2020 Home of the Year: Elevated Magic
A modern Avon build radiates elegance in both scale and design
Fiona and Bill Arnold are ahead of their time. Even though the Denver couple built their home in Avon long before COVID-19 life lessons went viral, they were on track in designing a house with the essentials of what is truly important—enough room for their loved ones and a meaningful connection to nature.
“If I could’ve had a roof and a floor, and everything else was glass, then I’d be great,” Fiona says. Although pressured to go larger in size, the couple resisted. “We just tried to be thoughtful,” she adds. “We were told we needed a wine room, but we said no. We were told not to build our house too small for resale value, but we didn’t care. We just wanted to build it to perfectly fit our needs.”
And pretty perfect it is. We salute the Arnolds for having the confidence to say “no,” for eschewing the massive, for completely wrapping their arms around Colorado’s mountain setting and for celebrating their own good fortune in a fun, cozy and respectful way.
For all of the above, we at CH&L congratulate them and their killer design team for creating our 2020 Home of the Year.
While most homes in the Mountain Star development average a colossal 10,000 square feet, the Arnolds’ retreat is a “modest” 5,000 on a three-acre plot—a blend of creativity, restraint and joy.
It speaks to the importance of elevated simplicity and harmony with the great outdoors, without the cliché mountain-home vibe.
It’s exactly what the family envisioned when they began the journey to upgrade their tiny East Vail condo to a comfortable vacation home to fit their extended family and friends.
After the couple bought one of the last Mountain Star parcels available in 2016, they immediately hired architect Kyle Webb, who has built numerous houses in the development, to design their dream home.
Webb, in turn, encouraged the Arnolds to bring on interior design team Jan Chenault and Celeste Chianea to serve as local liaisons for the 18-month project and offer their European design expertise to the project.
The synergy and collaboration took off from there, Fiona says. “I was in Denver, and a lot of decisions were going really fast on a much bigger scale,” says Fiona, who wanted a modern vibe with warm, natural, organic materials and a hint of Midcentury feel.
“I love the whole sequence of spaces and how they are in tandem and how they talk to one another. It feels so good to be in that house. It’s soothing and relaxing. This one had harmony in the whole process and design.”
— Kyle Webb, Architect
However with her time and focus in Denver, Webb encouraged her to bring on Chenault, partner and senior designer in the firm, who sourced most of the furniture and hard finishes, in addition to designing large-scale custom rugs made by Edward Fields of the House of Tai Ping. “We went for clean, contemporary fun, with pops of color and interesting finishes,” Chenault says.
But perhaps the most important aspect of the project was the indoor/ outdoor element, achieved largely by installing 15-foot Brombal steel doors and windows on the main level that open up completely to the lavish mountain views. “That was a hard decision, because the windows came from Italy and it felt wasteful to ship doors and windows from another country,” Fiona says.
“But it was worth it,” she adds with quiet resignation. Webb agrees. “The living room feels like a treehouse hanging out in space, with panoramic views in every direction,” he says. “That room is a cantilever with a cantilever with a cantilever on it. It feels like it’s floating. There are certain companies who can do magical things in incredibly large sizes, and Brombal is one of them,” he adds.
As for the layout, Webb put the master bedroom on the same floor as the kitchen, living and outdoor areas, so that when the couple is in the house without guests or family, it still feels cozy. Three junior suites and a rec room make up the lower level.
With just 90 homes on 1,300 acres in Mountain Star and many homeowners choosing to build on a larger scale, the Arnolds’ plan to go smaller actually delighted both Webb and Chenault. “I think we’re over the 16,000-plus-square-foot houses. It’s not good for the environment,” Chenault says. “Plus, it’s nice to have all of that land around you without ruining all the natural habitat. The trend is to go smaller, and I’m so glad.”
