When architect John Woodward Mink’s client decided to move from the Washington, D.C., area to Denver, she wanted to bring a little bit of an East Coast feel with her. “She loved her house there and wanted something similar,” he says. “She also wanted something that had a great connection to the outdoors.” The client, a single woman with grown children, had lived in the District of Columbia vicinity for many years and was eager for a change. “I’d regularly spend time at our vacation home in the Colorado mountains, and I just decided this is where I want to be now,” she says. “I was ready for a simpler lifestyle and for a house that was easier to maintain.” Once her mind was set on Colorado, she sold her mountain property and began the process of building anew in the Mile High City.
Though the homeowner knew her designer would be Sue Burgess—who is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and had worked with her previously—the right architect required a search. “I interviewed different people and chose John because he really listened and understood what I wanted,” she says. “He knows Colorado well and has done some great work here.”
The client’s new Denver lot offered “towering ponderosa pines and beautiful rose gardens,” Mink says—along with a 1950s ranch-style home he had to raze. “I generally don’t like to tear down existing architecture, but there wasn’t a way to make that house work for my client,” he explains. For the clean slate, the architect, who aims to achieve a “casual elegance” in his designs, created a contemporary version of a New England-style farmhouse. The three-level home, which includes a basement, is clad with stucco and sandstone—a nod to the Colorado locale. Mink also sheathed a series of rooflines that pitch at 45-degree angles with premium-grade cedar shingles. “I created an articulated floor plan that brings down the scale so the house doesn’t look like one big box,” he says. “There are deep overhangs as well as large Douglas-fir columns and beams that give a sense of solidity and permanence.” Inside, white-oak floors and walls made with the same sandstone used on the exterior bring some of those outside materials in. “The sandstone is from Telluride Stone Company, and it was installed with a full bed mortar application,” says the project’s builder, Chris Withers.
In configuring the layout, Mink placed the master suite on the lower level, with the main living spaces. “The homeowner wanted to be able to live primarily on the first floor and have guest suites on the upper level for her children when they come to visit,” he says. Burgess then appointed the spaces with a curated mix of contemporary items and the client’s antiques while employing textured fabrics within a subtle palette to play off the structure’s tactile backdrop. “The client was very interested in simple but sophisticated elements,” she says. “There are linen blends in many of the rooms and plenty of wool rugs, too.” Linen dresses the chairs in the formal dining room, for example, and a blend of the material was used for the room’s draperies.
Just off the dining room, a large Joan Mitchell painting hangs in the entry. “The client’s art collection is magnificent, and we wanted the interiors to complement it,” Burgess says. In this area, she paired an antique table from the owner’s collection with Dennis & Leen upholstered benches and sconces by Formations. “She has collected many wonderful antiques,” Burgess says. “We brought them here and reworked them for this house.” The designer opted for a similar mix in the adjacent living room, where a work by Franz Kline hangs prominently above the fireplace. Here, she suspended a Formations pendant over a Dessin Fournir coffee table encircled by a Caperton Collection sofa and two of the client’s antique armchairs.
At the end of the entry hall, the great room—which holds the kitchen, breakfast and sitting areas—features expansive windows and French doors that open to a large covered terrace with a fireplace. “If the sun is shining, she can open the doors and move between the inside and the outside during all 12 months of the year,” Mink says. That indoor-outdoor connection, as well as the house’s materiality, inspired the design for the grounds. “The client pointed me in the direction of something relaxed and almost cottage-like in feeling,” says landscape designer Troy Shimp, who picked up the same sandstone used for the house to create pathways on the property. “I planted a boxwood hedge that frames hydrangeas near the entrance to provide some structure and then added mixtures of flowering trees and shrubs such as dwarf crabapples, serviceberry, pear and Daphne.”
Inside and outside, the house was designed to recall the resident’s former and beloved home on the East Coast while also embracing the beauty of its Denver locale. “Some houses are giant and just there to impress,” Mink says. “This client wanted the opposite of that. She wanted something understated, approachable and typical of Colorado.”