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  • Writer's pictureZ Group Architecture & Interior Design

A Glass Act | Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

With comfort and mountainside views in mind, this single-family home in Aspen was designed by Z Group to welcome the outdoors in. The living areas and all bedrooms were designed to have mountain views with a “robust foundation package” anchoring and supporting the most height possible out of the property. The house follows the flow of the sun; making sure it was designed with the sunrise and sunset, the homeowners are shaded by the hot summer sun in the back of the property and can enjoy the sunset in the front of the home at dusk. With only a 20 minute walk to downtown Aspen, this is the ideal spot for an innovative home to be built. Read the article by Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine to hear more about this spectacular feature, Strata House.


On a hillside lot east of Aspen, Z Group Architects, builder Barret Cyr and designer Karen White have created a warm, glamorous home with views to die for.

February 28, 2022 by Alison Gwinn

The 26,263-square-foot lot is very steep, so the team at Z Group Architects built an elaborate foundation and went up as high as they could to capture the best views possible. | Photography by Dallas & Harris Photography

Amazing views are the stars of the show in this glass-walled Mountain Modern home east of Aspen. “Several times we’ve been told that one wall of our house looks like the wallpaper of a mountain—and with each season, it changes dramatically,” says homeowner Susan, who with her husband, Steve, moved into the house in 2021, and now divide their time between Aspen and Houston.

The airy foyer helps connect the home’s three floors. The vivid piece of art by Zhuang Hong-yi is made of rice paper and painted in different colors so the hues appear to change as you walk around the piece.

“We wanted a modern house that had lots of glass on the exterior but still felt homey, warm and comfortable inside,” says Susan. “The top floor is an open-concept floor plan, with the kitchen, dining room, family room and game room/bar area all together.

The design of the expansive kitchen started with a statement piece: the set of polished chrome upper cabinets by Wood-Mode. “We saw those cabinets in a magazine and had to have them,” says Susan. “If you get up close to them, they’re like a mirror—you can almost see the mountain behind you in the reflection.”

But we designed the house so both the living areas and all four bedrooms would have mountain views. In many of the homes we saw during our search, the secondary bedrooms were underground with no windows or views, and we knew we wanted all of the bedrooms to have fabulous views.”

Towering 13-foot ceilings and wall-to-wall windows open up the living room/dining room space and allow the views to take center stage. The knotty white-oak floors and stained-oak ceiling add warmth to the public spaces, and the living room is punctuated by a metal-surround fireplace with a granite hearth.

The homeowners, who’d been coming to Aspen for years, had long hoped to find an already-built home to suit their needs, but when their realtor, Andrew Ernemann of Sotheby’s, showed them this property, they decided to start from scratch, hiring Aspen’s Z Group Architects, builder Cyr+Co and Basalt-based Karen White Interior Design to create the new showplace.

The outdoor dining area, on the back of the house, has a linear fireplace, gas grill and a table and chairs from Harbour. The landscaped garden, created by Basalt’s Connect One Design, has lots of color provided by deer-resistant native perennials mixed with evergreens that supply a pop of green all year long.

“The immediate goal was the views,” says architect Seth Hmielowski at Z Group. “The higher you got on the site, the better the views are, so the goal was how high could we go with that top floor? We had to push the envelope on several fronts. One was the building height, with Pitkin County, and the other was the driveway, with the county and fire departments. We literally couldn’t go any higher.” (A “robust foundation package” anchors it all.)

The dining room started with the painting by Christopher Martin, which the homeowners found early in the design process. The rug is by artist Edgar Podzemny, owner of Houston’s Madison Lily Rugs, based on one of his paintings. The zinc-wrapped dining table with Lucite legs is surrounded by custom chairs in a Perennial fabric, all sitting under a Moooi chandelier.

“We call this the Strata House. Strata are layers of rock formations, and that’s the way we see this house,” explains the architect. “We nestled the house into the hillside so that pretty much on every level, you walk out onto grade. It works within the existing contours of the site rather than trying to force some other shape onto the house by cutting in a big flat spot. We did the front side so it’s all sun and view, and the backside is for privacy and shade, so in June or July, when you’re crushed with the sun, you go to the backside, which is totally in shade. Then, when the sun goes down, you go to the front.”

The open stairway, which connects the living floor on top to the bedroom floor in the middle and the garage on the bottom floor, is accented by a scattering of three-dimensional jacks on the top floor wall.

As the 5,750-square-foot home was being built, with Barrett Cyr of Cyr+Co handling construction, White and the homeowners got to work on the interior finishes and decor, always informed by the amazing vertiginous site.

Custom-designed bathroom cabinetry is accented with Visual Comfort sconces over vinyl basketry wallpaper from Phillip Jeffries. The marble tile is from Decorative Materials; the freestanding MTI tub sits under a marble niche to hold soaps.

“We wanted to let the views be the main attraction, so this home has complimentary finishes that blend with the organic nature you see outside,” says White. “Then we have touches of unexpected glam, with polished chrome mixing with some burnished brass finishes and pops of color you might not expect in places like the bar area countertop.”

“We have touches of unexpected glam, with polished chrome mixing with some burnished brass finishes.” —Interior designer Karen White

“All of the bedrooms have a similar design aesthetic. We wallpapered the headboard walls for an accent but tailored each room in subtle, unique ways,” says White. In the primary suite, the custom upholstered bed (in a Perennial fabric) is backed by a Phillip Jeffries Ethereal wallpaper and surrounded by custom-designed nightstands with Lucite legs.

Today, the homeowners are glad they waited to build their dream home, which is only a 20-minute walk to downtown Aspen. “We have met lots of new people and also have a large contingency of Texas friends here that we spend time with. Each day there’s something fun to do,” says Susan. “We love the many outdoor activities that Aspen offers in the summertime, as well as entertaining in our new home. Hiking, biking, fly-fishing and golfing are all favorite activities, and we’ve started playing pickleball with friends, too. We have already enjoyed living in this home and community much more than we imagined and still pinch ourselves when we are here.”

Click HERE to view more on Strata House.


ARCHITECTURE | Z Group Architects, Seth Hmielowski: AIA, LEED AP, Senior Principal

INTERIOR DESIGN | Karen White Interior Design, Karen White: Allied ASID, Principal

BUILDER | Cyr+Co, Barrett Cyr: Principal and Builder


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