There’s something inherently luxurious about living with exactly what you need. That was the premise Paul Cathers set out to explore with the design of his new Basalt, Colorado home, one half of a contemporary duplex that’s just a quick scooter ride from the home furnishings store and design studio he has owned and operated since 2000.
After trading a career in high fashion for one in interior design, Cathers moved to the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, eventually settling on two acres by a river. The setting was lovely, but it came with a downside. “I spent all my weekends mowing the grass,” Cathers explains. “Not doing that anymore definitely appealed to me.” A much smaller property, he decided, would offer the perfect opportunity for him to adopt a more simplistic lifestyle and an aesthetic that hews more closely to his understated personal style. A small lot he purchased in Basalt’s southside—which came with strict height and square footage limits in addition to an enviable park-side location—would ensure he and his design team stayed true to his minimalist vision.
From the outside, that aspiration is evident in the structure’s concise palette of high-contrast finishes. Its twin gabled forms are clad with clean-lined, clear-cedar siding (a nod to Cathers’ roots in the Pacific Northwest) while a low, dark-metal shed roof emphasizes the contemporary vibe. The entry is defined by an angular architectural form with sides clad in black cement-board panels, and the top of it serves as a second-floor deck.
Inside the home, which Cathers shares with his fiancée, Rachel, the efficiency of open-plan living comes into stark relief. The living and dining rooms and kitchen are made bright by floor-to-ceiling windows. When organizing the first-floor spaces, Conrardy made the unusual move of placing the dining room just beyond the entry door. “I wouldn’t say it’s a traditional approach,” she says, “but it allows the living room to be cozier and set back from the street.” The need for privacy also drove her design for the living room’s wide fireplace wall, which prevents passersby on the public walking path that meanders along the park-facing side of the house from peeking in toward the sofa. Upstairs, in the master bedroom, she created a wraparound deck with a solid railing, which allowed her to draw in two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. “The master is like having a huge tree house,” Cathers says. “The view is constantly changing, and that’s what’s so exciting: This huge living piece of art is our first vision in the morning.”
From the floors up, a quiet palette reigns. “I was hesitant to add too much warmth to the finishes, or to make anything heavy or too detailed, because the spaces are small,” says designer Denise Taylor, who consulted with Cathers on the finish selections. “The materials we chose are complementary, clean-lined and flow from one space to the next.” The hefty steel I-beam that spans the kitchen ceiling, for example, complements the living room’s slate-clad fireplace wall, which, in turn, nods to the modern stairwell, made memorable, builder Patrick Maley says, by its combination of “wood floors, treads and grab rails playing off exposed steel risers, guard rails and hand-rail brackets for a super-clean, industrial, modern look.”
An equally cohesive approach to color relies on neutral furnishings—a low-profile living room sofa in flint gray, a white hair-on-hide bed in the master bedroom, gray wool upholstered kitchen counter stools—that serve as foils for pops of vivid color. “We incorporated bright hues where they were needed and made sense,” Cathers says, most notably in the dining area, where barrel chairs upholstered in an ebullient gold velvet sidle up to an unfinished wood table.
These spaces may serve as a case study in minimalism, but they’re also a reflection of Cathers’ refined tastes. “I definitely like nice things,” he says, “and I think that in a small space we’re able to have a few key, nice things that are close to my heart.” Some of those elements, like a built-in Miele coffee machine, are functional, while others—a bedroom’s frosted-glass chandelier, or the impeccable drywall reveals that create a subtle shadow line above the floors, “making them feel endless,” Taylor says—are simply beautiful. By selecting them, Cathers has hit upon the secret to finding luxury in simplicity: It’s less about giving things up and more about getting crystal clear about what’s really important—and then letting those details dazzle.