Living in the shadow of the majestic Rocky Mountains is just one of the many perks of residing in Aspen. But for one couple, it was a surrounding grove of the area’s namesake trees and a site along Roaring Fork River that served as the main attraction. Because the existing house was bigger than current zoning restrictions allow on the same property, renovation was more attractive than demolition and new construction. But its rustic log cabin-like interior and warren of disconnected spaces begged for a transformation.
To begin, the owners hired husband-and-wife architects John Rowland and Sarah Broughton, who coincidentally had been friends with the previous owners and often discussed renovation possibilities. Recently returned from a tour of Switzerland, where they were inspired by the VitraHaus building designed by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron, the duo resolved to streamline the structure’s traditional gables for a cleaner look on the exterior, while opening the interior with interconnected spaces and substantially more glass.
“We said let’s just strip this down and celebrate the honesty and purity of the iconic gable form,” Rowland recalls. “It was like taking out a scalpel to cut out things unnecessary and then adding in a few items.” On the ground floor, the existing timber columns felt the knife, while each gable end was stretched and filled with glass to take advantage of views in multiple directions.
At the entry, a previously enclosed stairway was replaced by an open wood-and-steel double-height version that gives way to the living room and kitchen separated by a double-sided granite fireplace. “It’s the most thought-out room in the house,” the husband says about the kitchen—a sleek new black-and-silver culinary center where the owners love to cook and entertain.
Particularly striking is the home’s reclaimed wood. Previously used for fencing along Montana highways, it now clads the entire exterior before continuing inside. “We were after a specific color range,” explains builder Briston Peterson about the wood’s perfect silver-gray tone. “And one of the beauties of the material is that because of a rainscreen barrier behind the wall, it requires absolutely no maintenance.”
The wood works in tandem with crisp white walls interspersed with pops of color coming not only from the homeowners’ extensive art collection, but also from choices such as a bold red living room rug selected by the architects, who also served as designers on the project. Overall, the duo opted for a mix of modern Italian and handmade furnishings such as the leather Berman Rosetti chairs in the living room and the dining room’s custom walnut table. “We wanted to express a contrasting depth of color and texture,” says Broughton.
Upstairs, the existing master bathroom made way for a fourth bedroom, and the architects created yet another gabled volume to accommodate a new master bath and walk-in closet. At the owners’ request the bathing area is situated in the trees, and their luxurious suite includes an oval Japanese soaking tub. “I love looking out through the big glass window at the aspens and all the motion that happens when the wind blows,” the husband says.
With so many spaces open to the outdoors, when it came to landscaping, the intent was to direct views to the grove and riverside meadow by enhancing what was already there. “It’s a large lot, but part of what we needed to do was include careful placement of new trees to help screen out views of the neighboring homes,” explains landscape architect Sheri Sanzone, who worked alongside associate Christine Shine to introduce a series of plants including silvery lupine, goldenrod and double pink peonies that bloom throughout the year.
Despite a program that originally emphasized just a little bit of fine-tuning, the overall effect was one of transformation. “We look at the before-and-after photos sometimes and we don’t even know how it got from beginning to end,” the husband says. “It was a blast of a project to execute, but it’s even better to live in.”