2019 Circle of Excellence: Architect Stephen Hentschel
Mandil Inc., Denver
A new build in Observatory Park [Photo by David Lauer]
This year’s Circle of Excellence recipients continue to elevate our landscape and enhance their legacies. Here, learn about winning architect Stephen Hentschel.
If the word “classic” comes to mind when viewing a residence designed by Stephen Hentschel, credit the fact that the senior designer at Mandil Inc. spent most of his grade-school years studying some of Europe’s greatest architecture, up close and personal. “My dad was an officer in the U.S. Air Force,” he explains, “and he always opted for our family to live off-base when he was stationed in France and England.” The senior Hentschel was also a big history buff. “So weekends, he and my mom would pile the four of us kids into the car, and we’d visit châteaux and stately homes.”
Young Stephen showed early aesthetic promise. His father, however, imagined a more practical future outlet for his son’s talents. “I thought I was going to be an artist, and he put a mechanical pencil in my hand.” During his teen years in Florida, Hentschel took smart advantage of his high school’s “amazing three-year drafting program,” which led him straight from graduation to a six-month job drawing up control panels for an electrical- engineering company under contract to the Kennedy Space Center.
Portrait by Jennifer Olson
After earning a Bachelor of Design degree in architecture from the University of Florida, Hentschel eventually landed at University of Colorado for grad school, where he obtained an advanced architecture degree. “I was looking for someplace with urban appeal, rather than ranch homes on dunes, and I fell in love with Denver.”
Hentschel worked in Florida for five years before returning to the Mile High City, where he founded his own residential architecture and interiors studio, Hentschel Designs. In 2017 he went into partnership with Mandil Inc., as its senior designer. He now lives in one of the condos above the Mandil office in downtown Denver, having decorated his digs in an eclectic style that perfectly embodies his design approach. “Everybody’s got something they inherited from their folks, and nothing has to be stark and pure and brand-new. I have my parents’ English and French antiques. So my place is eclectic, transitional, with dark-finish painted walls and splashes of color.”
That practical, real-life approach extends to all the projects Hentschel and his colleagues at Mandil Inc. take on. “I’m always thinking about things like how far you have to walk to bring in your groceries, or if you need a morning bar so you don’t have to walk too far to the kitchen to get your coffee. I’m the practical guy.” He finds perhaps his greatest satisfaction in seeing his designs evolve with his clients’ lives. “My favorite thing is handing over a home and watching a family with children grow into it.”
A Cherry Hills Village remodel [Photo by David Lauer]
ARTISTRY THEN AND NOW “I’ve been sketching and drawing since the second grade. I can still sketch from memory the backyard of the mansion my parents rented when my father was stationed in Barisis, France, complete with its terraces and formal apple orchard. Today, I reverse-paint landscapes on glass.”
MAGIC KINGDOM “After high school, I got a summer job lifeguarding at River Country, Walt Disney World's first water park. I saw all the underground private tunnels, break rooms and other assets needed to support the Magic Kingdom above. Understanding how that was done on such a massive scale informed my future work. Anyone can design a nice-looking living room, but you also must think about what you need to support how you want it to function.”
REWARDED WITH HUGS “In contrast to our high-end clientele, we also work with Volunteers of America to help bring beautiful, thoughtful design to homeless and low-income housing in Colorado. We help eliminate cookie-cutter style by replacing sterile colors with those that speak to the region, while adding warm finishes and original art. People living there feel like they’re in custom housing, and they can’t thank or hug you enough.”
GOOD-NEIGHBOR POLICY “The current challenge to my field as I see it is what I call ‘click architecture,’ where people get on the computer screen and try to outdo each other with McMansions, randomly selecting shapes and materials that have no rhyme or reason. You just know they’re going to be torn down 50 years from now. Instead of trying to compete with your neighbors, why not complement the street, bow to the surroundings and be a nice neighbor?”