The opportunity for an architectural do-over is rare in Aspen’s West End, where the Historic Preservation Committee keeps close watch over every addition and alteration made to the neighborhood’s charming homes, many of which have been around since miners and silver barons first settled in town more than a century ago.
So when a corner lot occupied by a 1970s-era house came up for sale just a few blocks away from their West End summer home, a Houston-based couple saw their chance. Certain that the Historical Preservation Committee would find nothing there worthy of saving, they purchased the property and began making plans to rebuild the home from the ground up. At their former residence, a gingerbread-trimmed Victorian, a historical designation had prevented them from changing much more than the paint color. But here, they’d be able to explore a style all their own.
The homeowners had already drafted initial plans with a local architect by the time their longtime designer, J. Randall Powers, entered the picture, but they sought his guidance on all the details that would shape the home’s style. For the exterior, the Houston-based designer specified hand-cut cedar shake shingles, a keyhole-shaped entryway clad in copper, and stone detailing “that’s more in line with what you’d see in Europe than in Colorado,” Powers says. Inside, he added antiqued oak flooring, plastered the walls and baseboards, and designed a stair railing with bronze balusters that are “beautifully subtle,” he says. “Our vision was that you might have been wandering through the Belgian countryside and stumbled upon this house. Nothing about it was meant to scream that it was new.”
Nor was it intended to announce “mountain house” with the typical trappings of alpine decor. “The clients are more informal with their lifestyle here; they love to throw open all the doors leading to the garden,” Powers says, “but their style is traditional; their happy place has a little bit of fanciness.”
A massive, antique French faux bois table, placed behind one of the living room’s sofas, is one of the first things guests encounter upon passing through the front door—and was the first piece Powers selected for the house. “I said, ‘This is the direction we’re going to take with the interiors,’” he notes. “It’s a nod to Colorado but also so unusual.”
This piece and a 17th-century French limestone mantel serve as bookends for the living room’s “menagerie of things”—Powers’ description of furnishings that range from a new lounge chair upholstered in a Fortuny damask to an 18th-century Spanish armchair, a vintage Italian chandelier, and a chinoiserie coffee table.
“The wife loves all the little nuances of antiquity,” notes the designer, who ensured that pieces with a timeworn patina would occupy most every sightline. In the powder room, an 18th-century French stone sink rests on a floating soapstone countertop. In the dining room, a long table custom-made from 17th-century Belgian barn beams complements the warm tones of antique wallpaper panels, which Powers placed in bronze frames and hung as art. In the kitchen, where every detail is new, he relied on custom finishes to convey a sense of authenticity, from glazing on the cabinetry to a brushed patina on the steel hood.
Perhaps no room conveys the clients’ style more clearly than the main bedroom, where a grasscloth wallcovering—which Powers took all the way up onto the vaulted ceiling to “cocoon the space”—provides a warm backdrop for formal furnishings that include skirted nightstands and a grand, velvet-upholstered bed dressed in crisp linens. “This is not your typical Aspen bedroom; these are pressed-sheet people,” Powers laughs.
The colors the homeowners favor, however—rich creams, mint greens, and pale blues—maintain an easy and serene mood. “It was especially important to keep the palette soft, because when you’re in Colorado, you don’t want to overtake the beauty of nature,” Powers explains. “What I love about people who love Aspen is that the outdoors are paramount [for them]. My job was to ensure that these interiors would never compete with that.”
Christine DeOrio I 5280 I August 2023