Between the running waters of a nearby river and the abundance of tall mature trees, a secluded lot next to a couple's Aspen home offered possibilities too enticing to ignore. Enthralled with its potential, the husband and wife reached out to designer Noelle Hernandez and architects Bill Poss and Kim Weil to create a structure on the site that could provide a place for them to gather as a family, to entertain and to accommodate their frequent guests. "The goal was for it to feel like a sanctuary, and the river offers that atmosphere naturally," the wife says, noting a kayaker passing by. Hernandez agrees, explaining how the waterway would influence her design: "We wanted the house to have quiet places to nap or read with the sound of the calming water in the background, common areas for visiting and a place to sit on the patio and enjoy the river. It should have a spot for all moods."
In siting the home, making as little impact as possible on the grounds was an important goal for Poss and Weil, who worked with project designer Keith Howie and team members Ryan Doremus and Nick Massman. They positioned the residence carefully between the towering trees, which include evergreens, aspens and cottonwoods, and in close proximity to the water. "The river was both the greatest asset and the greatest challenge," Weil says. "It provided a spectacular setting; however, designing and constructing next to it presented a whole set of challenges in dealing with underground water." To keep the land dry during construction, builder Cameron McIntyre installed a pumping and filtration system that diverted the underground streams around the site and into the river.
When it came to designing the structure, the architects achieved a modern aesthetic set off by rustic surfaces. The home's clean lines are clad with a mix of vertical reclaimed barnwood and horizontal cedar siding. Steel accents and a standing-seam metal roof round out the material palette. "This is a modern house, but the barnwood adds texture and gives it a sense of belonging on this property," Hernandez says. "There's a nice balance."
Inside, large lift-and-slide doors allow the indoor and outdoor spaces to function as one. Even in the winter, horizontal windows–including long clerestory ones in the lofted living area–flood the interior with natural light. "With all of those trees, the house is in shadow a lot," Poss says. "The clerestory windows let more light in, and they also allow you to see the treetops." Further blurring the distinction between the inside and outside are porcelain-tile floors Hernandez had laid in a subtle herringbone pattern that flow from the main living-dining space directly outside to an ample terrace. The tile is one of many neutral tones in the interior; another is a custom silk-and-wool rug in the living area the designer used to anchor twin sofas upholstered with fabric and leather in soft taupe and gray tones. "By keeping the inside quiet, you immediately look out to the greenery and river," says Hernandez, who, with colleagues Soraya Gallego and Nicole Stewart, came on board the project as plans were still being developed to help the owners select furnishings and materials. The muted palette maintains the focus on not only the views but also the owners' extensive art collection.
Textural variation within that tonal palette ensures the dwelling is far from austere. The living area's pitched ceiling, for example, is clad with custom-stained white oak, and the soaring fireplace surround is sheathed with Kansas limestone. "The natural wood and stone elements paired with the large glass windows and sliding doors create a warm, contemporary feel," Poss says. In the dining area, Hernandez clad a wall with reclaimed barnwood to pull the exterior material inside and balanced the aesthetic with a chandelier made of long glass beads. "They look like big drops of crystal water," she says. "It has a lovely, very soft glow at night." The piece illuminates the custom table and upholstered chairs below it.
In the family area, the designer kept the comfort level high with a generously proportioned sectional sofa covered with a deep blue chenille fabric that punctuates the room's neutral palette. The open space also contains the kitchen, where black leathered-granite countertops and a white back-painted-glass backsplash set off the custom oak cabinetry. "I like to have my kids in a family room setting when I'm cooking," explains the wife, who collaborated closely with Hernandez throughout the design process.
Upstairs, more barnwood makes an appearance as accent walls in the two master bedrooms, where the rustic material is juxtaposed with upholstered beds and whimsical artwork. Glass railings line balconies to ensure nothing obstructs the view of the river outside; likewise, sculptural soaking tubs in the limestone-clad bathrooms offer bird's-eye views of the water. "Both sides of the tub are comfortable, so you can look up or down the river," Hernandez says.
The water, both its proximity and presence, proved integral to the design of the house–and to the experiences the owners have there. "You can see, hear and enjoy its ever-changing beauty from season to season," Hernandez says. "It's always comforting, just like the interior of the house. It's rare to have a home set right along a river on a flat lot in Aspen, and this house takes full advantage of that opportunity."