Tour the Winning Spaces From Our 2023 Top Denver Home Design Contest

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Form Factor

When architect Ken Andrews first visited this double lot in Boulder’s Chautauqua neighborhood, he climbed onto the roof of the property’s decrepit house with his husband-and-wife clients, took in the panorama of the Flatirons, and said, “This is what it’s all about,” Andrews recalls. “They wanted to wake up and look at that view every morning.”

As his design for a new dwelling took shape, Andrews thought about the powerful geologic forces that formed the massive, angled slabs of red sandstone that make up the striking Flatirons. In particular, he considered the concept of vergence, which geologists use to describe the geometries of folds in rocks, from tiny crinkles to mountain-size bends.

“We imagined a stone fold that rises out of the ground and forms a series of walls in the landscape,” he says, referring to the limestone panels that seemingly emerge from this sloped property to adorn portions of the home’s shell. “[The limestone] comes up and creates shelter to the north, envelops the roof, and wraps around” to the southern facade.

Inside the house, an origamilike staircase introduces more eye-catching angles—and a unifying theme for the entire interior. “The wood stair occupies a stone-clad void that goes from the basement all the way up to the top floor,” Andrews says. “If you stand at the bottom and look up, you can see all the geometry in the ceiling above, which has an almost modern baroque quality—[the overall design] is about minimalism in terms of palette, but almost maximalism in that the geometry creates the experience.”

With such intentional architecture in play, interior designer Kristin Wynne’s mission was to choose furnishings that would complement, but not compete with, the structure’s beauty. “The interior materials palette is minimal and quiet with monolithic finishes that travel throughout the house, and the aim was for the furniture to act similarly,” she says. The material and color palette she arrived at—a mix of wood, wool, alpaca, velvet, and leather in a soft gradient of grays—emphasizes the architecture’s sense of calm, the play of light that washes across every surface, and, most important, the views of those iconic sandstone sentinels pointing west.

Design Pros

Architecture and interior design: Arch11
Construction: Harrington Stanko Construction
Landscape architecture: Marpa Landscape Architecture


The Dark Side

very dark vertical photo
To create contrast with the powder room’s dark hues, designer Jamie Nusser had the original red oak floors bleached a light blond hue. Photo by James Florio; styling by Natalie Warady

Rather than fight with a windowless powder room in Golden’s Applewood neighborhood, Jamie Nusser of J Designs decided to lean into the space’s moody, dark look—but not without making some serious cosmetic upgrades. “It was your classic 1990s powder room: It had a dated wood vanity and bad, flower-print wallpaper; it really needed some love,” Nusser says. Now, the room feels like it would be right at home in a chic Manhattan boîte, thanks to glowing alabaster orb sconces and 3D ceramic wall tile made in Japan. “[The tiles] have this pillow shape to them, which gives the wall texture and dimension,” Nusser says. To draw the eye upward and add visual height to the small space, the designer applied a graphic, textured wallpaper to the ceiling.

Design Pros

Interior design: J Designs
Construction: All You Need Home Improvements


Queen’s Gambit

dark study
Louisville-based art consultant Kate Meyers of Kate Finds Art helped the homeowners discover and settle on several pieces, including the faux trophy head. Photo by Emily Minton Redfield; styling by Natalie Warady

The recently retired owners of this Observatory Park home wanted their study to serve a very specific purpose: “Their vision was to play chess [in there],” says designer Kim Blankenburg of Denver design firm Layers & Lines. So Blankenburg and her design partner, Molly Bevan, set out to create a comfortable space that could support hours of fierce matches. They worked with Denver-based wallpaper consultancy Walltawk to select a painterly paper for the ceiling that complements the walls’ existing charcoal hue. “We love how the wallpaper is very soft and waterlike; it’s a great contrast to the settee,” Blankenburg says, referencing the seat’s graphic, linen-blend velvet upholstery. “[The settee] was a pretty bold choice, so we wanted to add some calming elements.” Also helping with that goal: a tranquil landscape painting that hangs above the sofa. “It’s a very serene, more traditional-looking art piece,” Blankenburg says.

Design Pros

Interior design: Layers & Lines
Architecture: Goerig Design
Construction: Gates Custom Homes


Raise The Roof

light kitchen
To ground the airy space, Blush Kitchens—a Denver-based cabinetry company—created custom, black-painted lower cabinets. Photo by Kimberly Gavin; styling by Natalie Warady

Although the owners of this Bow Mar Tudor were smitten with its ranch-style layout, they wanted their home to have a more open, airy feel. So instead of tweaking the house’s footprint, two Denver-based firms—Kaleidoscope Design and KGA Studio Architects—worked together to pitch the kitchen ceiling to 14 feet high and add vaulted windows. “The goal was to position the kitchen in a way that gave it lots of sunlight and visibility to the backyard,” says Cassy Kicklighter Poole, principal designer and owner of Kaleidoscope. To complement the new ceiling’s organic look, Kicklighter Poole incorporated timeless, nature-inspired materials (leather-backed bar stools, quartzite countertops, concrete-domed pendant lights) throughout the room. “We wanted to introduce fresh finishes to the space but make them feel authentic,” she says.

