Creating a brand-new home for a young family with children that includes substantial crown molding, limestone casings on windows and doors, and striking cross-vaulted ceilings may not be the most common scenario, but when such a vision was presented to architects Don Ruggles and Melissa Mabe, they embraced the opportunity as it falls right in line with their expertise. The result is a grand, stucco-clad home inspired by traditional French architecture but distilled for more contemporary living in Denver’s Polo Club neighborhood.
“They were really well-versed in design,” Ruggles says of the homeowners, who were referred by general contractor Edward Diamond. “They’d done their homework and provided us with a number of images. All of them were focused on refreshed, traditional design.” In fact, one of the early inspirations came from another Ruggles Mabe Studio residence in the area. “They’re quite sophisticated clients,” adds Mabe. “When they walk in the room, there’s an elegance about them, which is fun, because they influence the design in a beautiful way.”
Given that the lot boasts several mature, stately trees, one of the first tasks was siting the structure around these landmarks to best take advantage of the views. Ruggles also carefully considered the position of the sun to determine how light would fill the rooms. The couple wanted to be able to monitor their young children outdoors, and the husband sought expanses of yard where he could play games with the kids. As a result, bedrooms are situated upstairs and the family spaces below are designed to open onto stone-paved patios and manicured lawns created by landscape architects Adam Hallauer and Jeromy Montano.
The front of the home features a high-ceilinged, formal entry with elements such as a copper- roofed overhang and gas lanterns. “There’s a sense of verticality to the composition,” explains Ruggles. “That absolutely comes from the Empire style, but we erased some of the overly wrought details to give it a more distilled look.” “Everything needed to feel fresh,” adds Mabe, who worked on the interiors with designer Emily Lindemann. “While they wanted the interiors to be rooted in a classic style, they didn’t want to overdo it.” Pulling back on some of the finishes helped accomplish that, such as using a simple English bead trim to create shadow lines and texture. However, more ornate features—such as coffered ceilings and cremone bolts on many exterior doors as well as the kitchen cabinets—remain.
A clear, bright palette set against a white backdrop adds to that sought-after fresh feel:an all-white kitchen, crisp creams and blues with neutrals in the family room, and white and Kelly green in the living room. Trips taken by the couple and the design team during the years it took to build the house turned up antiques in Charleston and glamorous modern pieces in Palm Springs, and the finds were incorporated into the home’s interiors. “The big brushstrokes are all timeless, and the fun punches are often decorative elements, such as the art or pillows,” says Lindemann of how the team bridged those collected pieces with the traditional French elements of the abode. “The only place where we made a really contemporary statement with the furniture was the dining room.” There, a goatskin-parchment surface tops a table with an acrylic base, and hand-embroidered silk wallpaper wraps around the room. “We balanced that with two very traditional dining chairs and an antique buffet,” the designer adds.
The deft layering of old and new continues in the main bedroom, where a gilded four-poster bed and chandelier are updated by the addition of clean-lined seating, mirrored accents and contemporary accessories. Over in the kitchen, antique green china is displayed in the upper, glass-fronted cabinets expressly to weave notes of the living room palette into the otherwise white space. This attention to detail is found throughout the residence. “The millwork on the doors and the window casings is just spectacular,” says general contractor Brian Husmann, who worked alongside Diamond. “You just don’t see that every day.”
“A lot of decisions that went into this house were driven by the family,” says Mabe. “Our clients really thought about how to bring everything together.” Now, at the end of the day when the sunlight filters in through the main bedroom’s windows, just as planned, and the wife reads to the kids in the nearby sitting room, those careful decisions support the most important goal of all— creating a family home.