ongtime Aspenites Robert and Marcie Musser had lived in their cozy, mountain-style home for more than 30 years when they decided they were ready for a change. Vacations in Santa Barbara had opened their eyes to a minimalist aesthetic and they began to feel that their old house no longer reflected that. After making the decision to build a new, contemporary dream home, the couple purchased a lot in another part of Aspen.
Halfway through the project, however, change struck again. “The homeowners suddenly realized they already had their dream home, which had everything they needed: a great floor plan, privacy, panoramic views and a Herbert Bayer-designed guesthouse with comfortable on-site accommodations,” recalls designer Akasha Feeley. “Their house and guesthouse just needed to be remodeled.” After much discussion and a walk-though with Feeley, the couple decided to begin renovations on the original home and sell the new build.
“Our challenge was to turn their comfy cottage into an uncluttered, modern home that’s open to the outdoors,” explains Feeley, who worked with her husband, general contractor John Black, on the project. “It was a remodel, but it was also pretty close to a gut job,” says Black, who oversaw the installation of expansive new windows, cabinetry and lighting, and the reimagination of the teak beams with a soft gray stain. The transformations were major: “The kitchen went from English country to modern Italian,” Black notes. But one of the most dramatic moments came when the massive river rock fireplace was replaced with a slim concrete wall inset with a sleek, raised firebox now visible from the adjoining rooms. It’s a stylistic 180 degrees, but it feels natural. “The biggest challenge of a remodel is making it not look like a remodel,” says Black.
Because the Mussers had lived in the home for decades, they knew what worked and what didn’t. “Marcie knew what she wanted–she was even ahead of me at times,” says Feeley. Chief concerns included screening the kitchen from the dining area–a problem resolved with sliding Rimadesio doors–and accommodating the couple’s art collection, which includes works by Robert Kelly and Olivo Barbieri, pre-Columbian and Native American artifacts, and several pieces by furniture designer Sam Maloof. Beyond that, the goal was simply to create fresh and easily livable spaces. “My inspiration really came from Marcie’s closet,” says Feeley, explaining their mutual love of Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli. “Right away, I could tap into Marcie’s style: a tailored look with textured taupe, gray and navy fabrics. Everything is detailed and orderly. It really helped me understand her aesthetic and taste level.”
Following the Cucinelli thread, Feeley and her clients focused on selecting the furnishings from contemporary Italian firms like Minotti and Poltrona Frau. “Those pieces are absolutely gorgeous, but I do like to be a little eclectic,” the designer says, noting a smattering of midcentury pieces like the George Nelson Platform bench in the guest room. “Marcie loves design and was very involved throughout the process,” adds Feeley, who traveled to Denver, San Francisco, Toronto and Miami in her search of the perfect pieces. Favorite finds–Henge lighting, Ivano Redaelli beds, a Desalto dining table and Walter Knoll swivel chairs–have a similar sculptural flair.
On the upper level, Feeley crafted an inner sanctum for the homeowners. Joining the master bedroom are his-and-her bathrooms, dressing rooms and offices.Special attention was given to transforming Marcie’s once-pink and dated bathroom and to her closet. “I wanted it to feel like a department store,” Feeley explains, referencing architect Peter Marino’s Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques. “It needed to be elegant and not formulaic, so I did low, light-wood cabinets on one wall and illuminated her shoes.”
The designer notes that the remodel gave the interiors a better flow. In fact, it flows right outside, just as the Mussers had wished. “We applied clean architectural concepts to the garden,” says landscape architect Shannon Murphy, who was brought back to rework her original landscape design. “We saved most of the existing trees and shrubs so that it doesn’t feel brand new. There’s an age and a depth to it.” To keep the color palette in sync with the interior’s blues and purples, Murphy–who worked with landscape designer Erin Greenwood on the project–opted for salvias, lavenders and blue avena grass. She also planted a new aspen grove between the main and guest houses. “It’s nice for guests to wander through it,” she adds.
The old house really has become all the Mussers envisioned–a very personal interpretation of their newfound aesthetic. The home still holds all their memories while providing new opportunities to make many more. “I loved this project,” reflects Feeley. “I wish the renovation could have gone forever.”
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