Meandering along a pebbled hillside pathway, stands of quaking aspen trees competing for attention with intoxicating views over Aspen (and to the iconic ski slopes beyond), it’s easy to understand the pull the property has had on its owners, whose story there evolved from the renovation of an older French Chateau–style home to the addition of a minimalist, art-centric passion project.
“When we first met, they were living in New York and spending as much time as they could in Aspen,” explains John Rowland, Founding Principal along with his wife, Sarah Broughton, of Aspen–based Rowland+Broughton Architecture. “They knew our work from homes we’ve done for mutual friends. Over time, our relationship grew. When they found the home on Red Mountain, they engaged us to help reimagine aspects of the space.”
Appreciating the scale and bones and flow of the home, and respecting the integrity of previous efforts by interior designer Charlotte Moss, Rowland and his team set to work. “We modernized and reworked the kitchen to accommodate the needs of the owners, added beams to the dining room, and dramatically opened up the hall to the master, among other things,” he relates. “We got them settled in.” Los Angeles-based interior design firm Atelier AM collaborated on furniture selection.
A few years later, a combination of circumstances led to the need for expansion. “Not surprisingly, they’d been experiencing the challenges of hosting extended family visits over the holidays,” explains Rowland. “At the same time, their mutual passion for the arts had evolved into hosting philanthropic and community events. They needed a way to entertain without disrupting the family household.”
Initially, the concept for the new structure was inspired by the owners’ idea of building a “simple barn” on the adjoining site. “(The husband), an architecture connoisseur, had a vision of a simple singular form – easy to build and with a minimalist aesthetic that would accommodate extended family as needed, as well as an overflow of collected artwork,” says Rowland. “We dug in and embraced the form.”
Positioned so that the entry façade addresses a pastoral ranch meadow and the rear façade frames the aforementioned views, the structure’s 113-foot-long singular gable, standing seam zinc roofline and minimalist shou sugi ban siding (both left untreated to age naturally over time) suggest a simple, pure design. True to form (Rowland expresses that, as a firm, they like to let each project evolve as they go, allowing for the process of discovery along the way), the design concept carries through to the inside.
Natural European white oak flooring evokes a sense of calm, and minimally framed windows and doors bring in an abundance of natural light. In addition to supporting the roof, 18-inch-thick, light gray plaster walls allow for oversized pocket window-door systems and provide the optimal backdrop for artwork.
With an increased emphasis on using the space for musical receptions and dinner parties in support of the local art community, the great room was designed for maximum flexibility. Furnishings could be easily reconfigured or removed. Curated artwork, including a colorful wall drawing titled “Wall Drawing 578” by Sol LeWitt and a solar powered mobile by Björn Schülke, were integrated into the space. Additionally, two distinct gallery spaces were designed to display a vast range of video art arrangements based on how an artist conceives a piece.
A “crescendo” of the project, as Rowland likes to refer to it, is a modern interpretation of an authentic Japanese tearoom. “It was inspired by (the wife’s) appreciation of traditional Japanese culture and tea ceremonies experienced during visits to Japan,” he notes. Opening onto a serene tea garden, the tearoom features specially sourced Japanese materials and detailing, including sliding shoji with hand-made Japanese shoji paper inlay, western red cedar wall paneling, Arakabe plaster and handmade tatami mats.
At a private event celebrating completion of the project, the first art installation was introduced by the head of video art at the Whitney Museum, and International Japanese video and photographic artist Mariko Mori gave a special performance in the tea garden. “It was the ultimate tribute to a thoughtful, purposeful project, and to the sensibilities of the owners,” notes Rowland. “As with the overall project, there was a high level of execution of detail. It was artfully done.”
Photography by Brent Moss.
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