A remodel is always an adventure, but for one Boulder couple, it was several adventures over many decades. “We just couldn’t help ourselves,” recalls the wife, noting that they staged many projects, including home renovations for their children. “Many couples have difficulty working together on this kind of thing, but we thrived as a team. We were always doing something.” For this house, the couple worked with architect Phillip Tabb in the late 1980s, and they doubled the square footage nearly a decade later. “But we did several smaller projects in between, too,” the wife explains. The latest renovation, however, had a very particular inspiration. “We had a teal toilet,” she recalls, laughing, “and it had simply reached its time to go.” Plus, they were eager to work with their longtime contractor, Albert Petersen, before he retired. But one idea became two, then three, and then, with the help of architect Rachel Lee and designer Claire Peterson, a comprehensive rethinking of the primary spaces that now make up what the wife calls “my sanctuary.”
“The home had good bones and a good spirit. Our plan was to elevate a dated interior with light, warmth and a better flow,” explains Lee. A redefined entryway opens to the living room on one side and a gallery leads to the family room on the other. That family room is reimagined with new windows and a fireplace, and the nearby kitchen and dining area are now open to each other. The team also refreshed the powder room (goodbye, teal toilet) and the main bedroom suite. “Light was a major design component as it saturates each space,” continues Lee, noting the addition of large glass doors that lead to the courtyards. “The landscape seeps into this house. All along, Claire and I would come back to how to maintain the spirit of the house and garden since there was a beautiful connection.” It was also important, adds the wife, whose husband passed away during the renovation, “to finish the project in a way that’s a tribute to the vision we began with together.”
For the interiors, Peterson and the wife, a student of feng shui, mixed existing midcentury pieces with new finds for a softly contemporary feel. “It was so fun to think of ideas with Claire; she’s my design soulmate,” notes the wife. “And it was healing to work with her to find furnishings that made the rooms unique to me.” In the living room, they updated a pair of Wassily chairs with tan leather and added “a soft rug for luster and fireplace pillows for warmth,” says the designer. “Here and throughout, we kept the palette clean.”
An important design aspect of this remodel was rehanging the wife’s art that she had collected over the years with the help of her friend, art broker Marilyn Mallet. And the new, streamlined background lets works by Diana Stetson, Marty Horowitz, Lynn Heitler and Peter Opheim shine.
Art makes a strong statement in the family room, where a Dennis Pearson zebra-like sculpture known as Zeke stands near a wall hanging by Michele Quan that was commissioned for the home. “Claire and I were at Cedar & Hyde Mercantile in Boulder and we saw a mini version of Michele Quan’s piece, and we both thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this would be perfect over the fireplace in the family room!’” the wife recounts. A work by Marc Chagall completes the
art collection in the room.
Perhaps the new kitchen and dining area received the most significant transformation during this project. “A major objective was to create a dining space that felt grounded,” explains Peterson. “Everything was designed with durability in mind— her grandchildren are a big part of her life here—so while we kept this area white, the surfaces are cleanable, including the leather chairs.” A work by Johnnie Ross that once hung over his own dining table in New Mexico now energizes the space, which accesses both the entertaining courtyard and a more family-focused outdoor dining area.
The outdoor living areas are as important as the interior spaces. “This is a generous lot in an old neighborhood, and no corner of the garden has been untouched by the client,” adds Lee, noting elements such as the many sculptural pieces and a Zen garden. “I guess I have a feel for what belongs where in the landscape,” says the wife, who has worked with several firms, including Altgelt & Associates and Changing Landscapes, over the years. “But I’m not going to do another thing, except for very small projects,” she states. “It feels quite complete to me now.” And in words that make Lee and Peterson smile, she adds, “I love my house. It’s truly me.”