“True Grit Western” Meets “City Girl Refined” in this Colorado Log Home Update
This home is the epitome of a marriage of styles
This remote wilderness cabin (near Vail, but light years away) is romantic in every sense of the word—tucked in the deep woods, surrounded by pristine national forest and, every night, witness to a dark sky brilliant with stars. The new owners were enchanted by the location and the original structure: hand built, log by log.
But the interiors were heavy and dark, and the kitchen desperately needed updating. The homeowners imagined their “new” home as a classy and modern ranch house. They agreed that it should have a “timeless Western look” but had different ideas on what, exactly, that meant.
“He wanted the True Grit Western look with animal heads on the walls, and she did not,” says Olivia Grayson, partner with Sian Christie of Grayson + Christie Interior Design, based in Avon, Colorado. The solution: compromise.
There are no “dead animals” on the walls, but there are photographs and paintings of both wild and domestic animals, a buffalo head made of willow and a real bison skull the original homeowner found while dredging the pond. “We incorporated Western elements … cowboy elements … to give the home a mountain flair while giving her, a city girl, a more refined experience,” says Christie.
“It is a little challenging to ‘lighten and freshen’ a home where, basically, all the walls are a brown-orange,” Grayson admits. The designers succeeded by infusing both light and color wherever possible—with big windows, airy draperies, blonde case pieces and cabinetry, furniture upholstered in leather or nubby neutrals and, in every instance, floor rugs .
Interestingly, the design of each room started from its floor. “We would find some rug samples that we both liked, and that helped dictate the rest of the room,” say the homeowners.
Some of the rugs are Native American-inspired designs; some are cowhide or sheepskin. Each rug was chosen not only for its cozy-under-foot feel but also for its ability to set the mood. In the master bath, for example, oversized sheepskins. In the kitchen, a pale, tonal American Indian design.
A touch of whimsy was also important to both the homeowners and the designers. The display of hats in the foyer is a great example. “The hats are all used, and all, almost certainly, have a story,” says Christie, “except we don’t know what it is because we found them in antique shops and on eBay.” The summer sun is so intense at high altitude that most guests grab a hat off the wall when they head out to fly-fish in the pond or hike in the national forest. “So each hat is having a new chance to create its own history,” Grayson says with a smile.
The open kitchen-living room with a dramatic, distinctive, double- sided fireplace makes the home ideally suited for entertaining. And the homeowners entertain often. He enjoys grilling, barbecuing and smoking meat out on the deck. She works her culinary magic on the live- edge walnut island in the newly updated kitchen (with a refrigerator that looks like an old ice box). She confesses that, although she loves to bake, she is just getting used to “how cakes perform” at 8,600 feet.
When they are not entertaining, the homeowners use the smaller table—next to the kitchen and close to the fireplace hearth. “We sit here … instead of the great big dining table, especially for breakfast,” the couple says. “It is much more cozy.” From this vantage point, solid glass walls frame a show-stopping view of Gold Dust Peak. Both scenery and wildlife—deer, elk, wild turkeys, coyotes and an occasional moose—conspire to draw the homeowners outdoors, where they enjoy the silence, broken only by bird calls and the rustle of leaves. “If weather permits, we’re out on the deck,” says the homeowner, who has installed a heat lamp so that “even if the morning is crisp or the night is cool, we can still be outside.”
Another favorite space is the small sitting room that opens (via enormous folding doors) to the deck. More whimsy: The sheep are footstools, and the coffee table looks like a giant, polished-by-the-river rock on legs.
The 5,700-square-foot cabin is 100 percent off the grid, which suits the home- owners just fine. “We have complete control, whether remotely or on-site,” says the homeowner, a tech entrepreneur and CEO. Fiber-optics were run through- out the property to make their four-bedroom, six-bath homestead highly automated. Electricity is generated by their own hydropower plant, operated by a snowmelt-fed creek that runs through the property.
The road leading to the secluded property is curvy and slow going, especially in winter. But the views are exquisite all along the way, and you never know when you turn a corner if there will be a small herd of cows—or even elk—just standing there looking at you.