The key ingredients for any successful building are point of view, poetry, theme, composition and lighting. This is doubly true in the case of historic properties that are worthy of conservation by their very nature. Everything about one such property, forever to be known as the Harold Ross house, is discreet—fitting in rather than standing out—in the spirit of old Aspen.
The seemingly irreconcilable objectives of preservation and living have been amply fulfilled in the responsibly restored 1890s miner’s cabin in Aspen’s West End, once home to the larger-than-life Harold W. Ross, who was born in Aspen in 1892. With no more than a 10th-grade education, Ross’ irrepressible spirit and bristling intellect led him to become the founding editor of the urbane and witty The New Yorker magazine and one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table, a group that came to epitomize the pinnacle of New York sophistication.
The history of the Harold Ross house mirrors the history of Aspen. Once a modest homestead and miner’s cabin, it sits across the street from Jerome Wheeler’s considerably more elegant and flamboyant home. It witnessed Aspen’s silver boom, then bust—when silver prices crashed in 1893—and the ensuing quiet years. In the ’40s and ’50s, the single-chair Lift 1 opened for business; the first commercial flight took off at Sardy Field; and the Aspen Institute was founded. By the 1970s, Aspen was a popular getaway for celebrities, and Harold Ross’ house became a historic landmark.
Over the years, the house went through many owners and reincarnations before Workshop/ADP, the New York-based architecture and interior design firm led by Matt Berman and Andrew Kotchen, along with Poss Architecture + Planning, renovated it into a marvel of current and relevant style for a New York family with three children who love to ski.
Facing Ruth Whyte Park with staggering views of Shadow Mountain from the roof deck, the building exudes a generous air of quietude. When viewed from Bleeker Street, the new building radiates a cottage feel, belying its large 4,636-square-foot, three-level interior. Restored with an eye to its origins, the bones of the cabin are still visible in the complex cross gable-roof structure that speaks a traditional classic architectural language. Materials for the exterior were specifically chosen for aging well, graying and softening, allowing the building to blend into its wooded and snowy surroundings. The pièce de résistance is a 25-foot slatted wood exterior wall. Three-dimensional, it adds texture and fluidity to the facade so the lines of the house recall a miner’s cabin.
“Flowing and free” best describes this home that invites Aspen’s quintessential mountain views from within by mixing and matching wood and stone exteriors, materials for pathways and walls, and incorporating sculptural furniture into the decor. The slatted wood exterior wall disappears into the surrounding trees; this is where the poetry emerges.
Part of the triumph of this home relies on a cohesive design, balancing perfectly the interior and the exterior, which gracefully echo mountain themes. Full of generous nooks appointed with carefully selected bespoke biomorphic furniture in fur and leather—equally at home as objets d’art or furniture— the owners’ artistic leanings and whimsy are given free reign.
Upon entering, one is delighted with a Haas Brothers iconic sheepskin Beast club chair with carved horns, reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. The modern styling, including Mole chairs by Sergio Rodrigues, side tables from Holly Hunt and Scala Luxury scattered through the house, is cleverly highlighted by marvels of luxe lighting from Apparatus and Matter. Rich and plush textures of fur and pile carpets add an alluring softness that complements the hypercontemporary art collection on the walls.
Houses transform into homes when they touch our emotions. The historic Ross home, understated and sublime, imparts a sense