Produced By: Mary Jo Bowling
Photography: Mali Azima
Interior Design: Melanie Millner, The Design Atelier
Home Builder: David Miller, Aspen Construction
t’s easy to see why the remodel of this Colorado vacation home, located on the west flank of Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain, would be inspired by the spectacular views of Snowmass and Owl Creek Ranch. But what also ignited the design is an impressive artwork depicting a stag sporting three-dimensional branch antlers that extend off the canvas several feet in the air. The multimedia painting by Todd Murphy does more than bring a sense of the natural world to the interiors–it is at the heart of what the home is about.
“The first time I saw it, I called Todd immediately,” recalls interior designer Melanie Millner, who convinced her clients the artwork needed to be the starting point for the redesign. “The painting is sophisticated, organic and rustic in equal parts, with a touch of whimsy. It is perfect for this home.” In addition to providing a “wow” moment in the stair hall, the piece’s predominantly black, white and brown hues also spawned the surrounding neutral palette that brings a fresh face to the ski getaway for an Atlanta family.
Like many part-time Aspenites, the wife (a Texas native) started coming to the valley to ski as a child, and decades later she and her husband have continued that tradition with their two teenaged children. “After years of renting and looking at real estate, they were considering buying a condo in town when this house came on the market, so they decided to go for something bigger,” explains Millner, who has worked on projects with the family since 2001.
Composed of reclaimed barnwood, the building’s exterior strikes a rustic note that’s familiar in the region. Inside, however, the wife wanted something more modern that merely referenced a Western vibe. “She told me, ‘No antler chandeliers,’ ” recalls Millner, referencing the type of light fixtures that lit many an interior in the 1980s. “She wanted to keep things fresh with white upholstery and white walls and to balance that with blacks and browns.”
Fortunately for all concerned, the previous owner had collected art and changed the interior to accommodate contemporary paintings. For the new residents, the resulting gallery-like walls provide a perfect backdrop for a living room de ned by a mix of leather swivel chairs, white sofas wearing durable indoor-outdoor chenille upholstery, antique demilune side tables and a substantial wooden coffee table that suggests a place to rest your feet. “The wife has a Texas grassroots sensibility that leans traditional, and her husband loves midcentury-modern classics,” Millner says. “So the room is an intentional traditional-modern blend.”
Rather than completely turn her back on a Western aesthetic, Millner paid homage to rustic elements but added a twist. In concert with Merida rugs, for example, she designed a stair runner distinguished by a simple Native American pattern on a neutral background that looks more contemporary than historic. The dining room’s host chairs are covered in leather, and in the master bedroom, sconces with leather-lace trim flank a 16-foot-long headboard upholstered with cashmere.
Despite great bones that include 8-foot-tall doors and soaring vaulted ceilings, the home still had details that required attention. While general contractor David Miller oversaw key items such as the upgrade of the lighting systems and the creation of new cabinetry, it was the three-day-long installation of the stag artwork he’ll never forget. “Luckily, I have a background in horticulture, because I actually had to trim those antlers to make the piece fit on the wall,” Miller says.
A nature theme emerges through the existing reclaimed- wood ceiling beams and the refinished pine floors. Elsewhere, a sculptural branch chandelier hovers above the dining room table, birch branches serve as shelving supports in the daughter’s bedroom, and a guest bathroom wall is covered in wallpaper resembling aspen tree bark. In contrast, the husband’s office strikes a machine-age note with a series of photos depicting steering wheels and crisp-white built-ins with metal drawer pulls. “He’s a big car buff with a modern aesthetic,” Millner explains. “He wanted it to feel like an office and be very different from the rest of the house.”
That blending of styles and the functionality of the rooms are sources of pride for the interior designer. “I’ve done my job, because the clients really love and use every room in the house,” Millner says. “It’s where West Texas meets modern. Those ideas fuse together to make this home.”
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