Thirteen years is a long time to live in a house you’d like to alter, but for the couple who call this Colorado dwelling in the quiet enclave of Greenwood Village home, it took a while to get clear about what they most desired. That turned out to be big views of their half-acre property, which is bordered by a picturesque canal and walking trail, and a humble spirit, to be expressed by the structure’s scale and materiality. “We didn’t want an overwhelming house,” the wife says. “We wanted it to feel approachable, welcoming and light-filled.”
Designing a new home for the 1970s-era neighborhood where few of the original houses have been replaced required a sensitive touch, which residential designer John Mattingly achieved by borrowing a technique from the past. “Historically, humble rural European buildings were made from brick that’s very porous and sandy,” he says. “If you couldn’t afford to completely seal it with plaster, you’d just go over it with a light coat of mortar. Today, people love that smeared-mortar look, and a sense of history is what roots this house on the site.”
The understated façade captures the easygoing Napa Valley aesthetic the homeowners requested from the start. “Napa is an agricultural region, not a neighborhood,” Mattingly says. “When someone tells me ‘Napa,’ what they’re asking for is a structure that would feel at home on a working farm.” Accordingly, “our emphasis was on natural-looking materials that are going to wear with the house,” says general contractor Mike McNeill. The sweeping rooflines and textured brick walls are punctuated by iconic expressions of the agrarian vernacular, including sections of standing-seam metal roof and window frames patterned and painted to mimic the look of hot-rolled steel. These include a series of clerestory windows that frame views of the water and a border of perennials and ornamental grasses designed by landscape architect Jeromy Montano. The feature begins at the front entry and continues through the voluminous foyer and living room, culminating above an operable window wall at the back of the house.
The same brick used on the exterior forms an interior wall that runs along one side of the kitchen. “It feels like someone naturally put the kitchen up against an aged brick wall,” Mattingly says. “There was no need for tile or anything fancy there. The painted brick acts as the backsplash.” Against such rustic details, the design team juxtaposed clean white walls. “You’ll notice there isn’t trim carpentry around every opening,” McNeill notes of the unadorned expanses.
Those simple backdrops set off an eclectic mix of furnishings: inherited antiques, treasures picked up over years of vintage shopping and new additions from designer Bri Rutledge. “The clients were fun to work with because they’ve lived all over the world,” she says. “The wife and I both have roots in California, and we share a love of earthy, lived-in colors and textures associated with that state. But she also grew up in Europe and collected a lot of pieces there that we could layer into our design.” In the living room, a rustic antique bench stands in for a console table behind a new sofa. A hefty antique bookcase the homeowners had craned out of their previous home presides over the paneled den. In the dining area, a new beaded chandelier provides a breezy counterpoint to the vintage table’s mirrored top banded in copper, which sits atop a suede base.
Occasionally, these rich textures give way to vibrant color. In the foyer, a vintage painting’s swaths of green and blue draw the eye up from the checkerboard-patterned limestone floor. Blue-black cabinets add polish to the kitchen’s warm, white oak tones. The powder room’s Caribbean-blue zellige tiles complement the unlacquered brass hardware—the latter a must for the design team. “If we’re going to go brass, we lean toward unlacquered because it ages with the house,” Rutledge explains. “We like to use real, raw materials that are going to tell the story of the home.”
But the audience for that story, the wife reports, is larger than expected. “People stop by to ask questions about this place,” she says. “It catches the eye and people want to take it in. It has an interesting quality that you can’t put your finger on.” This arresting but hard-to-categorize feeling is something even 13 years of dreaming couldn’t have conjured. “It seems,” the wife notes, “that this house has created its own little bit of magic.”