Island Style in a High-Country Home

James Manard

Hawaii-based hoteliers Mike and Aida Paulin certainly weren’t looking for a new home when they took a vacation to visit good friends in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. Having lived in Hawaii for 40 years, the Paulins were just preparing to sell the boutique hotel company they owned. But, as they sat outside admiring the sweeping views, their friends happened to mention that the home next door was for sale. And it seems the charm of the mountains can tempt even island dwellers.

“The house wasn’t ideal,” Mike says of the property, which is located in Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch community, about 30 miles outside of Aspen. “The setting was beautiful, but the home’s aesthetic was boxy and the floor plan didn’t relate to the outdoor spaces. But on the plus side, we knew if we bought it we’d have great neighbors.”

With homes in Maui and Oahu as well as in sunny Sedona, Arizona, and Las Vegas, the Paulins are passionate about enjoying the outdoors and knew they wanted to open up their Colorado house to take full advantage of the views and mountain air. To create the indoor-outdoor connection they craved, the couple hired architect John Baker to reimagine the home.

Baker, principal of Carbondale-based Baker Design Group, specified a major remodel of the space and a large addition to make way for a new kitchen, master suite and dining pavilion. He also made a key decision to open up the back of the house to allow all of the main living areas to flow out to an expansive patio that faces Mount Sopris.

In the great room, 9-foot-tall glass doors open wide to merge the living area and patio. An adjacent casual dining area also opens to the outdoors. And in the new dining pavilion, Baker had the two walls facing the patio fitted with a folding glass panel that can be pushed completely open, transforming the dining room, and even the kitchen, into indoor/outdoor spaces. Even the home office offers access to the patio—and hot tub—via folding doors.

Debra Browne, of Harrison Browne Interior Design, selected a palette of warm colors and textures to unify the home’s interior and exterior spaces. “Throughout the home and patio, we had a theme of browns, taupes and coppers,” she says. The new focal point of the great room became a massive stone fireplace open on three sides. To give the lofty space a more “human scale,” Browne accented the mahogany paneling with a dark walnut molding inset with a glint of copper.

The former kitchen was transformed into a stunning glass-enclosed wine room with floating shelves that hold nearly 1,000 bottles. The new kitchen features a six-burner range, an oversized prep and serving island, and custom cabinetry built of Hawaiian koa wood. “Koa has a beautiful, golden translucent quality,” Browne says. A walk-in pantry is outfitted with a refrigerator, a dedicated set of pots and pans, and two sinks to accommodate caterers for large parties.

The new dining pavilion satisfied Aida’s desire to capture the spirit of the open-air seating she loved in Hawaii. The extended space features an indoor/outdoor grill and a large table that seats 14 guests. A peaked skylight bathes the space in natural light by day and starlight at night.

The Paulins call the inviting new pavilion area the Aloha Room. “Mike and I think of ‘aloha’ as an expression of love and friendship,” Aida says. “It means we want you to feel completely welcome here, and make yourself at home.”

The massive great room fireplace is open on three sides and modeled after a similar one the Paulins saw in a hotel during their travels. Towering draperies of patterned Donghia fabric inspired the room’s copper-and-taupe palette.

Folding doors open wide, extending the great room to the patio. To offset the space’s tall scale, interior designer Debra Browne had a border of copper-trimmed dark walnut added to the mahogany paneling. The sofa is by Holly Hunt and the table is from Berman Rosetti.

In the Aloha Room, Browne covered the seats of the dining chairs with durable indoor/outdoor fabric by Perennials. A solid walnut table from Troscan Design + Furnishings has leaves that can be extended to accommodate more guests.

Parties often begin around the stone fire pit, which was sited to take full advantage of the view of Mount Sopris.

Browne float-mounted a rough-edged fir slab in the powder room and fitted it with a stainless-steel bowl sink. The slab’s natural edge and the antler sconce were given a gleaming silver-leaf finish to reflect the sheen of the metallic Phillip Jeffries grasscloth wall covering.

The new kitchen features an angular granite-topped island and custom Hawaiian koa wood cabinetry; the wood’s horizontal grain is echoed in the lines of the Lexington barstools and the laminated Lumigraf backsplash.

The Aloha Room’s folding glass walls can be pulled completely  open. Holly Hunt swivel chairs are covered with indoor/outdoor fabric.

Connecting all of the levels of the house, a mahogany open-riser staircase is enclosed with transparent glass panels. The flooring resembles limestone but is actually a durable porcelain tile installed by Colorado West Tile. The eye-catching bronze sculpture is “The Mountain Men” by Frederic Remington.

In the temperature-controlled wine room, racks that can accommodate nearly 1,000 bottles appear to float among the limestone-clad walls. An under-lit glass floor and glass doors that open to the main living area add drama to the space.

Architect John Baker’s design seamlessly blends the new addition with the existing house, which has a new limestone exterior; windows and glass doors connect the original great room with the outdoors.


When the homeowners push open the accordion doors facing the patio, their indoor living spaces become completely open to the outdoors. The couple incorporated a number of special features to facilitate easy entertaining:

GATHER “The evening always begins around the fire pit, when we watch the sun set behind Mount Sopris,” Mike Paulin says. Concealed LED lighting illuminates the area after dusk.

COOK The pavilion’s indoor/outdoor kitchen makes open-air food prep a breeze. The Fire Magic grill has a large vent hood and is approved for both indoor and outdoor use; during inclement weather when the room’s doors are closed, the grill can still be used safely.

SERVE A 10-foot-long kitchen island does double duty as a breakfast bar and buffet table. A pair of dining rooms can accommodate two dozen guests, and on the patio, a variety of chairs, love seats and ottomans can be moved around for flexible seating.

SOAK A large outdoor spa is a popular spot after a day of skiing, and the Paulins enjoy relaxing in the steaming water beneath a canopy of stars.

VIEW A large-screen television is concealed in the ceiling of the kitchen; when it’s pulled down it can be seen from the dining room and pavilion. A television in the pavilion can be viewed from the fire pit, patio and hot tub. Swivel chairs in the pavilion and great room allow guests to get comfortable for movie watching.



ARCHITECTURE: Baker Design Group, Carbondale, CA, 970-379-8904. INTERIOR DESIGN: Harrison Browne Interior Design LTD, Denver, CO, 970-309-5472. CONSTRUCTION: Ridge Runner Construction, Glenwood Springs, CO, 970-945-5543. LIGHTING DESIGN & SYSTEM INTEGRATION PROGRAMMING: Aaron J. Humphrey, Alpenglow Lighting Design, Inc., Carbondale, CO, 970-948-2637, TILE WORK: Jeff Jensen, Colorado West Tile, New Castle, CO, 970-963-3473. GREAT ROOM: Sofa: Holly Hunt. Chairs: ENO by Bright Group, 888-524-5997.  Table: “River Runs Through,” Berman/Rosetti, 310- 476-6242. Drapery fabric: Donghia. Custom rug: Floor Coverings By CPA, Denver, CO, 303-722-4700. DINING PAVILION: Table: Troscan Design + Furnishings, 312-733-0158. Indoor/outdoor fabric on chairs: Perennials “Bazaar,” 214-638-4162. POWDER ROOM: Grasscloth wallcovering: Zebra Grass “Iced Cappuccino,” Phillip Jeffries, 973-575-5414. KITCHEN: Custom cabinetry: Colin Anderson, Roaring Fork Cabinets, Carbondale, CO, 970-379-0918. Backsplash: Lumigraf Lumi-Pearl Collection, “Copper Gleam,” 866-877-1495.

Categories: Rustic Homes