Reimagining a Rustic Retreat

A Texas couple spruces up a dated vacation home in Telluride to create a luxe mountain getaway

Rarely do we get the opportunity to forget boundaries and budgets and just make design decisions based on what takes our breath away. Katrine Formby had that chance—and she ran with it.

In 2001, Formby and her husband, Bill, purchased the top three floors of a building in the heart of Telluride to create a home base for their frequent trips to Colorado. Initially, the Formbys planned to make only cosmetic changes to bring some style and modernity to the circa-1987 living spaces, but last year they put the finishing touches on their dramatically renovated mountain retreat and created a home with high-elevation elegance. (And the best part? This luxury getaway is for rent when the Formbys aren't using it.)

As is often the case, this renovation project evolved once the Formbys and their design team rolled up their sleeves and got to work. "When we started, it was going to be a remodel and we weren't going to move walls," Formby says. "But as soon as we decided we were going to move walls, we decided to move all the walls."

The team, led by architect Lynn Taylor Lohr of Portland, Oregon, reimagined the penthouse's floor plan: The living room became the master bath. The kitchen became the master bedroom. And the penthouse's top floor, which used to hold a hot tub nestled into a steamy bay window, was transformed into a sophisticated living room in soothing shades of gray.

All of the square-footage swapping was driven by one goal: to make the most of the stunning panoramic view. "The mountains around are just 360 degrees of beauty," Formby says. Lohr installed gracious Hope's doors—which "are absolutely the most expensive thing in the world and I just didn't care; I thought they were just fantastic," Formby says—to open up the living room to the expansive deck and the towering mountains beyond.

To lend authenticity to this seeming relic of Telluride's mining days, Lohr installed wide-plank walnut floors and decorative beams made of reclaimed timber in the living spaces. Throughout the home, she incorporated antique beveled-glass windows that Formby had collected over the years. And though the building's stone walls are convincingly worn-looking, they're actually veneers made with locally quarried material.

The most prominent—and arguably the most gorgeous—architectural element in the penthouse is the custom staircase. It's a work of art, a curving ribbon of glass winding up the wooden treads. It's fluid and structured, contemporary and rustic.

"I guess you could say that the staircase was the guiding design element for the rest of the project," says Kari Demond of KLM Interiors in Austin, Texas. Adds Formby: "I wanted our place to have that real beauty but also kind of a natural feeling. There is a feeling of outdoors," coupled with a whole host of luxurious touches.

In the living room, Demond and Formby juxtaposed the stone walls and ceiling beams with a velvet-upholstered armchair and sofas covered in Bergamo chenille. They added a custom coffee table made of a highly polished walnut slab set on rough-cut stone plinths. They chose a monochromatic palette of soft grays to keep the design scheme clean and to frame out the aforementioned views. And over the stairs, they hung a mobile-like artwork dripping with big, pearlescent glass orbs-like the perfect piece of jewelry to complete the look.

This penthouse is lush, artful and glamorous in a way that befits the rugged Colorado town. "I'd been looking at magazines and daydreaming about fabulous places over the years, and we thought maybe we could make this place fabulous," Formby says. "When in life can you do something with the rule being it just takes your breath away?" 


Monochromatic Design We often equate drama with bold pops of color-a splash of red, a burst of yellow. But you can create just as much visual interest by swathing a room in shades of gray. According to designer Kari Demond of KLM Interiors, tone and texture are the keys to a successful monochromatic design.  

TONE To add depth to a monochromatic room, "alter the tone or shade of your theme color ever so slightly," says Demond. In the Formbys' living room (left), she used a soothing palette of gray-browns. "She kept calling the color 'mouse,'" Katrine Formby says. "It's an ugly name, but it's perfect, actually, for the color." Demond then mixed in furniture upholstered in colors such as "seal," "anthracite" and "black pearl," along with lighter gray stone and darker gray iron. Some tones are earthy, some are elegant and some are more neutral, resulting in a subtly graded color palette that makes the room look coordinated but not monotonous. 

TEXTURE After tone, "texture is definitely paramount," Demond says. Consider different levels of softness and sheen for your upholstery. Add an area rug made of sisal or thick pile. And incorporate a heavy dose of shine. Then give your room a focal point with a bold piece of art—like the breathtaking example of Mother Nature's work framed by the Formbys' glass doors.


Rethink Inside the Box
When you're planning a renovation, remember that your home's floor plan is flexible. Anything is possible—as long as you have the budget for it.

"In your mind, start with a blank slate. Know what you can do and what you can't, and kind of go from there," says architect Lynn Taylor Lohr.

Figure out which walls, columns and beams are load-bearing. Such walls and supports often can be moved, but it's less expensive to work around them. For example, you can make structural columns work with your new design by masking them with coordinating materials, as Lohr did when she clad a column in the Formby home with reclaimed timber. Also, determine which walls hold plumbing lines and electrical cables, and decide if it's worth the expense to move them.

Once you've established those parameters, let your imagination run wild. Maybe the corner that your kitchen currently occupies is better suited to a family room, and your guest room would make a heck of a walk-in closet. Which rooms have the best views? Where do your guests tend to congregate? Think about the optimal traffic flow through your home and how you might use your square footage more efficiently.

"Sketch the outer limits, your walls, and ignore everything else you're looking at," says designer Kari Demond of KLM Interiors. "You really need to be able to just close your eyes and look at the outer walls and ask, 'what can I do in this space?' And just play around."


ARCHITECTURE: L. Taylor Lohr Architect  INTERIOR DESIGN: KLM Interiors

Categories: Condos