Five Under Forty: Margaret Selzer

River + Lime | Denver
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Portrait by Jennifer Olson

Location, Location, Location. We all know how important it is—and that may be doubly so when designing mountain homes. Just ask Margaret Selzer, founder of River + Lime. “So many of our projects are vacation homes in the mountains with the prettiest backdrops imaginable, and we try to celebrate that. We have built-in art outside every window, so we want to design spaces that are beautiful but don’t compete with the unbelievable views.”

Selzer grew up in Cortez, left to earn her bachelor’s in interior design from The University of Arkansas’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and then returned to Colorado in 2004 to work at OZ Architecture. “That’s where I learned how interior design is applied in the real world—understanding what it means to be a member of a team all working together for a common goal. I couldn’t do what I do now without that experience.”

In 2012, Selzer founded her own firm, River + Lime. Its striking name comes from a Boston intersection where she lived during a college internship. “I just knew I would have my own business one day, and River + Lime felt right.”

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Photo by Jess Blackwell

Running her own company, she says, “gave me the opportunity to create a team and an environment that fit the way I wanted to work. At River + Lime, our goal is to produce phenomenal work, but within an office environment that also celebrates being a healthy individual. I think people come to the table more creative when they are fulfilled outside the office.”

Today, River + Lime is a team of four—“small but mighty,” as Selzer describes it. “I work with the best clients and the best teams, because I think good energy attracts good energy.” Fifty percent of the firm’s work is with developers on larger mountain resort development projects, mostly residential; the other 50 percent is working one on one with homeowners doing residential design, also primarily in the mountains and often for clients who live out of state. “One of the biggest challenges for our clients is logistics, but as we like to say, ‘If you aren’t local, we will be.’ These homes are beautiful for a reason, and it’s not because they’re easy to get to.”

Selzer describes her style as “approachable luxury,” and says her clients “don’t want a home that is high maintenance. They want to be able to come in from the outdoors and live easily in their home.”

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Photo by Draper White

“My dad always had magazines around the house with home plans and black-and-white exterior renderings. As a kid, I loved to flip through them and study the plans—I was really drawn to them. I also loved art, so in college, interior design seemed like a nice balance of the creative and the practical.”

“When you ask clients, ‘What do you want your home to look like?’ they sometimes struggle, but everyone can describe how they want a place to feel. One client said she wanted to feel calm. Others want to feel excited, or to feel energy. Sometimes we’ll check back in with the word while we’re working on a project to make sure we’re still on track.”

“I’m really inquisitive. I get to know people in a much more intimate way than, say, their CPA. I love that. We know one client has a certain special smoothie every morning, and that’s something we need to incorporate into their kitchen. It’s a bit of push and pull between form and function, but that’s fun—creating this beautiful environment that supports the way someone wants to live. How amazing is that?”

“We were designing this very contemporary bathroom and found a vintage photograph of cowboys sitting on a fence. When it’s on the wall, it looks like they’re just staring at you while you’re in the bathtub. The space was beautiful, but we wanted to add just a bit of humor. It’s a cliché, but I think pieces like that find us.”

“I love beautiful things that last. I hate fast fashion coming into the interior design space. We recently had a rep mentioning the price point of a rug and saying it could be easily thrown away. I thought, gosh, I don’t want to buy things with the idea that they could be thrown away. What we do has an imprint, and I want it to be a positive one. I like to think about someone’s core values, the ones that last.”

“My most prized possession is a little writing desk that I use as a nightstand. It’s been in my family since 1867. Inside the drawer are the names of our family, in pencil, and a note to always keep it in the family. Things have a life and a meaning. I am the keeper of this table right now, but it will have a life after me. What makes an environment special is having things around you that you love. My grandfather was a carpenter and had an old wooden toolbox that he kept in his truck. I now have it in my bar and use it to hold liquor bottles. I love to have a piece in my house that reminds me of him.”

“A client once said, ‘I never knew I could live in a space like this.’ That has always stuck with me—the fact that they had a space designed for them. Some people think a space is just a space, so when you can show someone how their space can have meaning, that’s special.”

See the rest of the 2021 Five Under Forty design award winners.

Categories: Stylemakers