An Art Collector’s Dream Home in Aspen

When a pair of philanthropists and art collectors from Chicago first saw their dream home in Aspen’s exclusive Red Mountain neighborhood, it was unfinished and under construction. Nevertheless, they fell in love with the site, with the incredible views of Aspen Mountain and even with the half-built house itself.

The team they put together to move their home-building project forward included architect David Johnston, interior architect Richard Mullen and interior designer Barbara Glass (both working with Caroline-Edwards, Inc., at the time). The homeowners also sought assistance from Margot Bowen, their Illinois-based art consultant. The entire project took more than 24 months, during which everyone collaborated closely to create a 9,000-square-foot, five-bedroom, seven-bath family home that is refined but not too formal.

“We wanted a traditional home, but one that could showcase our collection of contemporary art,” says the homeowner. And it would have to be a home that could stand up to growing kids and big dogs, and be the kind of place where “people could put their feet up and relax,” she adds.

The homeowners were clear that they did not want the “mountain man” look, nor did they want anything strongly contemporary. What they did want were large, view-framing windows; good lighting; comfortable and durable furniture, sturdy but elegant fabrics and, most important, lots of wall space for their well-curated art collection. Architect David Johnston immediately understood the owners’ desire for Old World mountain design, traditional craftsmanship and solid construction.

Richard Mullen, the interior architect, worked closely with Johnston and the homeowners to plan the interiors—wall placement, fireplaces, stairs, bathrooms, wall and ceiling treatments. “The owners embraced the creative use of materials which give the home a one-of-a-kind ambience,” he says. The intricately laid cobble-block floor in the entry is a case in point: “It is the end-grain of the wood, cross cut to resemble cobblestones,” Mullen explains. The beams in the dining room were made with reclaimed lumber from razed barns in the Midwest and left “in all their distressed splendor.”

“The homeowners brought enthusiasm and creative energy to the project,” says interior designer Barbara Glass. In the living room, Glass created an atmosphere of casual elegance with comfortable chairs and sofas, upholstered linens and wools in the homeowners’ favorite colors—green, brown and tan—“a quiet palette.” Botanical fabrics, acres of natural stone and wood combined with the large windows seem to bring the outdoors in.

In the master bedroom, a stone fireplace at one end is balanced by a floor-to-ceiling window with views of Aspen Mountain (called Ajax by locals) at the other end. This is precisely the view that captivated the homeowners when they first toured the building site.

Art consultant Margot Bowen worked alongside the homeowners to create a unified vision of art in their new home. “The homeowner has an accurate and decisive eye,” she says. “She knew exactly what she loved and precisely where it was going to go in the house.” The very first purchase was the monumental Frank Stella that’s over the fireplace in the living room. Bowen adds that the home’s neutral palette is perfect for displaying colorful (and sometimes large) contemporary pieces. Picasso ceramics—the owners’ favorites—are displayed throughout the home. “In the entry, for example, ceramic faces on both walls greet you when you come through the door,” she says. And the upstairs hall is a mini art gallery with Josef Albers and Kenneth Noland works on the walls and Picasso ceramics displayed on pedestals.

Eclectic. Warm. Comfortable. A place to showcase a collection of contemporary art. “And always full,” says the homeowner. “The kids bring friends and we have lots of dogs.”


Interior architect Richard Mullen knows that lighting is important when creating an inviting room. “If the lighting is good, you will not notice it,” he says. “If it is bad, you certainly will.” It is all about layering—direct, ambient and task lighting.

DIRECT—In the dining room, Mullen created three layers of light. Direct lights (with dimmers) are placed to light artwork and “so you can see your food.”

AMBIENT—Ambient lighting comes from the chandelier and sconces. Indirect cove lighting—more indirect and ambient—bounces light off the ceiling and provides an even wash of warm light. “When three or four layers of light are blended together, you can enrich a room,” Mullen explains.

TASK—“In another setting—a kitchen, living room or bathroom—where you might be cooking or reading or applying makeup, I would add another layer of lighting,” Mullen says. These are typically table or floor lamps, desk lamps, under-cabinet lighting and vanity lights.

ART—To properly light works of art, Mullen recommends ceiling-mounted accent lights (or can lights), track lights (favored by art galleries for their flexibility) or, for that Old Masters look, picture lights mounted directly on the frame. 



Categories: Contemporary Homes