A Glass Act
On a hillside lot east of Aspen, Z-Group Architects, builder Barret Cyr and designer Karen White have created a warm, glamorous home with views to die for
Amazing views are the stars of the show in this glass-walled Mountain Modern home east of Aspen. “Several times we’ve been told that one wall of our house looks like the wallpaper of a mountain—and with each season, it changes dramatically,” says homeowner Susan, who with her husband, Steve, moved into the house in 2021, and now divide their time between Aspen and Houston.
“We wanted a modern house that had lots of glass on the exterior but still felt homey, warm and comfortable inside,” says Susan. “The top floor is an open-concept floor plan, with the kitchen, dining room, family room and game room/bar area all together.
But we designed the house so both the living areas and all four bedrooms would have mountain views. In many of the homes we saw during our search, the secondary bedrooms were underground with no windows or views, and we knew we wanted all of the bedrooms to have fabulous views.”
The homeowners, who’d been coming to Aspen for years, had long hoped to find an already-built home to suit their needs, but when their realtor, Andrew Ernemann of Sotheby’s, showed them this property, they decided to start from scratch, hiring Aspen’s Z-Group Architects, builder Cyr+Co and Basalt-based Karen White Interior Design to create the new showplace.
“The immediate goal was the views,” says architect Seth Hmielowski at Z-Group. “The higher you got on the site, the better the views are, so the goal was how high could we go with that top floor? We had to push the envelope on several fronts. One was the building height, with Pitkin County, and the other was the driveway, with the county and fire departments. We literally couldn’t go any higher.” (A “robust foundation package” anchors it all.)
“We call this the Strata House. Strata are layers of rock formations, and that’s the way we see this house,” explains the architect. “We nestled the house into the hillside so that pretty much on every level, you walk out onto grade. It works within the existing contours of the site rather than trying to force some other shape onto the house by cutting in a big flat spot. We did the front side so it’s all sun and view, and the backside is for privacy and shade, so in June or July, when you’re crushed with the sun, you go to the backside, which is totally in shade. Then, when the sun goes down, you go to the front.”
As the 5,750-square-foot home was being built, with Barrett Cyr of Cyr+Co handling construction, White and the homeowners got to work on the interior finishes and décor, always informed by the amazing vertiginous site.
“We wanted to let the views be the main attraction, so this home has complimentary finishes that blend with the organic nature you see outside,” says White. “Then we have touches of unexpected glam, with polished chrome mixing with some burnished brass finishes and pops of color you might not expect in places like the bar area countertop.”
“We have touches of unexpected glam, with polished chrome mixing with some burnished brass finishes.”
—Interior designer Karen White
Today, the homeowners are glad they waited to build their dream home, which is only a 20-minute walk to downtown Aspen. “We have met lots of new people and also have a large contingency of Texas friends here that we spend time with. Each day there’s something fun to do,” says Susan. “We love the many outdoor activities that Aspen offers in the summertime, as well as entertaining in our new home. Hiking, biking, fly-fishing and golfing are all favorite activities, and we’ve started playing pickleball with friends, too. We have already enjoyed living in this home and community much more than we imagined and still pinch ourselves when we are here.”
ARCHITECTURE Z-Group Architects Seth Hmielowski: AIA, LEED AP, Senior Principal INTERIOR DESIGN Karen White Interior Design Karen White: Allied ASID, Principal BUILDER Cyr+Co Barrett Cyr: Principal and Builder