New Space, Old Soul
CH&L: What did the homeowners want to do with this space?
Beth Armijo: They live in Wyoming and wanted a place to be near their daughter here in Denver—a low-maintenance city apartment. They have a more traditional style, so we mixed a classic feel with the condo’s modern bones.
Mixing traditional furniture with Miami-modern fireplace mantels, like you did here, takes guts.
That wall [which features a double-sided fireplace] was really just drywall with a cast-stone mantel, and it was driving the homeowners crazy because it was nothing special. We wanted to dress it up, so we looked around for some cool wall coverings and they fell in love with a capiz-shell Maya Romanoff paper. It’s literally almost like tile.
A lot of the finishes in this home have a definite sheen to them. The dining room chairs even seem to amplify the sunlight.
The owners love shine and crystal. The chandelier over the dining table was brought from their home in Wyoming and it took us three days to install piece by piece. I think it exemplifies their style. It’s traditional with a little glitter.
They’re typically drawn to heavier pieces, and it was fun to push them out of their comfort zone a little bit and lighten it up while still keeping the look classic. The design is very open and airy.
You’re right that it is quite airy, but some of the furniture is heavier. Then there’s the touch of glitz, yet the space isn’t too girly. How did you strike that balance?
It’s the masculine-feminine mix at work. The glitter and lightness are on the feminine side; then we grounded the look with heavier pieces. We needed larger pieces like the custom-made dining table because the volume of the space is so big. We didn’t want to clutter it up with stuff, so what we did choose needed to have the right scale.
Did you design the coffered ceiling?
Yes, it’s an architectural feature that the space really needed. Inside each square, we inset the same Maya Romanoff crushed-shell paper that complements the mantel.
This is where the design impacts the decorating. Getting the architectural envelope right sets the stage for what you put in it. Installing that coffered ceiling tied it together with the mantel and unified a space that had been pretty bare.
How did you warm up the palette?
Some of the homeowners’ light fixtures contained gold elements and others had silver, and it’s not against the rules to use the two together. Today we’re seeing people mix finishes. So that was why we chose the drapery fabric, which is gold with a silvery stripe. It’s the mix that keeps it warm and cozy.
Beyond the palette, the modern coffee table [in the living area] mixed with the classic lines of the other furniture also helps create a continuous balance, so the design is more timeless.
There are other modern touches, such as the dining room mirror and the kitchen pendants. Were the homeowners slow to embrace those pieces, or did they like them immediately?
I think they instinctively liked them. They wouldn’t have bought this condo if they didn’t like some of the contemporary elements. The look is contemporary with a little bit of a ‘glammy’ feel and that’s what resonates with them. They don’t like cold modern, not chrome and black. They like crystal-glam modern.
This space must be beautiful at night.
Oh, yes, it is. It’s pretty in the daytime because you have the view, but at night, you’re suspended in the sky.
In this glittering shell.
Spaces that are newly constructed can feel devoid of personality, but rather than wait for the passage of time to instill character, you can also add depth with the help of architectural touches. Before you buy new furnishings, consider your finishes. Install a coffered ceiling, or line one room with wood paneling. Add wainscoting or classic molding. “A well-designed architectural space lends itself to looking good no matter what chair you put in it,” designer Beth Armijo says. “Design the walls, the floors, the lights, all of those things first, and then think about items like your table. It creates a backdrop that’s so much more finished than just plain drywall.”
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