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Past Perfect

New homeowners embrace and preserve a Denver mid-century modern home, proving that timeless style never dies—it just gets better



David Patterson

Guests gather Around the piano to sing Christmas carols. Cocktails and food are passed. An indoor fountain bubbles and aluminum Christmas trees sparkle. A scene from a party on Mad Men? No, it’s actually a scene from the annual “Holiday Sing-Along in the Aluminum Christmas Tree Forest” party in the brilliantly-restored, mid-century modern Denver home of John Huggins and Monica Martinez. The fanciful vintage trees, which Huggins has collected for years, are in keeping with the clean lines of the architecture and furnishings.

The 1965 Hilltop home had only two previous owners and came with the original architectural drawings and contractor notes when the couple purchased it six years ago. “I think the sellers thought we would tear the house down,” reflects Martinez, “but this is a house you really want to respect.” The home was relatively well preserved, if a little worn, and hadn’t been seriously altered over the years. “What is appealing about houses of this vintage is that they are built to last, and this one was very advanced for the time,” Huggins says. “It had all the bells and whistles of the era.”

“John has lived in a lot of iconic houses in Denver, and sometimes we look around just for fun,” Martinez says. “But it would take something very special to get us to move. We’ve really made this home our castle.”

Lime green paint turns the spiral staircase into sculpture, while vintage Christmas trees stand sentinel in the light-filled atrium. Huggins repaired and preserved the blue tile fountain, which he says sets the tone for the whole house. Vintage Florence Knoll chairs are reupholstered in soft blue leather, matching the updated grasscloth wallpaper in the atrium.

The homeowners named the sunken section of the living room “the love pit.” They cleaned and oiled the original wood sofa bases and added new cushions. The coffee table features the bright colors of the 1960s.

A bright punch of orange sets the stage for a trio of 1950s paintings by Ethel Magafan. A rare pink vintage Christmas tree sits on the built-in bar behind a reproduction Eames chair.

The dining room furniture, purchased with the house, was brought back to life with a geometric retro print fabric in two colorways. A large painting above a built-in buffet by Taos artist Frank Vavra highlights the modernist art collection.

The kitchen features many original items, from the space-age light fixtures to the built-in clock, intercom and stereo speakers. The Z stools were designed by Gilbert Rohde in the 1930s. Original metal cabinets by Geneva got a fresh coat of paint, and the homeowners retained original features such as the pass-through to the dining room and a built-in appliance motor. Appliances and a standout retro-look resin countertop are new.

The homeowners bought the Op Art piece by Richard Anuszkiewicz at  a neighborhood estate sale. “Our approach was to reuse everything possible, not replace for the sake of replacing,” says homeowner John Huggins. The iconic slope chairs and pedestal table are reproductions.

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