The original architect, Aspen-based David Finholm, was brought in to oversee a breakfast-room addition while the Misczynskis drew up new plans for the existing interiors. They left the flow and layout of the home largely intact but stripped each room down to its framing. Letting restraint be their guide, they allowed sensuous textures to take the place of strong patterns and colors. “Tactility is so important in contemporary architecture, because so much of it goes cold,” Michael says. New steel walls, for instance, were treated and waxed to look as supple as leather. The natural whorls and striations in the freshly laid wide-plank oak floors were lovingly preserved, giving the impression of a living landscape underfoot. And in a technique “straight out of our Jean-Michel Frank playbook,” Michael cheerfully admits, deeply grooved wire-brushed oak appears throughout, from bookcases in the master bedroom to blond-wood built-in beds in the bunk room.
Redesigning a 20-year-old vacation home by committee can be tricky business. But when the home in question is an arresting 15,000-square-foot log cabin perched above the stylishly well-appointed town of Aspen, Colorado, and the committee is composed of three generations of a Chicago family known for their patronage of the arts, deep understanding of architecture, and taste for midcentury design, the results are a bit more certain.
As is only appropriate to a renovation begun by committee, the family remained closely involved as it took shape. One member supervised the installation of state-of-the-art audio equipment; another took charge of the landscaping; and the matriarch, a major museum benefactor and something of an architecture buff, worked closely with the Misczynskis to create a freestanding structure within the house: a powder room encased in a striking cube of steel. Inside, it is a sanctum of deep serenity, made luminous by a set of Perriand wall lights. The cantilevered sandstone sink possesses a magical-seeming weightlessness, as if designed by Houdini.
Vintage pieces by French modernists such as Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand, and Jean Prouvé—many purchased at auction in Paris—are judiciously situated, echoing the home’s steel-and-wood construction while layering the spaces with midcentury history. “The period just seemed to make sense, because it’s approachable and a bit rough around the edges,” Michael says. “You don’t want a house to feel like a museum.”
That room, with its harmonious compositions of furniture, provides a sense of intimacy on a grand scale. To spend time there is to wish that one’s everyday life could be less chaotic, less burdened by the superfluous—in short, more Misczynski-like. “It’s tremendously comfortable and so restful to the eye,” the matriarch says of her family’s newly transformed homestead, a group effort from start to finish. “No room seems like an appendage. It’s all part of the same heart.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Architectural Digest.
Similarly thoughtful details are evident all over the house. There are Loro Piana cashmere walls and coverlets in the bedrooms, a firewood compartment conveniently located outside the master suite, and, in the master bath, a deep Zimbabwe-black-granite tub—just the thing to ease the transition back home after a long day on the slopes.
That quality could hardly be more fitting for a house set in a mountainside grove of quaking aspens. Its mammoth structural spruce logs provided a jumping-off point for the designers, who also admired the rough-and-tumble steel bolts and bases that anchor the home’s mighty beams and columns. “We knew they wanted to take the residence into a contemporary vein,” Michael says. “So we embraced metal—that industrial feeling.”
In this case, a few family powwows yielded a set of unanimous conclusions. Aspen clichés were out: no antlers, no Navajo rugs. The interiors would need to accommodate an expanding number of grandchildren, along with their skis, snowboards, and other outdoor paraphernalia. And leading the renovation would be Alexandra and Michael Misczynski of the Los Angeles–based design firm Atelier AM.
Impressive Architecture and Delighting Interior Design in Colorado
The Syncline Residence was designed by Arch11 and is located near Boulder, Colorado. Its architecture is diverse and developed in consonance with the building site’s many constraints and the land use limitations. The architects had to deal with height restrictions, solar access restraints and with an uneven terrain. The large windows create a harmonious connection to the landscape. Here is some relevant information concerning this aspect from the designers: “As the entry opens to the living spaces the apertures transform in scale to reveal the expansive landscape in its entirety. At the southwest corner thirty feet of glass retracts into the walls, dissolving the boundary between the domestic and the wild; the living spaces are then bounded only by the uplifted cliffs beyond. Reciprocally, the native meadow to the west folds onto the garage roof providing easy outdoor access for visiting guests in the house’s guest suite.” Syncline Residence was built for a couple of professional rock climbers who wanted “a place where town life can be left behind.” Think this will do?-via Contemporist
The living room features an expansive fireplace surround of blackened steel, a custom-made sectional sofa covered in a Loro Piana cotton, stools by Atelier AM in a Sam Kasten bouclé, a vintage Prouvé chair, and a Pierre Guariche floor lamp; the painting is by Richard Prince.
The owners are perhaps most delighted with the great room, a vast, once under-utilized space with panoramic views. Today, it is the go-to place in which to curl up on a vintage French chair and read a book or simply watch the weather form and pass over the ski trails of Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk Mountain.
With a reputation for precisely elegant interiors, the Misczynskis have, in the decade of their firm’s existence, garnered a stellar list of clients, including Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise as well as Michael Eisner, the former Disney CEO, and his wife, Jane. The Chicago family had worked with Atelier AM on two previous dwellings and trusted their all-encompassing approach to design. “I like the look and feel of their work,” says the patriarch. “The style isn’t pretentious, yet it’s beautifully done. It has a very natural quality.”
Explore2011homehome toursmagazineDecember 2011renovationad100atelier amdecorother:Howard Christian