Ann Cook and her husband have deep roots in Aspen’s historic West End, so when they decided to move, they didn’t want to go far. Luckily, the house they hoped to find turned out to be just a few blocks away. Set on a generous triangular lot, it offered such tempting potential that the couple bought it without ever seeing it in person. And while Ann’s brief specified “a home, not a showcase,” architect Greg Tankersley and designer Clive Lonstein gave them a little of both—and it worked. “We love every nook and cranny,” Ann says excitedly.
Built in the 1960s, the property had undergone numerous updates and been given “a kind of Prairie-style treatment,” recalls Tankersley, a longtime collaborator with the owners. “There was nothing special about it architecturally, but it is sizable for the area,” he explains, noting a large addition that had been grandfathered in, something current restrictions would prohibit. “We were always mindful of the surroundings and how this house fits into its historic setting,” adds builder Briston Peterson, a fan of the neighborhood’s walkability, tree-lined streets and Victorian residences built long ago by successful prospectors. Without changing the footprint or the roofline, “We realized we could move things—even the front door—to give the place some drama,” Tankersley continues. “I like experiential dwellings where you have to discover things throughout.”
Working with project architect Holly Payne, Tankersley devised a floor plan that reveals itself slowly. “We created a process of walking in and through the house with chambers,” explains the architect. From the new entry gallery, a small vestibule offers pause before entering the kitchen and keeping room to one side or stepping down into the great room. On the other side of the gallery, a cozy library leads to the couple’s bedroom suite and private outdoor spa. Throughout the home, windows are “as narrow and tall as possible” for added height and better views of Aspen Mountain. “The rooms have interest now,” he adds, noting that “a little exploratory surgery” encouraged them to remove the great room’s tray ceiling and add detailed beams and bracketing that instantly brought a certain rusticity, albeit a sophisticated one.
“The couple has family with their own properties in Colorado, so we weren’t looking to incorporate space for relatives to stay,” explains Lonstein, who focused on conceiving entertaining areas with an easy indoor-outdoor flow. Ann, an art consultant, is on the boards of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and the National Council of the Aspen Art Museum and wanted interiors conducive to hosting events for both institutions. To that end, Lonstein designed airy living and dining areas that lead to the terrace, and with the primary bedroom now on the ground floor, the second story could be given to guest suites. Responding to Ann’s request for rooms that were “modern but not stark,” Lonstein began refining what he calls “my mountain interpretation of an urban home.”
“We knew we wanted something cosmopolitan, but we still wanted a nod to Aspen,” he continues. “One fabric started the whole thing—the sheer in the great room with a brown herringbone stripe that links to the trees.” He also let nature guide the palette, opting for creamy whites and soothing blues that “work well in winter or summer.” But there are surprises too, like the leaf-green shearling on the living room sofa. (“I like to bring in big color on rich materials,” he notes.) Lonstein also designed custom pieces inspired by the region’s rivers, trails and train tracks: a travertine console references sedimentary rock, a glass-topped coffee table mimics ice, and a blackened-steel light fixture that spans the living and dining areas brings an industrial edge. “It’s all about local influences modernized for today,” he says. “It’s also a good backdrop for the art collection,” he adds, noting works by Simone Leigh and Julie Mehretu.
Outside, the understated character of the façade is reinforced by charcoal-gray siding that makes it recede into the very setting that inspired it. “There’s nothing overly ‘mountain’ here, except for the influence of the natural landscape,” says Lonstein. “It’s what the mountains really are versus what people think they are. It’s not a stereotype anymore. It’s the new way to ‘mountain modern.’”