A Customized, Contemporary Haven in Aspen
Seasoned designers created this home in the mountain town's West End
When a Palm Beach couple hired interior designers Joe McGuire and Matthew Tenzin in October 2019 to take on a 6,000- square-foot, partially constructed new-build in Aspen’s West End neighborhood, everyone involved thought they were designing a vacation getaway home. But after COVID hit, the designers and the family, which includes three grown children, realized it would serve a larger purpose.
“When the family first bought the place, no one knew how well-used and well-loved it would immediately become,” says McGuire, founder and principal designer of Joe McGuire Design. “They planned to use it for only part of the year. But when the country went into lockdown, everyone’s plans got scrambled and it became a refuge.”
One daughter left her L.A. high-rise; another was escaping the smoke from the fires near San Francisco. And then there were the kids’ partners and pets to accommodate as well. So McGuire and Tenzin tailored the five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home to fit. They outfitted each bedroom with a well-appointed work area, ramping up the house’s functionality. Plus, they used pet-friendly materials throughout.
They also fashioned the furniture to be ultra-comfortable. “We ordered beautiful furnishings from all over the world—very customized for this tall, athletic family,” says Tenzin, the firm’s co-owner and principal designer.
Case in point: the coffee tables. “This client loves huge coffee tables,” Tenzin says. “We would present a table we thought was already oversized and we’d be standing there with the tape measure, and she would be like, ‘Can you pull it out farther? We need more room.’ And so they have these giant tables—which are amazing—because their whole family wants to sit around them. We kept several of the large ones in the living room light-colored, in white lacquer. We designed them from scratch.”
The homeowners were very involved in the home’s design, which helped considerably, Tenzin says. “They were able to make quick decisions and were great to collaborate with,” he explains.
“[The wife] had a very distinct vision,” McGuire adds. “She loves contrast. We don’t generally do as much contrast, so that was unique for us. It was exciting, because it was something new.”
The client had a specific color palette in mind: white and black, along with chartreuse and jewel tones for flashes of color, Tenzin says. “We fell in love with chartreuse while working with her,” he explains. “It was so cool to see how it related to the vivid spring green that would come out on the aspens and the hills. Then in the fall it even related to the changing colors of the leaves.”
McGuire and Tenzin succeeded in pulling together a gorgeous, holistic and homey design—just in time for one of the daughter’s June 2020 wedding, which because of social distancing guidelines, had turned into an intimate family gathering, with other guests on Zoom.
The feedback the designers consistently received, McGuire says, is that the house was not just beautiful—it was also livable. “As designers, that is our highest priority. A home may be beautiful or impressive, but what’s the point if it’s not livable?”
McGuire and Tenzin also made it a point to complement the home’s architecture rather than compete with it. “The architect [John Galambos of Galambos Architects] put in so many wonderful, elegant details that are simple and somewhat subtle, like the curves and corbels throughout the home,” Tenzin says. “John’s design has the elements of a classic or Victorian home—like the others in the neighborhood—but then it’s pared down and simplified, which makes it contemporary, but less harsh, less severe, more inviting.”
And inviting does seems like the ideal adjective for a place full-up with family who are in no rush to abandon their large coffee tables and head out, finding, instead, plenty of reasons to settle in for a while.
ARCHITECT John Galambos, Galambos Architects INTERIOR DESIGNER Joe McGuire, Matthew Tenzin, Joe McGuire Design BUILDER Heimata Rutgers, James Guest, Chris Morrow, Rutgers Construction CABINETMAKER Bill Miller, Waterworks LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Mike Albert, Design Workshop