Preserved and Polished
In a Boulder home rich with history and character, a thoughtfully-executed renovation creates an updated space for a modern family
A long, multi-week treasure hunt,” is how Alexandra Besser describes the process of going through the closets, basement and attic of the historic home she and her husband Grant bought in 2011. Located in Boulder’s Mapleton Hill Historic District, the home—which had been owned by the same family for over ninety years—came complete with a houseful of artifacts. “We discovered vintage Life magazines, old radios, family photographs, Christmas decorations and three hundred tobacco pipes, among other things,” Besser says.
The home came with a pedigreed history, too. Designed by William Redding & Son—the same prominent architectural firm that created the city’s landmark Hotel Boulderado—the 3,200-square-foot house was built in 1905 to serve as the mayor’s official residence. Incredibly, the structure hadn’t been significantly changed or updated over its many decades of existence.
“The house had great bones, and the elements that were good were so good,” Besser says. “Everything was clearly well cared for, and the home had ten-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, windows with original glass, beautiful old hardware and woodwork that had never been painted over.”
The couple turned to Boulder architect Lisa Egger, AIA, and general contractor Joel Smiley—both highly recommended because of their extensive work on other historic homes in the neighborhood—to bring their house gently into the 21st century.
The gleaming original woodwork and Douglas-fir floors were renewed in the elegant foyer area. The homeowners discovered the handsome faceted glass overhead light tucked away in a closet, and replaced its black canopy with a new one from Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. The built-in bench was recovered in Kravet fabric.
Original faux-painted woodwork and authentic Van Briggle tile surround the fireplace. The brown leather Griffin chairs are by Lawson-Fenning of Los Angeles, and the vintage linen used for the custom pillows is from Heidelberg Antiques of Denver. The ceramic sculpture is by Cheryl Tall.
In the dining area, classic Eames chairs by Herman Miller surround a Hans Wegner Danish table. The overhead light fixture (another just like it hangs in the living area) is Candelaria by Rico Espinet for Robert Abbey lighting.
The new kitchen’s custom cabinets are painted with Benjamin Moore’s Lancaster White; classic soapstone countertops are flanked by a white subway tile backsplash. The antique red piano stool is one of a pair discovered in the house. Contractor Joel Smiley crafted the custom kitchen table, which is surrounded by French Tolix stools. The Shaws Original farmhouse apron sink is fitted with a Perrin & Rowe faucet, and the French-door refrigerator is by Thermador.
Custom molding meticulously milled to match the rest of the home’s woodwork frames the doorway connecting the master bedroom to the new bathroom, which features a reproduction clawfoot tub and classic Carrara marble hexagon tile floors. The mirrors and polished nickel hardware are from Restoration Hardware, and the sconces are from Schoolhouse Electric Supply & Co.
LISA EGGER, AIA