A Polished Gem
Under the tasteful watch of its newest stewards, an historic Denver estate receives a sensitive renovation that embodies classic yet modern living
Emily Minton Redfield
When designer Karen Moore, of Denver’s design studio and retailer Djuna, got a call from longtime clients asking her to take a look at a house they were considering purchasing, Moore almost couldn’t believe her ears: “When she gave me the address, I said ‘No way!’”
There were several reasons for Moore’s reaction, the least of which was the fact that Moore had driven past the new house many times on her way to the client’s long-time home that she had worked for many years to update—it was just four blocks away. Moreover, the proposed home was well known to Moore and much of Denver. In fact, the estate is one of the city’s great homes, built in 1931 by local architects Fisher & Fisher. Moore’s clients were enthralled by the property—their own daily drive past the English Tudor prompted dreamy predictions of “One day we’ll live there,” Moore says. Just one year after the phone call—and a renovation later—that prediction came to fruition.
The living room provides a vintage framework for traditional furnishings and contemporary art. Decorative ceilings, a stone fireplace, and deep door casings anchor the home in history. “The colors of the living room are warm and earthy,” Moore says. “The clients love ethnic designs and have eclectic taste in art.” Many of the furnishings are from the couple’s former home, also designed by Moore. Throughout the house, the art is by regional artists and, “all fairly contemporary in style,” Moore says. “The home feels lived in and loved on. Like a family really lives there and in each and every room.”
“The dining room has a great sense of graciousness,” says Mabe-Sabanosh. The windows are all new, but based on the design of the originals. “The crown molding in the dining room is plaster. We did some painting to help it show up a little more, enlarging the plaster canopy and replacing the chandelier to add to that historic look,” Moore says.
The historic home’s kitchen underwent a complete redesign. “We completely gutted the kitchen and what was a guest bedroom and bathroom to create a larger kitchen connected to a breakfast area and family room,” says Mabe-Sabanosh. Where a peninsula once divided the space, a 10-foot island now gathers people together. “The kitchen was built around the idea of that island,” Moore says. The range’s charming recessed alcove—spanning about 10 feet—houses a large Viking range. “We chose simple cabinets and painted them in a rich neutral color that blended well with the original character of the home,” Mabe-Sabanosh says, while the range niche “created a strong focal point that balanced the large picture windows on the opposite side of the kitchen.”
Before, the family room was chopped up by a bathroom and the kitchen’s peninsula. “We ripped everything out of the kitchen and moved the bathroom into what was a pantry,” Moore says, creating a large rectangular space just off the kitchen. “The beams were added to define and give the space an Old World feel. Before, it felt like an add-on—it was too modern,” Moore explains.
“I had just purchased the breakfast table chairs for the homeowners’ nearby, long-time home,” Moore says. “And my client loved that fabric.” Moore used the fabric as a jumping-off point for the family room’s color scheme. “It’s a little more contemporary and brighter than the rest of the house,” Moore says. “But it works because the family room wing has its own sense of place.”
The master bedroom, with its plaster ceiling and fireplace, is a lovely example of how the team respected the home’s original features. To give the suite contemporary comforts, the team reworked an existing hallway, office, and bathroom to create a coffee bar, his-and-hers closets, and a spacious bathroom.
Changes to the newly renovated bathroom include a dual-head steam shower and a marble-clad focal wall. “This bathroom feels like it was original to the house because the materials are so timeless,” says Mabe-Sabanosh. One surprise in the year-long renovation: “We discovered that the entire second floor sat on 18 inches of cement,” Moore says. The reinforced concrete—rather than standard wood floor joists—made moving plumbing a particular challenge.
Architects: Don Ruggles and Melissa Mabe-Sabanosh, RMT Architecture, dhrarchitecture.com. Interior designer: Karen Moore, Djuna Design Studio, djuna.com. Landscape architect: Vogel & Associates, vogelassoc.com. Landscape Contractor: Altitude Landscape Co., (970) 376-1668. HVAC: Rocky Mountain Heating & Sheet Metal, (303) 660-5440. Plaster and drywall: Castillo Drywall, castillodrywallllc.com. Frame and exterior trim: LP Trimmers, (303) 919-4681. Cabinets and millwork: Renstrom Construction, (303) 238-5328. General construction: Steve Beam, The Handyman LLC, (720) 257-2121. Material supplier: Wood Source, woodsource.com. Page 64: Naos Forge chandelier; Asia Minor rug; faux painting by Chris Fawcett, fawcettfinish.com; stone columns from Materials Marketing, mstoneandtile.com. Page 65: EJ Victor sofa, chairs and coffee table; Artisan Gallery rug; Taracea cabinet and game table; Currey and Company torchieres, Lexington stools. Page 67: Taracea table; Grass Roots chairs; Naos Forge chandelier; Currey and Company sconces; Robert Allen drapery fabric; Asia Minor rug. Page 68: Design Master barstools; Visual Comfort pendants; Artisan Gallery rugs. Page 70: Design Master table and chairs; Currey and Company chandelier; Artisan Gallery rug. Page 71: Lee Industries upholstery; Habersham entertainment cabinet; coffee table from Grange, grange.fr. Page 73: Taracea bed and chest; Djuna custom bedding; Asia Minor rug; Robert Allen drapery fabric. Pieces available through Djuna Design Studio unless otherwise noted.