In a penthouse high above Vail Village, crisp lines, warm textiles and a refined rusticity add up to elegant mountain-modern style
Interior designer Melissa Greenauer was familiar with her clients’ tastes and priorities when she embarked upon the design of their penthouse at Vail’s chic Solaris Residences: great style, unfettered views of the mountains, and a space that comfortably accommodates family and lively entertaining. “We picked a neutral path between a scaled-back Western ruggedness and upscale European sophistication,” Greenauer says. One of the most impactful moves the designer made was to paint the ceiling a dark ebony hue. “At first we went with a lighter color, which cast an orange tone,” she says. “Somehow the effect wasn’t quite right and my clients agreed with going darker. The payoff? A bold balance of light and dark that gives the penthouse extra oomph.”
The big picture established, Greenauer turned her eye toward small, unique features: leather-embossed stair risers, a painted-glass wall in the bar, and contemporary lighting that reflects her clients’ passion for form and function. “It’s the tiny details that build on each other and cumulatively tie everything together,” she says. “I have a fondness for the finer points in the design process, because that’s what allows homeowners to develop a bespoke design that’s entirely their own.”
Intricately carved custom leather panels inserted into the risers transform a nondescript stairway into a work of art. Strands of two-toned leather wrapped around the banister complete the look. In the dining room, the two-toned motif continues with a wooden table that can be lengthened and reconfigured with extra leaves. The chair legs complement the table base to anchor the space visually, while the upholstery fabric, reminiscent of snowflakes, imbues the room with a touch of whimsy. But the pièce de résistance is the massive bronze chandelier that adds dynamic rhythm to the fixed lines below—and can be moved to accommodate different seating layouts.
SMALL DETAILS, BIG IMPACT
Above the bar area, pendant lights hang from an arced bronze-finished light fixture, designed by Greenauer to soften the dramatic lines of the ceiling. A game table, with a unique tree-shaped base, echoes the organic curve of the light fixture; its dual tones recall the dining table’s interplay of light and dark wood finishes. In the evenings, the bar wall, clad with a putty-colored painted glass, gives off a sexy, muted glow. On the bar’s top shelf, the homeowners’ custom-made tequila boxes pay homage to their Mexican roots. A carefully calibrated mix of tones and textures—bar cabinets with stamped-leather fronts, custom bronze appliance door panels, creamy chair fabrics and bar top, raffia chandelier—make for a sophisticated, nuanced palette.
The penthouse’s open plan, broken into more intimate areas for dining, socializing and lounging, perfectly accommodates the homeowners’ love for entertaining. Its clean, crisp and contemporary design is the result of careful advance planning. Visual clutter such as air vents were strategically hidden, resulting in unmarred expanses of wall and ceiling. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors suffuse the space with natural light. And furnishings were carefully positioned to create a heightened sense of order and flow. Textured fabrics keep the spaces from feeling too formal and add tactile interest—and a feminine touch—to the neutral color scheme.
One of the challenges posed by an open floor plan is creating spaces that feel unified but distinct. Striking the right balance requires attention to color, scale and texture. Here, interior designer Melissa Greenauer shares her top tips for getting it right:
Color: Start light and go dark, as it’s more difficult to undo a darker color. Add color in stages, massaging the design as you go to fit the space. The owners of this penthouse originally wanted a much lighter, reddish color for the ceiling, but discovered it felt too airy. They decided to take the plunge and go for a dark chocolate stain.
Scale: It’s crucial to get the scale of furnishings right. Start by building a good foundation and
acquiring slowly, assessing the impact each new element has on the space. Don’t try to furnish a home in one shopping spree.
Texture and materials: Repeat details for continuity. Greenauer wove a nail-head motif throughout the penthouse to create an expressive pattern language unique to her clients. Another recurring detail the designer helped orchestrate: two-toned wood tables that echo and play off of one another. Variety creates richness, but repetition, in the right dose, hits the sweet spot of tranquility.
INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN Melissa Greenauer, Greenauer Design Group, Vail, CO, 970-477-1783, greenauer.com