Step Inside a Magical Aspen Estate Designed by Architects Ferguson and Shamamian and Bunny Williams Interior Design
An international design firm works with a Texas family to create a multigenerational home on Red Mountain
There are two basic tenets integral to the world-renowned residential architectural firm Ferguson & Shamamian: the first, collaboration; the second, land + light. With both of these elements held firmly in the hands of design architect Damian Samora, a family of five from Houston was able to create a multigenerational forever home in Aspen that is both a testament to their vision of togetherness and an homage to a town whose loyalty is to the surrounding mountains.
It was 2012 when a 40-something couple from Houston found two adjoining lots in Aspen on which to build a spacious vacation home for themselves and their three daughters. The 2.5-acre parcel sat on the highly desirable Red Mountain, the perfect spot for the year-round retreat they’d always hoped for their growing family. Along with Ferguson & Shamamian, they enlisted iconic interior design firm Bunny Williams to work in tandem with the architects to build their dream vacation home.
After purchasing the land, however, things got a bit tricky. “We had to merge two lots— that took a lot of time dealing with the city and county,” remembers the husband, referring to the town’s stringent building codes and regulations. “Then we had to design a very wide house to go on the side of a mountain but had many places where the slope of the lot was 35 degrees or greater. The building envelope was very challenging.” The topography dictated that Samora design an “upside down” house: the main living area and primary suite on the ground level, with two lower levels home for additional bedrooms and entertainment rooms. “It’s located on a hillside, so it’s linear — like a string of pearls,” says Samora. “You want each room to capture views.”
“When you have a location as striking as the Colorado landscape, it’s the starting place for the design,” says interior designer Bunny Williams. “We looked to the sky and mountains as the inspiration for a palette of blues and mix of natural textures in what turned out to be a very European take on mountain living. But as important as the place, is how the clients will actually live in the house. We spent hours and hours (and hours!) understanding and imagining how they wanted to be in the house, where they would spend most of their time, who their guests would be,” Williams continues. “The result is these elegant but comfortable spaces that reflect the natural surroundings and invite the family and their friends to really relax, let down, and be together.”
Elizabeth Lawrence, partner at Bunny Williams, took hold of the design with a strong nod to the traditional, but with contemporary finishes added during the process to make it feel different from the family’s primary residence in Houston. “I call the style transitional because it has traditional elements to it but feels a bit cleaner with modern elements mixed in. We don’t want anyone to walk into our spaces and tell exactly when it was done,” she says. “There’s a warm, soft feel to every room, with a mixture of greens, blues and browns,” she adds. “The palette doesn’t compete with the landscape; it complements it.”
“But as important as the place, is how the clients will actually live in the house.”
-Interior designer Bunny Williams
The end result, a 15,000-square-foot Belgian-and Provençal-inspired estate with Douglas fir timber and stone sourced from the Napa Valley, showcases nature in all its glory. Soaring wood-beamed ceilings and massive windows in the great room offer expansive views of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, as well as Independence Pass and Mount Sopris. The home is privy to both business events and family time. “It’s kind of everything for us. We use it a lot with our extended family and friends, for birthday parties, conferences and speakers, and dinners on the back patio,” says the wife.
It was through tight-knit collaboration that Samora and Lawrence were able to keep true to the natural surroundings, as the homeowners wanted. “It’s about being respectful to the environment,” says Samora. “Sure, you can drop a New England colonial in Colorado and people might understand it,” he explains. “But it won’t honor Colorado. The best projects happen when your team has built-in humility and uses their listening tools, so everyone has the ability to recognize better ideas at the table,” he adds. “And just being accepting and welcoming of them … that’s when the magic happens.”
And the magic did happen, indeed. In 2017 the home was completed, and the couple’s first grandchild arrived last year. The homeowners recently hosted their middle daughter’s wedding welcome party at the house, with many more family events to follow, says the wife. “When the sun goes down and you’re looking over the town of Aspen … it’s just beautiful.”
This Aspen home is one of 14 residential projects appearing in a new book by Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, COLLABORATIONS: ARCHITECTURE, INTERIORS, LANDSCAPES, by David Masello with a foreword by Margaret Russell. Rizzoli, rizzoliusa.com.
ARCHITECTURE Ferguson & Shamamian
ASSOCIATE ARCHITECT Charles Cunniffe Architects
INTERIOR DESIGN Bunny Williams
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Design Workshop
CONSTRUCTION Hansen Construction
PHOTOGRAPHY Lisa Romerein