Thinking Outside The Box

Photography by James Ray Spahn

An elephant in the living room? A cow in the hallway? A tomato-red shower? No, there’s nothing cookie-cutter about this Crested Butte home.

EXTERIOR Crested Butte has extremely stringent building codes, so architects Karen and Jim Barney had to toe the line to make sure this new neo-Victorian home was neither “excessively similar” nor “excessively dissimilar” to the neighbors’. But they and the homeowners, Laurie and Mark Voegeli, did get to have a little fun: The seat in front is actually the No. 1 chairlift that went up Aspen Mountain when it rst opened to the public as a ski area in the 1940s; the Voegelis had it sandblasted and repainted bright red. They originally wanted re-engine red windows, too, but the town said no. So green—actually Benjamin Moore’s Basil Green—won by default. “There is no other house in town that has anything like this,” Laurie says. That blue DNA-style double helix is a Lyman Whitaker wind sculpture.

When most homeowners talk about putting in “penny rounds,” they mean those subtle little circular tiles that adorn many home bathroom floors. But that would be too ho-hum—too inside the box—for Mark and Laurie Voegeli. When they were designing the powder room in their Crested Butte home, they decided to go with actual penny rounds: 15,134 Abe Lincolns and E Pluribus Unum’s, all hand-epoxied—by Laurie, over 36 hours—to the floor.

POWDER ROOM FROM HALL Chocolatey walls (Benjamin Moore’s Middlebury brown), a handmade, neon-blue vanity and thousands of hand-placed pennies make the powder room unlike any other. A papier-mâché Holstein stands guard on spindly little legs in the hall (painted Benjamin Moore’s Huntington Green).

Like a lot of their design ideas, it sounded a bit too daring—but looked fantastic. And if anyone has the courage of their design convictions, it’s the Voegelis.

“My mom and I had been collecting pennies ever since the moment we decided to build the house,” Laurie says. “We actually ran out of them, and I had to go to the bank to get more. The bank teller looked at me like I was ridiculous.”

But that was just the start of the Voegelis’ bold vision. With the guidance and help of architects Jim and Karen Barney of the Crested Butte firm Freestyle Architects, who designed the house, the Voegelis were able to create a one-of-a-kind home that had character, pushed the envelope and was relatively maintenance free and as energy efficient as possible. The Voegelis clad the exterior in reclaimed wood, adding a metal roof (with solar panels) and pops of apple green on the front door and windows. On the interior, “They knew they wanted their living, kitchen and dining on the first floor, and they wanted it to be an open room,” says Karen Barney. “We planned large case openings so the room could remain open but they could also change the different spaces with color.”

DINER SEAT Why diner seating in the kitchen? “Why not?” Laurie replies. The Voegelis had this booth and table created by A Moment in Time Retro Design, which o ered dozens of colors to choose from. “We went with the checkerboard and bright green, which is almost the same color as the outside windows,” Laurie says. Adds Mark: “It’s a comfortable spot for the four of us. We sit here and have breakfast or dinner way more than at the dining table.”

In the “penny” powder room, they painted the walls a Hershey Bar brown (“I had wanted a brown wall like that for 20 years,” Laurie says), and asked a friend of Mark’s to make a one-of-a-kind vanity out of decorative steel pieces, then powder-coated it a deep azure to match the overhead cage lights. And standing sentry in the hall outside? A skinny-legged papier-mâché cow.

The cow is not alone: Hanging out in a corner of the Voegelis’ living room is a stubby-legged elephant with an egret on its back, a sculpture by Todd Warner. And everywhere you turn around them, there are sights to see: strongly variegated wood floors, an antique lightning rod from a barn in the far corner, a mismatched black-andwhite tile fireplace … . And, sitting on a window ledge quietly observing it all, are a row of porcelain construction workers, based on the famous “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” photo taken in 1932 during construction of New York’s G.E. Building.

MASTER BATH Get an early-morning wakeup call in this master bath: The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s poppy Citron, which plays o the red shower and bold black- and-white cement oor tiles. Kent Preston did all of the home’s tile work.

All are set against a backdrop of raspberry-red walls. “I just love color,” Laurie says. “In our younger daughter’s room, I stenciled all different colors of polka dots, and she loves it. Our other daughter wanted an all-white house. I was like, ‘Honey, as long as you’re living with me, you’re never going to have a white house.’ Mark always makes fun of me because I shut one eye and look at one thing with the other eye. But hopefully it all comes together.”

LIVING ROOM Go big or go home: In the Voegelis’ living room stands an elephant sculpture with an egret on its back by Todd Warner. The walls (painted Benjamin Moore’s Raspberry Tru e) play o an elevated replace clad in mismatched black-and-white cement tiles (from cementtilesshop. com), with a replace screen by the Voegelis’ friend Tucker Roberts, who also built the couple’s powder room vanity. The artwork over the replace is by Lisa Telling Kattenbraker. On the far wall is what the Voegelis like to call “the perfect piece”: “At the time we bought it,” Mark says, “we were looking for the perfect piece that would t in a speci c area of our old house, and we found it.” Inside are old toy retrucks and Auburn Rubber race cars.

Though Laurie, who works as a bookkeeper, was often the ideas person in terms of design, Mark, the assistant mountain manager at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, used all of his vacation time for a year doing labor on the home. Mark worried mostly about the home’s energy efficiency, and Laurie how it looked inside, but often their design choices were straight-up collaboration: “When we decided to do mismatched, random tiles for the fireplace, the boxes of tile came in when the house was still unfinished, and the two of us took all of the tiles out and began laying them out on the plywood floor. And it worked.”

THIRD-FLOOR CRAFTS ROOM/ PLAYROOM Because of the town’s height limits on roofs, the Barneys planned the third oor carefully, turning it into a craft room/playroom and home o ce for Laurie, a bookkeeper. “The kids and I do a lot of crafts,” Laurie says, “so I needed the big long table. And I like to hang up kids’ art. The colors and freedom of their art is just fantastic. I love it.” In later years, if the Voegelis need to create a mother-in-law unit, this space would work perfectly.

The kitchen offers up another visual symphony, with a huge piece of back-lit stained glass in the island (once part of Aspen’s famed Crystal Palace dinner theater), a stainless-steel tile backsplash, a dining table made out of an old semi-trailer truck (really), and a checkerboard table and apple-green diner booth tucked into a corner.

KITCHEN A backlit piece of stained glass from Aspen’s old Crystal Palace dinner theater (once owned by Laurie’s uncle) is the centerpiece of the kitchen island, which is topped in Caesarstone. Adding a touch of modern, the lights over the island and dining table are from West Elm, the cabinets, from Shannon Renick of Alpine Dwellings, are painted black, and the backsplash is made of stainless steel-covered ceramic tiles. The table, which came from Denver’s Rare Finds Warehouse, was made from reclaimed wood from a atbed semi-trailer deck. “They asked, ‘Do you want it character-side up or character-side down?” Mark says. “We chose to have it character side up.”

And how do visitors react to the Crayola box of colors that is the Voegelis’ home? “The reactions go from people loving it to people going, ‘Uh, wow, you’re very adventurous with color!’ It is a shock to people when they come in here. But for us, it’s just normal.”

Architects: Jim and Karen Barney, Freestyle Architects / 970.596.8126
Builders: Jobson Builders / 970.209.2041
Painting: Rob Dickinson, Precise Painting, Crested Butte