature and showcase art. “Many of the shades used resemble a mountain cave,” she says, describing a largely neutral palette of grays, beiges and whites. The exception is her father’s study, which features pops of chartreuse that reference the golden Aspens and greens of the mountains. The walls are mostly white to display the notable modern artworks the designer helped her parents amass. “There’s no better way for art to stand out than to be placed on a white wall,” the designer observes. The collection started with some Andy Warhol snapshots of Aspen, one of which shows the airport David helped build. That led to other Warhol artworks (10 iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans now hang in the dining room), as well as works by Russell Young, Peter Lik and Brian Donnelly, professionally known as Kaws.
The art, the new look and the location all add up to something extraordinary. As Sterling McDavid says, “It is more than just a house. It’s a place built for two of Aspen’s biggest fans.” And how do the fans feel about it? In his colorful style, David sums it up as, “We’re as happy as birds in the sunshine.”