A Secret Garden Home in Cherry Creek
Photos by David Lauer
The grounds come first. Quietly tucked on an unassuming street in a neighborhood behind the bustling Cherry Creek Mall rests a single-level home fronted by an enchanted garden. If you are lucky enough to score an invitation to this lush sanctuary, a glass of chilled rosé awaits. Homeowners Joyce and Gary Pashel put great care and detail into nurturing this inviting indoor-outdoor escape that is their home. The expanse includes four patio spaces; gurgling fountains; and a multitude of peonies, roses, topiaries and boxwood hedges. There’s also an informal alfresco eating area beneath a grapevine-shrouded palapa. French doors open out to a worn, wooden table worthy of the Last Supper. As you take in the scene and inhale the aromas of the surrounding greenery, you wonder: Am I really in central Denver?
The answer, says Joyce with a twinkle in her eye, is yes. She and Gary bought the 1950s house in 1978 and raised their son and daughter there while renovating in various stages. Throughout the years, the couple turned the 6,000-square-foot ranch into a European-influenced home that is at once unique, funky and magical. Joyce, an artsy, eclectic ceramicist with a closet full of hip black clothing, says she never wants to leave. “The way the house is situated, it’s really an oasis,” she says. “Once we’re in there, we feel really at home, and the rest of the outside world goes away. It’s a refuge.”
Fortunately, the living spaces are large, perfect for entertaining friends and family all year long. “My life is a mix of people from all walks of life,” says Joyce, now a grandmother of four, ages 9 through 15. The Pashels’ diverse group of friends includes politicos, business owners, musicians, philanthropists and artists. Conversation, fabulous food and wine befitting the menu flow freely in this house.
In winter, Joyce favors the grand living room with its working fireplace and antique crystal light fixtures. “But really,” she says, “I use every part of the house. I read in the living room and watch TV in Gary’s den.” The kitchen, however, is the grand hub of the house. Joyce, a self-taught cook, has a library of more than 200 cookbooks and oodles of dishes (many of her own design) and relishes her time in her gourmet abode. A woman of strong taste and conviction, she has never used an interior designer, instead favoring antiques stores in Denver. “When something feels right, it’s right. I don’t follow any formulas or rules,” she says. “If I buy something, I find a way to use it.”
On any given night, chances are excellent that Joyce is pulling together a feast with a dusting of fresh herbs from her garden, the bubbly is on ice, the table is expertly set, the candles are flickering and the guests will be arriving soon. “The house is really about indoor-outdoor living,” she says. “I open up the doors and windows all the time. I make good food and we all sit at the big table under the palapa. It’s complete fun.”
The inlaid mother-of-pearl antique chest is from Syria. The blue door, originally bought at Eron Johnson Antiques and refinished with gold leaf, leads into the couple’s dressing area.
The main living room provides a prominent spot for Joyce’s collection of Day of the Dead brides from Santa Fe and Mexico. “I’ve always been attracted to death,” she explains of the morbid assemblage of clay figurines. The floors are travertine with inlaid Negra Marquina black marble squares. A Tibetan death mask from Santa Fe hangs above the table.
An antique French sofa sits beneath crystal wall sconces from Metropolitan Antiques in Denver; the embroidered pillows are from Turkey. The books, mostly art- and architecture-related, are part of the homeowners’ lifelong collection.
The kitchen is designed by William Ohs, with a Viking range, Sub-Zero fridge, industrial faucet and soapstone countertops. “The Mexican angels (hung near the ceiling) are looking down taking care of us, protecting us,” says Joyce. The yellow vase is part of her own ceramics collection.
Chairs from India surround a table from Anthropologie, while an Italian crystal chandelier hangs above. The black-and-white stone flooring is from Ann Sacks, while the French doors open to another eating area often used by the homeowners for pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
The master bedroom is a romantic and serene space with 13-foot-high ceilings and French doors that open to the overgrown and sensuous garden. The French iron leaf bed is from Eron Johnson Antiques in Denver, and the flannel-lined drapes are made of moiré fabric. Homeowner Gary Pashel made the wood console at the foot of the bed that hides the television.
The black-and-white awning and twin topiaries announce the home’s entryway. A collection of apple espaliers and a fountain are just off the master bedroom seen in the background.