Design Pros

Interior design: Kaleidoscope Design
Architecture: KGA Studio Architects
Construction: Harko Construction


Dim, Not Dull

Blue & white sunny room
Custom armchairs in blue cotton velvet add a colorful counterpoint to the otherwise two-toned space. Photo by William Abranowicz/Art + Commerce

An abundance of natural light is typically considered a desirable design element, but when Andrea Schumacher set out to revive a 1909 Denver Country Club Tudor’s living room, her first design move was, ahem, glaringly obvious. “It was so, so bright!” says the designer and owner of Andrea Schumacher Interiors, which is based in Denver. To tone down the space, Schumacher employed a palette of chocolate browns and true blues. And she applied a graphic, bamboolike pattern to the ceiling, walls, and window draperies. “[The pattern] envelops the space so you feel cocooned and cozy,” Schumacher says. Dazzling above it all: a pendant lamp that resembles a gold-gilt palm tree.

Design Pros

Interior design: Andrea Schumacher Interiors


Built To Last

Staircase with blue & white wallpaper
Photo by Eric Lucero

When renovating a historical home, a designer’s task becomes reminiscent of that old yarn about friendship: Make new friends, but keep the old. Or, in the case of the revamp of this 1910 Tudor in the Montclair neighborhood: Add novel touches, but keep the best of the original elements. To that end, Miranda Cullen, owner and principal designer of Littleton design firm Inside Stories, knew she wanted to emphasize the foyer’s existing architectural details. Cullen tucked graphic wallpaper between the open ceiling beams; chose a spotted, animal-print-esque runner to cascade down the original staircase; and swapped a dated light fixture for a modernist bubble chandelier that illuminates the arched detailing of the adjacent wall—which also serves a covert purpose. “The wall panel on the right-hand side leads to a secret powder room that we made out of a former coat closet,” Cullen says. The space’s clever design updates are meant to last for decades to come—just like the best friendships.

Design Pros

Interior design: Inside Stories
Construction: Sean Spicer


View Finder

Exterior at sunset
The home’s massive weathered-steel panels rust over time; it’s part of the beauty (and requires zero maintenance). Photo by David Lauer

Tucked inside the shadows of the Collegiate Peaks, this five-acre site in Salida would make a “Greetings From The Rockies” postcard envious. The couple who own the prime plot along the Arkansas River enlisted architect Mike Piché, principal of Studio B Architecture & Interiors in Aspen and Boulder, to build a home that would embrace—not overtake—the showstopping setting. “One side of the property overlooks the river, so we perched the house as close to that edge as we could,” he says. To maximize the panorama, Piché opted for a flat, unobstructive roofline and floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the home’s core. “With a piece of land like that, capturing the views is really what it’s about, and the architecture is pretty secondary,” he notes. In addition to using light-transmissible glass that limits heat gain, he designed deep overhangs to make the home as energy efficient as possible in an oft-extreme environment. But perhaps the greatest ode to the locale is the pattern etched into the exterior stucco, which was hand-troweled using a bespoke comb. “There’s an organic quality to the river flow and the beach and the sediment,” Piché says, “and we were trying to evoke that in the facade.”

Design Pros

Architecture: Studio B Architecture & Interiors
Construction: Hammerwell
Landscape architecture: R Design


Modern Oasis

dark dark bathroom
Photo by Kimberly Gavin

Denver architect Dain Carlson’s advice for homeowners contemplating a striking look for their loo? Go for it. “Bathrooms are a really good place to do something interesting,” he says. “You might be afraid to use bold finishes in the rest of your house, but the primary bath is one of the most personal spaces that really only you get to enjoy.” For this University home’s primary bathroom, Carlson and his team at Factor Design Build opted for an oak vanity, handmade zellige wall tile in a blush hue, graphic black-and-white floor tile, and gold hardware and plumbing fixtures. “It’s a really good blend of masculine and feminine,” Carlson says of the eye-catching materials.

Design Pros

Architecture, interior design, construction: Factor Design Build

This article was originally published in 5280 December 2023.

Christine DeOrio

Kathryn O'Shea-Evans

Michelle Johnson

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