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Eco with an Edge
Kate Abney | Photo: Brent Moss | July 8, 2013
An accomplished design team creates a fresh, healthy vacation retreat where three generations can happily convene.
A Denver family owned a comfortable-yet-outdated Aspen vacation home for nearly four decades, until, after discovering toxic materials, they made the decision to gut it. Sadly, the 1969 ranch sat unused for years, as they searched high and low for the best way to bring it back to life.
Then, one day, the homeowner learned about design firm Rowland+Broughton via a newspaper clipping in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. After talks with firm principal Sarah Broughton, she knew R+B would be the firm to transform her home into a place where her children and grandchildren could feel happy, healthy and safe. “It was important for family health to have materials carefully vetted by our daughter and the team,” explains the homeowner. “Every detail was assessed so that our home would provide a clean and environmentally friendly place to live.” Having worked on one “healthy” home previously, Broughton dove headfirst into this ambitious renovation.
Close attention to detail made it a lengthy project indeed. The team looked at the material safety data sheets for every last building material, even the concrete (chosen for its minimal fly ash content). They made sure everything was formaldehyde-free, and selected insulated glass windows and bio-based spray foam insulation, as well as wood that was Forest Stewardship Council-certified. Windows were assembled from untreated parts, and rift-sawn oak doors were devoid of fire-retardant chemicals. In many cases, the speed of new technology meant that these eco materials were new to the construction field, requiring intense research and consideration. Thankfully, this was something one of the family members knew a lot about.
“I joked with the daughter, ‘If I was getting married right now, you would be in my wedding,’” recalls Broughton. “That’s how much time we spent together vetting these products. I think we spoke every night for nine months.” Broughton so enjoyed what she learned during the process, she now lectures on the topic.
“We enjoyed working with Sarah, who is young, talented, bright and funny,” the homeowner adds. “There was plenty of laughter, certainly very important in the recipe for working together. Building a home can be a nightmare. We were fortunate to have had a great experience, one [that] transformed a very tired home into a place we love.”
For this now modernized ranch, the difference is night and day. One of the sole vestiges of the once-dark and clunky residence are its wood ceiling beams, now sandwiched between sleek steel plates. Here, and throughout the sun-splashed space, custom fixtures give the lighting scheme a layered and luxe effect. Expansive picture windows invite panoramic views of the magnificent Maroon Bells, and a new, sculptural staircase anchors the home’s open format while looking light-as-air—a feat of modern engineering in steel and glass. Above it is a series of artwork from the family’s existing collection—by Russian artists Komar and Melamid—hung masterfully by Jerry Gillespie.
To accommodate the family’s expanding brood of youngsters, a third-story loft level was also added, complete with daybeds, a TV viewing area and a well-equipped bath. Bedrooms were relegated to the basement, where Broughton maximized every centimeter of space stupendously. It’s superefficient and, due to its sunny exposure, remains flooded with light.
Throughout the home, all low- or no-VOC paint options were subjected to smell tests, and any noxious fumes were instantly nixed. The result is a home that smells and feels as fresh as it looks. That feeling is enhanced by the calming color palette—soothing taupes mingle with pops of juicy green and raspberry, appearing everywhere from the curvy B&B Italia chairs to the Ann Sacks tile band that spans the kitchen backsplash. The kitchen, for that matter, represents a stroke of ingenuity from the project’s interior designer, longtime family friend Wendy Silverman, who had previously spent innumerable holidays at this home in Aspen. Having cooked and entertained with the family for decades, she suggested a multizone, free-flowing layout that was a huge hit.
Built-in furnishings, a hallmark of Rowland+Broughton’s work, abound—from the platform beds, to the stylish vanities, to the butler’s pantry cabinetry, all handcrafted by BenchCraft Custom Woodwork. They boast natural and nontoxic finishes, while eco-upholstery rounds out the “green” requirement. Tables with eco finishes were custom-designed for ease of entertaining, while designers and architects came together to give the family incredible storage capacity. From kitchen tools to skiing equipment, everything has its place.
“It was so well-thought-out,” says the homeowner. “Such an economy of space had never been part of the picture before.” Understated, but well-functioning, it’s a residence the family longs to return to again and again. Part of that reason? “We never compromised aesthetics to achieve this goal of a healthy home,” Broughton affirms. As this team proves, you don’t have to.