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Hidden Potential

A light palette, plenty of texture and a few eye-catching features (that bookcase!) give this renovated condo modern appeal



Kimberly Gavin

Sometimes the best home-design ideas are hiding just out of sight. The new owners of this top-floor condo in Vail wanted to liberate it from its original 1970s ski-town trappings—dark wood floors, an earnest stone fireplace, a smattering of brown leather furniture—and create a modern, sophisticated retreat. They also had a more challenging request: add a fourth bedroom.

“We just couldn’t figure it out,” says architect Russell Gies. “We entertained several ideas, none of which would have worked in such a small space.”

Then one day, on a whim, Gies passed up the elevator and left the condo by way of the building’s fire-exit staircase. He looked up to discover that the stairwell had 25-foot ceilings, “air space” adjacent to his clients’ condo. The homeowners eventually bought that space from the homeowners’ association, and Gies’ design transformed the emptiness into a fourth bedroom. That moment was the project’s tipping point, remembers Gies, inspiring the clients to dream big. “If we could create a room out of nothing,” the architect says, “what else could we do?”

Design magic, that’s what. “The clients have a very sharp eye for style,” says Tracie Schumacher, principal of Studio 80 Interior Design in Eagle, Colorado. “They love high-end modern design, so we interpreted that with a mountain flair.” Rift-cut white oak flooring and wall paneling nod to the high country while giving the 1,500-square-foot home brightness that’s enhanced by the light filtering in through the south-facing windows. On the main level, where the kitchen, living and dining rooms open to one another, a limestone fireplace wall is a rugged foil to the minimalist steel staircase and full-height bookshelf, which is only three inches deep to save space (and forces the owners to buy only books with the most gorgeous jackets). The walls not clad in oak are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Navajo White. “The use of wood, stone and steel gives the interiors such richness,” Schumacher says. “And the color palette keeps it feeling spacious.”

The kitchen was most at risk of feeling like a cave—it lacks the living room’s windows and vaulted ceilings—but Schumacher transformed it into a bright, contemporary space marked by striking contrast. Sleek cabinets are stained a dark charcoal hue, and the white granite countertops match the full-height backsplash—proving, as the designer insists, that a simple palette of materials is best for a small space. The substantive stone island’s cube shape has stylistic siblings in the custom hood, the living room fireplace and the powder room vanity. “You could say we played with blocks,” Schumacher says. “The repetition of a theme makes a space feel good, as long as it’s not too over-the-top.”

To complement all these right angles, Schumacher added a few flirtatious curves: Dining chairs from Design Within Reach soften the sharp lines of the dining room, a shapely yellow chair from BoConcept functions as a kind of sculpture in the living room, and curved-back stools from A. Rudin surround a custom-made game table by Colorado Springs-based Braverman Furniture.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a study in serenity. Once again, the design team painted the walls and ceilings with Benjamin Moore’s Navajo White hue to make the room feel airy. Simple white linens, topped with a few punchy custom pillows and a fur throw, cover the bed. Schumacher mounted the sconces for a cleaner look than traditional table lamps would give. “It feels like a cabin, just a more modern cabin,” she says. “As we did with the rest of the house, we stripped away the excess, the heaviness, and let beautiful things stand out.” 

SPACE-MAKERS 
Need a few extra square feet? Here’s where to find them: 

CLOSETS Designer Tracie Schumacher says traditional closets are so 19th century. “We aren’t hanging ball gowns anymore,” she says. “We don’t need 10 feet of tall hanging space.” Instead, she recommends custom built-in pieces that allow you to decide exactly how you want to store clothes, shoes and accessories. 

HALLWAYS Architect Russell Gies banished these space hogs. “The only hallway in this unit is the staircase,” he says. “Every space simply feeds into another space.” Ask your architect to consider following Gies’ lead by creating a layout that flows without the use of hallways. 

ENTRIES Instead of devoting precious square footage to a grand foyer, take cues from this home and make your entry small and smart: Store shoes under a bench, and hang coats in an armoire that’s understated and handsome. Here, a large mirror makes the space feel larger than it is, and recessed lights brighten the room. 

