Modern Life

Photographer: 
Peter Valli
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Ask architect Rich Carr to talk about his design heroes and he doesn’t hesitate to cite Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe, two pioneering giants of the modern architecture movement. “I was trained as a modernist,” says Carr, a Cornell University graduate who has been building residences in the Roaring Fork Valley for more than two decades. “But as my career progressed, I became more attached to the materials associated with Colorado and using the textures of the mountains in a reinvented way.”

Carr’s own home serves as testimony to his evolving architectural sensibilities. Located on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood populated with primary residences—a rarity in second-home ski meccas like Aspen, the 4,200-square-foot house Carr shares with his wife and two young children marries a modern open floor plan with a low-maintenance exterior palette that pays homage to its surroundings. According to Carr, a principal at CCY Architects in Basalt, the stained Douglas fir timbers, pigmented stucco and rusted corten steel siding—a nod to Aspen’s mining town heritage—were also selected “for their warmth and patina.”

Determined to create a contemporary family place that engaged the neighborhood and the landscape—“My work is as much about outdoor spaces as it is about the indoor ones,” Carr says—the house is all about “durability, entertaining and family function.” A series of stone pavers point to the covered porch entry where the concrete floor flows through the living room and out to the backyard; here, the terrace is a critical extension of the overall living space.

Weather permitting, the three-panel operable glass pocket-door that retracts into the living room wall is always left open. “Kids go ripping through here on their scooters all the time,” say Carr, who admits their home is a popular local gathering spot. “It’s not unusual for us to have three or four families over for dinner on a Friday night,” he adds.

It’s during such gatherings that the living room, with its 20-foot ceilings, and the adjacent kitchen take center stage. In the main room, groupings of oversized leather and upholstered pieces balance a soaring fireplace with a rusted corten steel surround. Hidden panels open to reveal an integrated television screen. “I tried to downplay the television and focus on the mantel and the hearth,” Carr says. In lieu of fake logs, a bed of crystals provides a backdrop for the fireplace flames.

Topping the living room is a roofline that tilts skyward creating openings for windows high above the living space. “The design allows the interiors to lift to the views and light without looking at the surrounding houses,” Carr says. He employed a similar idea over the south-facing master bedroom suite. “The sill height of the bedroom windows is selectively placed at about four-and-a-half feet, so you see tree tops and Aspen Mountain instead of the neighbors.”

Custom walnut cabinets line the kitchen, a model of efficiency that features a concealed fridge, freezer drawers and four appliance garages for stowing toasters, coffee makers and such. “The room is entirely open to the rest of the house and is designed so that everything can be put away in its place,” says the architect.  

Carr’s commitment to the environment drove the inclusion of a laundry list of green features including high levels of insulation, extra thick drywall, high-quality windows, a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic system and a 30-foot-long, seven-foot-high solar-thermal tube system that provides heat and hot water. Located on the upper level roof deck, the vertical tubes create a sculptural element while doubling as a high-tech privacy fence. “Sustainability was an integral part of the design,” Carr says. “Right now we produce almost as much energy as we use. We haven’t quite reached net zero, but that’s our goal.”

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