In 1991, when the homeowner bought this International-style house in a Denver neighborhood lined with Tudors, it stood out like a sore thumb. Not even his real estate agent had high hopes of selling the home. But this buyer, raised in southern California, was no stranger to early 20th century, Bauhaus-inspired modernist architecture. He saw potential in the structure.
“The home was built in 1939 at 2,500 square feet,” he says. “It was in bad condition but it was affordable, and it was a project I wanted to take on.” The goal for the renovation was to achieve a modern look with classical touches. So the homeowner stained the red oak floors ebony, kept the original art-deco banister and gutted the kitchen, adding exotic anigre wood cabinets and stainless steel counters.
Then in 2000, to accommodate a growing family, the homeowner doubled the square footage of the home by adding a family room and upstairs bedrooms as well as a pool. With this expansion, he and his wife started buying art together, enlisting the help of art consultant Ann Benson Reidy. “The husband intuitively knew what he liked: pieces that elicit a dialogue between the art and the viewer,” Reidy says; “but his wife didn’t always understand his attraction to certain pieces.” So Reidy served as a guide, helping the wife understand her husband’s preferences and explore her own feelings about particular works.
Their collection includes pieces by well-known names such as Alexander Calder and Salvador Dali, but they also purchase works by Colorado artists and have established relationships with several local galleries. Their guiding principle for collecting is to buy what speaks to them, not those paintings that have the right colors or dimensions for a particular space. “We want art that will look great anywhere—not just in this house,” the husband says.
Between gifts from parents as well as pieces bought during their travels, the couple’s collection has grown to include works by Herbert Bayer, Jae Ko, Jeffrey Keith and Alex Echo. “What makes their house special,” says Reidy, “is the co-mingling of first-class art with first-class furniture and textiles. Everything is thoughtfully chosen and placed to bring out the best in all of it.”
This careful mix of elements conveys a modern design sensibility, apparent in the dark floors, Benjamin Moore Dove White walls and anigre millwork. But each room stands on its own by virtue of clean-lined furniture and unusual layouts. Just as in fine European salons, the chairs, sofas and tables create intimate conversation areas. Fabrics play off one another, and textures are sumptuous. The whole, in each room, is a marvelous sum of its parts.