Tere is a certain style and color palette that comes to mind when imagining the quintessential modern high-rise dwelling, and it’s often denoted by chic monochromes, polished surfaces and minimalist decor. Designer David Frazier knows well the components of this ensemble, yet the look didn’t feel right for the Denver condo of his clients, former Manhattanites.
When the couple moved to Colorado, they purchased both a city and mountain dwelling, but they weren’t looking for a matching set. “We wanted our city home to feel sleek,” recalls the wife. “We felt the condo lent itself to modernity, in part because of its high ceilings.” But since they also loved the idea of homey touches, such as adorning their walls with personal snapshots and gathering to play the grand piano that once belonged to the wife’s grandfather, it was clear to the designer that this urban residence also needed to retain a sense of intimacy. The idea called for an approach the designer describes as “introducing the comfort touches they desired within a very contemporary aesthetic.”
Composing this balance began with color selection, and Frazier decided to focus on the classic metropolitan combo of black and white. The restrained palette helped create “a unifying element between each space,” he notes. Finding the right shades, however, proved crucial—particularly for a home with large swaths of inky hues. “Black speaks to this traditional urban idea of metal and darkness, but I knew if we chose the right black, and executed it in the right way, it would lend a sense of warmth throughout the spaces,” says Frazier. Benjamin Moore’s Mopboard Black provided the perfect weathered softness, whether accenting the main hallway’s ceiling or adding drama to the kitchen cabinets.
Making such bold color statements was, initially, unsettling for the wife—especially the idea of coating the newly created library in a noir hue. “David really had to hold my hand through it,” she confesses. But the dramatic results in the cozy room, which sits adjacent to the light and airy living room, made her a believer. “I wanted to dip that room in one color to give a more intimate feeling,” the designer explains. “I envisioned the couple reading at night there, having a quiet place just for them.” And indeed, once the room was outfitted with deep-set club chairs, it became the couple’s favorite. “It’s the coolest room in the house,” the wife notes. “And when we get the fire going, it’s the coziest too.”
Frazier also exploited the textural qualities of the signature shade in the featured materials. In the open-plan living room and dining room, for instance, a waxed-steel coffee table stands in high contrast against the more organic white-veined marble of the fireplace, as well as the charcoal linen sofa. The vintage Mario Bellini chairs surrounding the dining table are newly dressed with black leather. The sum effect grounds the seating areas and gives them visual weight in the high-ceilinged space.
This concept plays out in individual pieces of furniture as well. The designer used a mix of midcentury and contemporary pieces but gave them a warm nature with a few tactile moves. “In silhouette all the pieces are very tailored,” notes the designer. “But I wanted to layer in as much texture and warmth as possible with fabrics.” In addition to buttery leathers and velvets, Frazier selected a bevy of textures, including sheepskin, nubby lamb’s wool upholstery, and lush fur throw blankets.
The warming trend is enhanced by Frazier’s choice of personality-rich items, such as a Corsican ram’s head hung just off the main living area. (The couple fondly christened the piece Frazier, after the designer). “David really understood its dimensionality, and you see the ram from three different directions,” notes the wife. “It makes a visual impression that is fun and unexpected.”
Accenting the interior with similar distinctive items helped contradict “the idea that a city dwelling is where you hang lots of abstract art,” explains the designer. Instead, he favored pieces with a deep connection to the couple, like the main bedroom’s classic Edward S. Curtis photography that the wife inherited from her parents. He also transformed the central hallway into a gallery of family snapshots that are made modern with slim black frames and oversize mats that, in the words of the designer, make even the smallest photos feel important. For the library, he commissioned artist Mike Rachlis to paint a portrait of the husband’s great-grandfather (complete with the gentleman’s spectacular handlebar moustache). The designer says it’s a playful spin on aristocratic oil paintings that dot the grand libraries of English manors, calling the painting “a nod to tradition that is much more meaningful because it’s family.”
Frazier says these details articulate what urban living can be—a look and lifestyle that’s marked by a laid back and casual nature appropriate to Colorado. He observes, “In this state, it’s about making spaces feel luxurious, without being ostentatious.”