Today, while sitting at the grand piano in this Denver home’s dark-walled study, the musically inclined family members residing here look over a rolling, park-like garden dotted with tall trees, tranquil fountains, and areas for relaxing and play.
It’s a far cry from the day when architect Carlos Alvarez and designer Carolyn Morris first saw the dwelling. “Back then, there was no rear garden to speak of, and the home was designed to look inward,” says the architect.
Everything changed when a large adjoining lot came up for sale and the owners (a couple with school-age children) snapped it up. Suddenly, the house was open to a multitude of exciting new possibilities. “They went from a small lawn to a giant garden,” notes Alvarez. “Now there were options. We looked at several, including adding a large addition to the house, but we decided to shift the interior perspective 100 percent to look outside to the new backyard.”
To embrace the lush setting designed by landscape architects Adam Hallauer and Collin Bentley, Alvarez and Morris—partners in business and life—worked with designer Emily Young Alford and general contractor Dave Mosely to gut the home for a fresh start. In addition to making way for a modern interior aesthetic and erasing a confusing layout, starting from scratch gave the team an opportunity to open the rear walls to the garden with a series of large windows and floor-to-ceiling folding doors. The reimagined layout focuses on social events both large and small and seems to draw visitors outside where an architectural pavilion that’s crisscrossed by iron girders awaits.
From the front door, the new story unfolds beginning with a geometric floor composed of taupe travertine and charcoal marble. “The entry is large and very tall, so we created a patterned floor that grounds the space and makes it feel cozier,” says Morris. “Plus, it introduces the clean and modern palette.” Visitors will note another design motif here with a 50-foot wall of rift-cut white oak paneling that runs the length of the first floor. “It’s something like the spinal cord of the home. It’s also warm, organic and modern,” notes Morris. But this is not a feature that’s solely about form—it also contains storage and screens a set of elevator doors.
The main floor is dedicated to the social needs of the family. “They wanted spaces for different types of gatherings,” explains the architect. “There’s a large kitchen with a distinct dining island and a banquette-surrounded table for the family, a separate dining room for entertaining, a formal living room, a family room and a multipurpose room that serves as a study and a music room.”
Upper floors are for family, with one level reserved for the kids and another dedicated
to adult spaces for work and relaxation. “We changed the circulation on the second and third floors. On the kids’ level there’s now room for a lounge in addition to the bedrooms. On the parents’ floor there’s a more luxurious primary suite with room for an office and individual closets,” says Alvarez. Morris adds, “Having private work and play spaces for adults and kids is perfect for a family. They can retreat for privacy or come together to share interests.”
Whether rooms are for individual or group pursuits, Morris gave them an enfolding nature. “I wanted to wrap each room in a distinct material, such as wood or fabric,” she says. “This softened the backgrounds, making great backdrops for the sculptural furniture we selected. Each piece is very intentional and edited, which results in a graphic composition.” That purposeful nature was applied to every element of the house. “The design team created unusual detailing that required ingenuity to build,” notes Mosely. “We worked closely together to make it a reality.” Alvarez recalls the large amount of time and care that went into the smallest features, noting how he worked with Mike Scott of 5280 Custom Cabinetry on elements such as the minimal handles on the pocket doors and the seamless paneling. The labor was not lost on the clients. “These are people who put a lot of thought into things,” Morris says. “They appreciate features that are well done.”
Today, whether relaxing beside the hearth in the living room or lounging by the outdoor fireplace on the pavilion, the family enjoys the sophisticated and serene nature of their new home. “If I used one word to describe the house, I’d choose ‘peaceful,’” says Morris. “It’s a very restful environment.”