ARCHITECTURE GIES ARCHITECTS, Eagle, CO, (970) 471-5102, giesarchitects.com INTERIOR DESIGN STUDIO 80 INTERIOR DESIGN, Eagle, CO, (970) 337-4770, studio80id.com CONSTRUCTION HEID CONSTRUCTION, Edwards, CO, (970) 390-2674, heidcustombuilders.com CUSTOM METAL WORK EDGE WELDING, Gypsum, CO, (970) 524-1070 WOOD WALL AND FLOORING SWANAPOOL PAINTING AND FLOORING, Gypsum, CO, (970) 524-4500, swanepoelpainting.com CABINETRY ELEGANT CABINETRY AND DESIGN, Avon, CO, (970) 748-3111, elegantcabinetry.com LIVING ROOM SECTIONAL SOFA and YELLOW CHAIR Bo Concept, boconcept.com/en-us GREY TONE CUSTOM AREA RUG The Scarab, Minturn, CO, (970) 949-1730, thescarab.com CUSTOM FUR PILLOW Renata's Linens, Edwards, CO, (970) 926-6601, renataslinens.com BLACK ACCENT PILLOW IKEA, ikea.com CUSTOM METAL COFFEE TABLE Edge Welding, Gypsum, CO, (970) 524-1070 SIDE TABLE Poliform, Studio Como, Denver, CO, (303) 296-1495, studiocomo.com PILLOW ON CHAIR Tabula Rasa, Denver, CO, tabularasa-ny.com/collection CUSTOM HIGH TOP GAME TABLE Braverman Furniture, Colorado Springs, CO, (719) 661-1613, bravermanfurniture.com BAR STOOLS A Rudin, Egg and Dart, Denver, CO, (303) 744-6742, egg-and-dart.com DINING ROOM DINING CHAIRS Design Within Reach, dwr.com CANDLE HOLDER IKEA, ikea.com CUSTOM DINING TABLE Braverman Furniture, Colorado Springs, CO, (719) 661-1613, bravermanfurniture.com KITCHEN WHITE GRANITE COUNTERTOPS Capco Tile, Denver, CO, (303) 759-1919, capcotile.com REFRIGERATOR Sub-Zero, DCA, Eagle, CO, (970) 748-6442, kitchensofcolorado.com/discountcabinetsandappliances RANGE Wolf, DCA, Eagle, CO, (970) 748-6442, kitchensofcolorado.com/discountcabinetsandappliances LADY LUX KITCHEN FAUCET Grohe, Dahl Plumbing, Avon, CO, (970) 949-9101, dahlplumbing.com CABINET PULLS Noblis, Alpine Builders Hardware, Edwards, CO, (970) 926-7233, alpinebuildershardware.com POWDER ROOM SINK Stone Forest, Decorative Materials, Avon, CO, (970) 926-2322, decorativematerials.com FAUCET Lacava, Dahl Plumbing, Avon, CO, (970) 949-9101, dahlplumbing.com BEDROOM CUSTOM FUR THROW, Renata's Linens, Edwards, CO, (970) 926-6601, renataslinens.com CUSTOM PILLOWS Fabric by Carley Kahn, (503) 308-0288, carleykahn.com UPHOLSTERY Tailored Interiors, Edwards, CO, (970) 926-7399, tailoredinteriorsvail.com CUSTOM NIGHTSTAND AND DESK Braverman Furniture, Colorado Springs, CO, (719) 661-1613, bravermanfurniture.com WALL SCONCES Holtkotter, Lighting Universe, (888) 404-2744, lightinguniverse.com MASTER BATH TILE Artistic Tile, Decorative Materials, Avon, CO, (970) 926-2322, decorativematerials.com WALL SCONCES Sonneman, Y Lighting, (866) 428-9289, ylighting.com SINK Kohler, Dahl Plumbing, Avon, CO, (970) 949-9101, dahlplumbing.com FAUCET Grohe, Dahl Plumbing, Avon, CO, (970) 949-9101, dahlplumbing.com COUNTERTOP Caesarstone, caesarstoneus.com TOWEL BARS Ginger Kubic, Alpine Builders Hardware, Edwards, CO, (970) 926-7233, alpinebuildershardware.com ENTRY LIGHTS Fontana Arte, Y Lighting, ylighting.com CUSTOM BENCH Braverman Furniture, Colorado Springs, CO, (719) 661-1613, bravermanfurniture.com RIFT CUT WHITE OAK FLOORING, WALL PANELING AND INTERIOR DOORS Pure Woodworking, Avon, CO, (970) 748-0649

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