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Mid-Century Marvel

An iconic modern home shines once again with a renovation that lives in the present while respecting the integrity of the past



David Patterson

If anyone should live in a mid-century modern home, it is Traci Lounsbury. As a principal owner of Elements, a commercial office furnishings business in downtown Denver, she is constantly exposed to high-end design. “I see the most beautiful finishes and furniture. I’m surrounded by inspiration,” says Lounsbury, who is especially drawn to iconic furniture designed by architects such as Eero Saarinen.

Lounsbury’s home, designed by mid-century Denver architect H. Albert Phibbs for his own family in 1961, is perched high on a bluff in suburban Arvada, offering equally impressive views of the mountains and Denver’s cityscape.  When Lounsbury purchased the house twenty years ago, it had fallen into disrepair, so she hired interior designer Greg Comstock, of Comstock Design, to open up some walls and make limited cosmetic changes “on a dime.” 

Fast forward to the present, and the house is facing issues that need to be addressed after 52 years. “I thought about selling, but decided to stay and renovate, doing it right this time,” says Lounsbury. “I wanted the house to be nicer, better, feel warmer.” She invited Comstock to return, along with colleagues Ashley Jacobs and Suzanne Kisner, to once again transform the tired house. “I told Traci, ‘Let’s really get this house back to something you enjoy coming home to again,’” Comstock recalls.

Lounsbury is thrilled with her decision to stay in the house. More than ever, the home fits her lifestyle and design aesthetic. “Given a choice between going out and staying home, I would much rather stay home,” she says. “And now my house supports that.”

A random-patterned, tightly jointed flagstone walkway leads from the driveway to the main entry on the side of the house, blending with the colors of the stacked stone entry columns. Designer Greg Comstock used a limited color range—three shades of gray—for the home’s exterior, then softened the cool hue with wood accents. “Ipe wood warms the gray and provides a natural element which punctuates the whole façade,” he explains. New exterior landscaping—also designed by Comstock—enhances the architecture, while owner Traci Lounsbury selected xeric plants that thrive with southern exposure. A light and airy “front porch” offers plenty of seating from which to enjoy the gardens.

Floor-to-ceiling windows and a massive stone fireplace make dramatic design statements in the living room. “The fireplace says so much about the period of this house,” says Comstock, who updated it with a gas insert and stainless steel backing. Glowing stones, rather than wood, give the fireplace a contemporary edge. The custom sectional is accented by a Noguchi coffee table, Baker floor lamp, and Norman Epp’s wood sculpture, Burl-esque, available through Walker Fine Art.

Laminate cabinets and stainless steel countertops by Poggenpohl, installed twenty years ago, have timeless modern appeal. Comstock repeated the ipe wood design of the front door in columns throughout the house. Oversized pendants by John Pomp match the motif of the entry light fixture.

The clean lines of the contemporary table and light fixture allow the Frank Gehry-designed Hat Trick Chairs from Knoll to take center stage in the dining room. The delicate railings are brushed stainless steel.

The handblown Infinity Cluster glass light fixture is by John Pomp through Town Studio. A classic womb chair designed in 1946 by Eero Saarinen (and available through Elements, workplaceelements.com) sits in the foreground.

An ipe wood column conceals steel supports and provides balance in the office area. Eero Saarinen’s iconic Tulip Table pops against the strong blue color in Danny Williams’ Aquarius (from Walker Fine Art) and a fused-glass sculpture from Charles Eisen & Associates.

Landscape Lessons 
Interior designer Greg Comstock and homeowner Traci Lounsbury worked together to integrate the new front yard landscape into the home’s overall design. Older plants were rejuvenated with pruning, and new hardscape and plantings were blended in. Comstock provided the basic design and offers these tips:

Use landscaping to enhance architecture, such as the tall grasses planted strategically to highlight the stacked stone columns.

Think about shape – either repeat the lines of the house or create more interest with contrast. Here, the rectilinear lines of the house stand out when played against the more free-flowing curves of the landscape.

Use decorative items in a practical way, such as the stacked stone pillar that contains the mailbox.

Create a sense of balance, keeping taller plants in back or to the side to frame the house; place lower plants toward the front.

Design Details: Interior Designer Greg Comstock
Comstock Design, LLC, comstockdesign.com

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