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In Aspen’s West End, opportunities to reinvent architecture are rare. There, the Historic Preservation Commission closely monitors additions and alterations to the neighborhood’s charming homes. Many have been around since miners and silver barons first settled in the towns. More than a century ago.
So when a corner lot that was home to a 1970s home just a few blocks away from their West End vacation home went up for sale, the Houston-based couple saw an opportunity. Convinced that they found nothing worth preserving there, the Historic Preservation Commission began planning to purchase the land and rebuild the house from scratch. The historic designation prohibited any changes other than the paint color to the former gingerbread-trimmed Victorian mansion. But here they will be able to explore their own style.
5280 Home August/September 2023
The homeowners had already drawn up initial plans with a local architect by the time longtime architect J. Randall Powers came on board, but they relied on him to ensure every detail that shaped the home’s style. I asked for guidance. For the exterior, the Houston-based designer specified hand-cut cedar shake shingles, a copper-clad front-to-back circular entryway, and stone details that look “more like something you’d see in Europe than in Colorado.” “We’re doing it,” Powers said. Inside, he says, he installed distressed oak floors, plastered the walls and baseboards, and designed a stair railing with “beautiful and delicate” bronze balusters. “Our vision was that you could be wandering through the Belgian countryside and come across this house by chance. There was nothing intended for it to scream new.”
Nor was it our intention to present a “mountain house” with typical Alpine decoration. “Our clients here live a more casual lifestyle. They love to leave all the doors open to the garden,” says Powers. “But their style is traditional. Their happy place is a little fanciful.”
A huge antique French faux-bois table that sits behind the sofa in the living room is one of the first things guests see when they walk in the door, and the first item Powers chose for the home. did. “I said, ‘This is the direction of the interior,'” he says. “It’s a Colorado thing, but it’s also very rare.”
This piece and a 17th-century French limestone mantel serve as bookends to the living room’s “zoo of things.” Powers’ descriptions feature a variety of furniture, from Fortuny’s new damask-upholstered lounge chair to his 18th-century Spanish armchair, vintage. Italian chandelier and Chinoiserie coffee table.
“My wife loves all the little nuances of antiquity,” says the designer, who says he made sure the well-worn, patinaed pieces occupied every eye. In the powder room, an 18th-century French stone sink sits atop a soapstone countertop. Dining In his room, a long table custom-built from 17th-century Belgian barn beams complements the warm tones of antique wallpaper panels that Powers hangs as art in bronze frames. In the kitchen, where every detail is new, we relied on custom finishes to convey a sense of authenticity, from the glazing on the cabinets to the brushed patina on the steel hood.
Perhaps no room communicates a client’s style more clearly than the master bedroom. In the master bedroom, grass wallpaper, which Powers ran up to the vaulted ceiling to “envelop the space,” provides a warm backdrop for formal furniture such as skirted nightstands. Luxury beds are upholstered in velvet and dressed in crisp linens. “This isn’t your typical Aspen bedroom. They’re press sheet people,” laughs Powers.
However, the colors favored by homeowners – rich creams, mint greens and pale blues – maintain an easy-going and calm atmosphere. “When we’re in Colorado, we don’t want to overtake the natural beauty, so it was especially important for us to keep the palette soft,” explains Powers. “What I love about people who love Aspen is that the outdoors is paramount. [for them]. My job was to make sure these interiors never competed with it. ”
interior design: J. Randall Powers Home Decor
Architecture: Gretchen Greenwood & Associates
construction: hansen construction