A modern Aspen home parallels the owners’ design sensibilities.
To say that Jamie and Margo Koval’s sleek, contemporary home in Aspen’s Knollwood neighborhood was a long time coming is a definite understatement. With deep family roots in town, the couple had been visiting, skiing and owning residences on and off in the area since the mid-’60s. Jamie, a graphic designer by trade, interned early on with local photographer David Marlow (who photographed the home for this article) and collaborated on the design of Hotel Jerome’s logo when the historic building was renovated in the late 1980s.
Tucked below the stair at the lower level, Jamie Koval’s custom walnut desk provides plenty of space for his graphic design work. The desk mimics the large cabinetry on the main upper level.
Fast-forward to 2017. After a few decades in Chicago and New York, where Jamie specialized in branding and marketing, it was time to put down more permanent roots in Aspen. When the 18,000-square-foot Knollwood lot came up for sale, an offer was immediately made. “It was a good value, in a really good part of town,” Jamie recalls. “It was a place where we could actually create something.”
The double-height black patina steel and walnut entry introduces materials prevalent within the house and a glimpse of the lawn at the rear. The bronze Agnes 10-light chandelier by Lindsey Adelman is from Roll & Hill.
Finding an architect to partner with on their journey was key. “We did our due diligence on architects in town that did modern design and interviewed three. We just clicked with Joseph Spears at S2,” recalls Jamie. “He’s a good communicator and a great collaborator with a positive attitude. We knew he would be easy to work with.”
A guest bedroom on the lower level pairs a Modena nontufted fabric platform bed with a handwoven Kamal rug, a polished stainless-steel Machinto dresser and an Ellison track-arm leather chair.
They immediately set out to work on a masterpiece together. “Jamie has a very precise eye and, as a graphic designer, understands alignment and precision, and was into good modern architecture,” says Spears. “He was very specific about what he wanted the house to be.” Inspiration came largely from elements of a trio of structures the owners admired: the symmetrical nature of Hotel Jerome, the simple form of the Aspen Art Museum and the simple treatment of glass evident in the midcentury modern buildings designed by Herbert Bayer on the Aspen Meadows campus.
The open main level features a walnut cabinet system and an ultramatte white Premier Eurocase cabinetry island topped with Corian. The Arles rectangular dining table is paired with Ellison track-arm ebony leather chairs.
“JAMIE HAS A VERY PRECISE EYE AND, AS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, UNDERSTANDS ALIGNMENT AND PRECISION, AND WAS INTO GOOD MODERN ARCHITECTURE.”–JOSEPH SPEARS, S2
Smooth white plaster frames, planes of glass and hemlock wood “boxes” express the home’s linear exterior.
Fixing up a small downtrodden house (since razed) on the property and renting it for a year while working with Spears on plans for the new house gave the owners insight into its design and sighting. Riffing on a timeless color and material palette including black, white and walnut gave a nod to their midcentury modern sensibilities. A penchant for entertaining combined with a love for simple open spaces drove the concept of placing all main living areas, including the primary bedroom and bath, on one open level.
The main bathroom features a Corian-topped walnut vanity and a Badeloft Corian tub.
Simplifying the basic design of the home, Spears describes it as floating planes of glass within a white box with a hemlock wood box at each end. More refined than stucco, the smooth white plaster elements create a frame for the wood box elements. “It’s a very clean exterior with very few joints and simple materials,” he says.
Prior to entering via what Spears describes as “a double-height entry that falls away,” and that divides the private and public spaces, one might have the impression that the home is on one single level. That is refuted, however, by a black galvanized steel stairway leading down to a lower level containing a trio of bedrooms (the couple’s three adult children visit often) and a large family room-den area that open to patios edged by grassy expanses of lawn.
Open and inviting, the main living level features an open kitchen, where custom Corian counters are set against custom walnut cabinetry, and a living area anchored by a black steel fireplace. The primary bedroom suite follows suit, and the entire level is framed in by long expanses of glass. With the exception of a few pieces, the house is primarily furnished by a connection at Restoration Hardware, who, Margo notes, “did a great job working with Joseph’s architectural drawings.”
Oscar Lakeman’s “Container #101” (1985, acrylic on canvas) pops against darker walnut walls.
Looking back at the process, which culminated with the couple moving in during June of 2020, Spears comments, “The owners were really good at critiquing and helping come up with solutions. They’d let us know if things weren’t quite right or settled enough for them. It was fun designing a house on that site that met all the requirements and coming up with a concept that kept it simple and clean.”
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Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID MARLOW