In interior design, chain reactions are common. It often goes like this: A new sofa makes the old armchairs look a little worn, so they are reupholstered. The fresh seats make the existing rug seem out of place and the old drapes look wrong, so they are both replaced. It’s that type of scenario that designer Mikhail Dantes found himself in when Thomas Madden, a single dad with a young daughter, approached him about furnishing his newly acquired home in Denver’s coveted Wash Park neighborhood. During an early walk-through Thomas nonchalantly indicated a chip in the kitchen counter and asked if it could be replaced. To which Dantes replied that changing the top would probably mean the old sink had to go, and then the cabinets might not look right, and well, you can guess what happened next. “From that one little chip we moved into a whole house remodel and before we knew it we were taking the interior down to the studs,” says Dantes.
“The house had great bones, but I really wanted something more modern,” says Thomas, who was drawn to Dantes’ knack for making neutral palettes inviting and minimalist interiors both elegant and livable. Along with those attributes the designer’s take-no-prisoners approach to any form of excess has become an accepted part of his signature style. “No case, no base, no trim,” Dantes says about refreshing this home. “We recreated the architecture inside by stripping down superfluous decoration.”
Putting the initial “furnishings only” request on hold the designer first tackled the more pressing issues of reassigning rooms and eliminating any references to the home’s Tuscan ambience–distressed cabinets and faux plaster walls in mottled shades of red, taupe and blue topping the casualty list. In short order the master bathroom and closet were reorganized to create more storage space, three cramped upper-level guest rooms were merged into two larger spaces, and all evidence of faux stone mantles, columns and other Italian accents vanished.
Paramount to the reinvention was a thoughtful layering of new materials starting with lightly stained walnut floors, and walls coated in Dantes go-to Benjamin Moore shade of Super White. In the living room, the monolithic limestone-wrapped fireplace with suede padded tiles above the mantel would normally be the sole statement piece, but in the open layout the kitchen’s mix of lacquer and dark oak cabinets also draws you in. Add to that the ceiling, where large collaged pieces of lacquered tea paper line the spaces between the coffers, causing all eyes gazing up. “I wanted to add a pattern that was more organic to contrast with all the clean lines,” Dantes says. “And when you’re lying on the sofa it’s nice to look up and see something wonderful.”
Still Dantes insists it is not any one thing that stands out in the great room but rather the amalgamation that makes it successful. “There’s a lot going on, but the trick was how to make all those elements blend in a peaceful cohesive way,” says the designer, who also added nubby linen upholstery on the sofa and a hand-knotted wool rug on the floor as textural interjections. “The quietness and subtlety of the palette makes it possible to layer many things without any one thing being in your face.”
Throughout, there are geometry lessons. In the dining room, for example, the console table’s metal frame mimics the linear pattern of the hide-on-hair rug, with the blocks and lines on the wall art providing the perfect complement. “I took my cues from the grid pattern created by the coffered ceiling in the living room,” Dantes says. In the lower-level media room stripes and cubes depicted in the artwork reinforce the pattern subtheme in the rug and in the dramatic fireplace with book-matched marble.
In the master bedroom, a wooly sheepskin rug and suede wallcovering soften the tone-on-tone space, but the latter required a little convincing. “There was this over-the-top gold accent wall I saw that I thought would be perfect,” the homeowner shares. “But Mikhail nicely suggested that I might get tired of it and gently steered me toward the suede instead, which I really love.”
Steering his clients in the direction of longevity is another part of Dantes enduring design philosophy. “My approach with every client is the same,” he says. “No tricks or gimmicks–and whatever the style, it’s about beautiful pieces mixed together to create beautiful rooms.”