A Sleek and Modern Ski Retreat in Vail
Art collectors create an astonishingly modern ski retreat on eight wooded acres abutting the White River National Forest in Vail
Southern California-based interior designer Paige Hill has a strong penchant for modern milieus. Think sleek and masculine with clean lines and organic touches. The aesthetic, she says, is an ideal backdrop for her and her husband Michael (“Hilly”) Hill’s eclectic art collection. “I’m a one-trick pony,” she admits. “The modern aesthetic is just what I’m drawn to.”
In addition to the many modern interiors Paige has created over the years, she and Hilly developed and quickly sold several uber-contemporary duplexes by architect Chris Brandon. “Chris is open to my strange ideas, and neither of us is afraid to try things,” Paige says.
When the skiing enthusiasts purchased eight acres of pristine wilderness in Vail, Colorado, they once again tapped Brandon to design their modern mountain retreat. The result is a boxy abode clad with white stucco, whitewashed cedar siding, porcelain tile reminiscent of natural stone and Swiss Pearl, a composite material that resembles steel.
Visible from inside and out, a three-story exposed concrete wall divides the building’s two units, which imperfectly reflect one another. For example, Paige and Hilly’s third-floor master suite cantilevers over the private forested hillside while the neighboring unit’s first-floor living area seems to float over Vail Valley. “It’s dynamic, not just a static bunch of boxes sitting on the hillside,” Brandon explains.
Working with the massive steel required to support those cantilevered forms during often inclement weather wasn’t easy— one of many challenges for the team at Meadow Mountain Homes, who worked closely with senior project manager Alex Dammeyer and on-site manager Tom Wood on the job.
But the team resolved those difficulties, rerouting water off the site, blasting massive boulders when they were too heavy to move and quickly learning the ins and outs of building such a modern structure.
“In a more rustic home, little blemishes are not as noticeable,” Sean McGinley says. “In modern homes, everything needs to be perfectly squared. There’s no latitude for mistakes.”
That was also the case for the 70-by-40-foot, 12-inch-thick concrete demising wall, which the builders poured in phases, carefully placing the control joints according to the architectural plans. A stunning focal point in the great room, the textural concrete is juxtaposed by a dramatic staircase with illuminated treads and a sleek vertical steel-rod railing that floats in front of it.
According to Paige Hill, that mix of influences adds a sense of warmth not always found in such modern spaces. “It’s really cozy considering how much glass, concrete and steel there is,” she says.
Color and lighting plays a crucial role in that endeavor. The kitchen, for example, is outfitted with high-gloss, sapphire-blue perimeter cabinetry. “Everybody thought I was nuts, but they feel so elegant,” Paige says. It turned out so well, she had the front door painted in the same hue.
The bold pops of color throughout play off the couple’s extensive art collection, which includes several pieces by internationally renowned graffiti artists Yok and Sheryo, who stayed at the house for 10 days while they worked. Their tags grace the concrete retaining wall in the lower-level bedroom corridor and, framed perfectly by a window in the elevator, each floor inside the shaft.
“They had a more fun, juvenile style to their work,” Paige says. “I wanted a cartoon feel to the work with a lot of color as opposed to patterns or abstract images.”
Embodying Paige and Hilly’s style in a sumptuous way, the house has become a winter respite for the couple, who enjoy hitting the slopes, dining in downtown Vail and hosting family and friends from around the country. More recently, they retreated there to shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Almost every day, we look at each other and kind of giggle,” Paige says. “Pinch me.”
This modernist mountain home by architect Chris Brandon proves the old adage that design is in the details:
THE WINE CELLAR Rather than using energy to cool the wine cellar, Brandon placed it against the concrete demising wall between the two units. When the temperature outside drops, so does the concrete, keeping the wine at an even 58 degrees. “We knew, from experience, that wine was going to be important,” Brandon says. THE GLASS FLOOR Located along the patio doors in the great room, a glass section in the floor floods a dark lower-level corridor with natural daylight. “I didn’t want it to feel like a dark dungeon down there,” Brandon explains. THE BOUTIQUE-LIKE CLOSET Creating an unexpected touch of glam, homeowner and interior designer Paige Hill used beads in lieu of closet doors in her spacious closet. “There’s movement, and they almost feel like jewelry,” she explains. “I wanted that shimmer.” Equally fun is the lacquer yellow cabinet from Porcelanosa and the matching bedroom door. “It’s just paint,” Paige says. “Live a little.”