Country Club Cozy
The renovation of a historic Denver home produces an ideal spot for hosting the holidays
In June 2012 at the St. Julien hotel in Boulder, Luke Simpson handed his wife, Brooke, an envelope for their 10th anniversary. Inside was a letter from Denver residential designer Kristin Park saying how thrilled she was to start a major renovation on their house. “It was so sweet, and I was just so excited to get started on the project and to make it our forever house,” Brooke remembers. “We had been talking about it for a long time, but I was surprised that Luke was ready to pull the trigger.”
The exterior of the house had a beautiful Italianate facade, much like many of the other grandes dames in the Country Club neighborhood. The interior, however, was “squirrelly,” says Park. Homes built in the 1920s were quite different from today’s modernized floor plans, and this one was no exception. “You had to walk though bedrooms to get to other bedrooms. I hit my head on the back staircase because it was so small and steep,” says Brooke, who longed for more functional space and modern amenities like a mudroom and kitchen island. “We literally ripped off the whole back of the house and started from scratch.”
The goal was a more livable floor plan with intimately scaled rooms, and windows that would emulate the doors and archways that remained at the front of the house (the living room and main staircase are all that remain of the original). “Most of my projects are in historic districts, so my specialty is making the home work in a current way but still retaining the historic nature,” says Park, who has years of experience working with design review boards in districts such as Country Club.
Park also welcomed the Simpsons’ vision. “I appreciate people who live in their house before they renovate, because they understand the house,” she says. “It helps to know where the sun comes in, what they love about it, what they don’t like about it. I really try to design in a lasting way because this process is so expensive. If you do it right, you don’t have to do it again.” To complete the redo, the couple added color and texture with their expansive art collection, pillows and rugs. Luke and Brooke decided to forgo hiring an interior designer, instead purchasing most of their furnishings, hardware and lighting online, in local antiques stores and at estate sales.
The result of this 14-month makeover is a serene 5,000-square-foot house that the Simpsons feel is just right—even when Santa’s in town. During the winter holidays, Brooke digs out multiple bins from the garage and decorates the entire house for Christmas. “It’s my husband’s favorite holiday,” she says. “He’ll count down to Christmas all year long. In August he’ll say, ‘It’s almost Christmas!’ and I’m like, ‘It’s still summer.’ ”
The Simpsons’ holiday consists of many houseguests, a Christmas dinner for 20 family members, stockings on the staircase, gingerbread-house making with all the cousins, new pajamas on Christmas Eve, and, of course, a magnificent tree in the living room. “It’s so great because we finally have enough space for our whole family to come stay, and we’re all in one spot,” Brooke says. “It’s very festive.”
As for her husband, nothing compares to Christmas in Colorado. “Luke is a native, and he just loves the feeling of being home for the holidays,” she says. “Denver is the only place we’d ever spend Christmas.”
Renovating a 1920 Italianate home in Denver’s Country Club neighborhood became a complicated yet gratifying 15-month project for the Simpson family and residential designer Kristin Park. “We didn’t want to live through multiple small projects,” says Brooke. “We wanted to do it all at once and never have to do it again.”
The front door’s iron canopy is original to the home, while the sconces were custom made by Stuart Hill Studio. Featuring existing hardware, the antique French door is from Amighini in New Jersey. The pots are from Birdsall & Co. and the wreath is from Frontgate.
An arched doorway frames the home’s original entry staircase, which is decked out with stockings from Pottery Barn and beaded garland from Target. A wreath made by Flower Power in Denver hangs above. The chair is from Restoration Hardware, and the sideboard and mirror are both family antiques.
A custom center island by Martin Shea Millwork features a Calacatta Borghini marble countertop and barstools from Ballard Design. The La Cornue range incorporates a Rohl pot-filler and a custom hood by Weld-Wright Fabricators. The kitchen faucet is the Henry in unlacquered brass by Waterworks, the pendants are from Visual Comfort, and the rug is from Cost Plus World Market.
The breakfast nook features a table made by Martin Shea Millwork and custom benches by J Lawrence Upholstery. A chandelier from Pottery Barn hangs above a painting by Colorado artist Cheri Vilona. The cabinetry in the adjacent butler’s pantry is painted Benjamin Moore’s San Antonio Gray.
— Brooke Simpson
Thirteen-year-old Keely lounges on an upholstered chair from Quatrine, and the orange leather side table, one of a pair, is from HW Home.
In the master bedroom, a custom headboard by J Lawrence Upholstery is covered in Kravet’s Kamala Mist fabric; bedding is by Sferra. The vintage nightstand is from One Kings Lane, the chandelier is Ralph Lauren from Visual Comfort, and the rug is from Serena & Lily. A bench from Crate & Barrel is custom upholstered in Kravet's Polka Dot Plush Mineral, and the walls are painted Benjamin Moore Sleigh Bells with trim in Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White.
In the master bathroom, a Hydro Massage Tahoe tub with a Rohl Palladian faucet sits on a tile floor by Waterworks. Stone Forest’s Vintage Washbasin features the Beverly faucet by Watermark with Hamilton Sinkler Metropolitan cabinet pulls in nickel. The sconces are by Visual Comfort.