A vivid shade of purple paint covers the front door and the shutters of the house Petra Richards designed for a couple and their two children in Cherry Hills Village. Inside, there are explosions of yellow, orange and green. A shifting textural palette creates a dynamic sensory experience, and the play between curved and angled furniture forms is similarly captivating. It’s a home that feels like an otherworldly escape from its surroundings—a design Neverland that brims with enchantment. “A mixture of different elements always creates interest and balance,” Richards says. “Playfulness and eclecticism flow through this house.”
The couple wasn’t looking for Neverland when they found it. “I’m an entrepreneur and my husband is a real estate developer, so I’m always looking at properties,” the wife says. “I stumbled upon this beautiful house in a bucolic neighborhood and showed it to my husband. We realized that with a few major tweaks, we could have the house we’ve always wanted.” To make that happen, they called on the talents of Richards (a close friend), architect Mark Rudnicki and builder Tom Gruber to reimagine their new home.
Those modifications included reworking the existing layout. “We gutted about 80 percent of the interior and then started over again,” says Rudnicki. “In the original floor plan, the master suite was on the first level, and the clients wanted all the bedrooms, including a new guest suite, to be upstairs.” To achieve that goal, more space was added to the diagonal west wing of the house via a pop top-style second level, which now accommodates a master suite and another bedroom. In addition, two bedrooms in the original two-story section were joined to form a large guest suite.
“On the ground floor, the old master bedroom became the wife’s office,” notes Rudnicki. The kitchen moved to the former family room, which was relocated into a new addition, and a wide opening connects the two spaces. Richards collaborated with Rudnicki and the owners during the process and suggested adding such elements as curved walls, one to anchor the breakfast area’s banquette and another, this time in glass, in the yoga room. Both reinforce a large curved staircase added to the foyer, which was pushed out 5 feet from the front façade. “Mark’s sharp angles and Petra’s soft rounds complemented each other,” says the wife. Additionally, glass doors connect a newly designed covered terrace to the living room. “They can have indoor-outdoor social events,” says Gruber, who managed the construction. “The remodel makes the house more modern and comfortable for a family.”
As the updated architecture helped modernize the house, so did the new finishes and the rich palette of colors Richards applied to both the exterior and the interior. She painted the traditional brick in a cool gray and punctuated it with the dark purple of the shutters and the front door.
“When the family took a trip to the south of France, they fell in love with the lavender fields, as well as the grays and the creams of typical French houses,” Richards explains. The kitchen’s sleek neutral cabinetry is offset with bright orange light fixtures and yellow leather on the banquette. “This is where the family mainly hangs out, so I wanted it to feel happy and inviting,” she says. In the formal dining room— where design inspiration came from a vintage wedding kimono that hangs on the wall—Richards favored bright tones grounded with a muted silk rug. “I covered the seat cushions of Chippendale chairs with a green silk-cotton and chose lacquered orange walls,” the designer says. “There’s a feeling of lusciousness,” the wife adds. “The lacquer makes the walls look like candy.”
Richards kept things practically achromatic in the living room, instead creating drama by juxtaposing textures. “If you don’t have color, then you need to add warmth and depth another way,” explains the designer, who customized a massive sculptural fire surround made of dark marble for the space. She then countered the severity of the material with Jiun Ho Collection wood coffee tables. Pieces upholstered with cotton and linen and a wool rug also temper the marble, as well as the room’s sprinkling of bronze accents, which include a floor lamp and a side table by Christian Liaigre.
Furnishings with opposing forms add yet another layer of dynamism to the house. For example, Richards foiled the sharp geometry of the living room fire surround with round side tables, chairs with curved backs and an enormous rug with a sinuous camouflage-like pattern. In the master bedroom, a vintage glass chandelier hangs from a circular recess in the ceiling and complements an oversize rectangular headboard and the room’s square limestone fire surround. “The glass bubbles add softness and sparkle to the space and lend a bit of a delicate feel,” Richards says.
With the way so many whimsical elements play off one another, the design lends undeniable buoyancy to the house. “Petra is able to pull in all sorts of aesthetics,” the wife says. “She’s from Germany, studied in London and has traveled to so many places. We’re big travelers, too, and she has a real understanding of who we are as a family.” Richards translated that understanding into a design that’s as adventurous as the couple. “When you’ve been to different places, you have an appreciation for other kinds of beauty and design,” Richards says. “I like bringing in influences from all over the world. This is probably the only house in Denver that has purple shutters.”
— Laura Mauk