Once the traditional-leaning Mountain Star review board approved Webb’s modern design, it was a smooth road forward. “I think the most fun thing about this house is that everyone who saw it loved it and everything about it. They all wanted to see it happen,” Webb says. “The site, the materials, the choices. It’s a beloved house.”
The designers also faced an unfamiliar situation. “When Celeste and I came in after the house was cleaned up and all the surfaces had been polished, we were almost disappointed to put furniture in. The spaces that Kyle had created were so wonderful that it felt complete,” Chenault says. “Lo and behold, the furnishings didn’t end up taking away from the space, but we were surprised with how happy we were with just empty rooms. That doesn’t happen very often.”
And while it’s a bit more than “a roof, a floor and glass” that was the homeowners’ inspiration, the finished product is not far off. “We have an egg chair at the end of the living room next to the windows,” Fiona says. “I love sitting there and watching the weather roll in.”
Architect Kyle Webb designed the front door to capitalize on the spectacular view beyond the entrance. The door is made of steel with laser-cut patterning and was manufactured in Italy by Brombal. Trimworx installed the white-oak ceiling.
Sofas by Chenault & Chianea Custom Design, in collaboration with Dmitriy & Co., rest atop a Tai Ping rug, also designed by Chenault & Chianea. The table lamps are from Washington Pottery Company, and the alabaster sculpture on the console is Knish by Carol Crawford of Sydney, Australia. The white swivel chairs by the fireplace are by Powell & Bonnell with Theo fabric, and the single egg chair is by Knoll.
William Ohs designed the open kitchen with wooden cabinets in rift-sawn oak. The counter stools are by A. Rudin, and all the plumbing fixtures are from Ultra Design Center in Denver. The pendant light fixtures were purchased on Etsy, and the marble countertops are from Galleria of Stone.
In the dining area, a breeze-block concrete dividing wall lends a Midcentury nod to the space. A Hubbardton Forge light fixture hangs above the staircase, with a tile wall by Ann Sacks. The granite-topped wooden sideboard, custom-designed by Chenault & Chianea, contains a wine fridge at one end and a drink fridge at the other. The painting, by Salida artist Ben Strawn, is from Walker Fine Art.
A fireplace slab from Galleria of Stone anchors the great room. The sofa is a collaboration between Dmitriy & Co. and Chenault & Chianea Custom Design. Homeowner Fiona Arnold designed the coffee table—a full tree stump encased in resin—with help from the interior designers. The custom rug is Tai Ping, also designed by Chenault & Chianea.
A stairway leading to the lower level features baskets from McGee & Co. and a Paul Smith rug from The Rug Company. The wall tiles were made in Israel and purchased at Ann Sacks. “I just love how the corners of the tile pull back to reveal the hidden light,” Fiona says.
A Chenault & Chianea custom-designed bed sits atop an Edward Fields Tai Ping rug. The bedside tables are by Powell & Bonnell, and the bench is by Chenault & Chianea Custom Design, with Opuzen fabric. The bedding, velvet spread and pillows are from RH; the decorative pillow is from Chelsea Textiles; and the duvet cover is from Anthropologie.
Perched at around 9,000 feet on an Avon peak, our Home of the Year winner stands on a three-acre lot that delivers superior views of the White River National Forest.
A Marset pendant brings style and comfort to the outdoor living area. The table is a custom design by Chenault & Chianea, with a wood top made by Peter Davis of Davis Designs and a metal base by Ventana. The chairs are from Barlow Tyrie. Opuzen fabric covers the built-in sofa, and the pillows and throws are from West Elm and Wayfair. Beck Building Company installed the Paloform fire pit.
ARCHITECT Kyle Webb, Lauren Walton; KH Webb Architects INTERIOR DESIGNER Jan Chenault, Celeste Chianea; Chenault & Chianea Interior Architecture & Design BUILDER Kevin O’Donnell, Alex Carson; Beck Building Company CABINET DESIGNER William Ohs LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Scott Sones Ceres+ Landscape Architecture
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