A Blank Canvas

An art-filled townhome abutting the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is the perfect locale for art collectors seeking a private escape.

By Nicole Holland Pearce | Photography by Raul J. Garcia

Planted in downtown Denver is the 12-townhome collection known as Art House, a modern development that lodges some of the city’s most avid art collectors. Next door to its bright façade sits the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, a black monolith of refined severity that contrasts with the Art House.

Art House townhome-owner Dee Chirafisi worked with the developer from the project’s inception, and describes the airy interiors as blank canvases that owners can customize with their own portfolios of sculptures and paintings.

No two floor plans are alike in the community, and interiors feel all the more personalized by the freedom of expression afforded by its art gallery inferences. “We’re right downtown in a high-density part of the city, and we wanted to create a place that let our blood pressure go down,” says Chirafisi of the interior design in her home. Water features both indoors and out create the sound of trickling water to send waves of calming energy throughout the four-floor residence.

The interior hadn’t been built out when Dee and her husband Jim hired Xan Creative. “Dee and Jim have an amazing art collection,” says Melissa Friday of Xan Creative. “Our goal was to make things look clean and simple.” The interior background finishes are textural, lending interest without competing with the artwork. “We looked for earth and water elements that are dynamic, but not colorful,” says Friday. “We used tones of white as a backdrop for the colorful, energetic artwork.”

Friday designed the water fountain sculpture at the base of the stairwell. “Ordering a fountain just didn’t seem right for the space,” she says. Friday not only designed the sculpture but also the material that was used to compose the piece. “You can create your own aggregate mix,” says Friday, who chose mother of pearl, continuing the white textural theme, while adding dimension with the light refraction from the mother of pearl. The limestone came from India. The fountain, another dynamic element in the design, makes an architectural statement, which is sophisticated and, at the same time, subtle. Guests may not recognize the details that give the space its serenity and sophistication, but the result was carefully planned: Artwork that stars in a tranquil space.

MAIN FLOOR LIVING ROOM In the main floor living room, a large airbrush work titled “30 Mils Out of Laramie” by artist Don Coen takes center stage. Two works of hanging sculpture frame the outward perimeter of the living space, suspended over the home’s street-level entryway below. The sculptures, by Denver artist Scott Lary, are made from found vintage objects, such as cork and plastic plates from diners.

KITCHEN Open, subtle and almost transparent, the Bulthaup kitchen provides another touch of artistic character to the already highly aesthetic space. “The cloud,” which hangs above the island, replicates the shape of the dining room table.

DINING ROOM Painted peaches grab the eye in a piece titled “Creationists III,” by artist Michael Brangollio. The dining room’s hefty walnut table is softened by elegant seating, comfortable enough to spend hours on during a dinner party.

RED LADIES PAINTING This untitled piece was painted by artist Dave Silletto, a friend of Dee’s husband, Jim. The two went to high school together and he presented the painting as a wedding gift.

MASTER BATH The monochromatic tone contributes to a spa-like master bathroom, filled with natural illumination. The Axor fixtures on the tub, shower and sink add beautiful detail, while the tub, designed by BainUltra, presents a reposeful retreat.

MASTER BEDROOM The master bedroom is still and quiet, an ideal escape from the grip of the city beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. Cool colors in wall paint and fabrics contribute to the tranquil setting, with shots of color found in throw pillows and the art piece—a painting by Denver artist Amy Metier, which the homeowners found at the William Havu Gallery.

GARDEN French doors right off the kitchen open up fully to reveal the serene backyard garden. Outdoor furniture by Kingsley-Bates complements the surroundings with such harmony, it seems to blend into the landscape of grasses, bamboo and Japanese maples. A two-level water feature houses five koi fish as well as silver cylinders that rotate with fluid movement.

The Art House

Architect: Studio Completiva, 303.477.9156 | studiocompletiva.com

The Chirafish Home

House: About 3,600 square feet; 2 bedrooms, 2 offices, 4 baths, private elevator

Interior Architect: Xan Creative, Melissa Friday and Marisha Farbotko-Cowles, 303.296.4584 |  xancreative.com

Landscape Architect: Bouquets, 303.333.5500 | bouquets.org

Landscaping: Todd Dupry, Organica Landscapes |  organicalandscapes.com