Customized for casual elegance

Customized for casual elegance
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First Published: Sun, Feb 03 2008. 11 13 PM IST

Artist and designer Richard Nielsen (left) with architect Jeff Swanson on the staircase of their house
Artist and designer Richard Nielsen (left) with architect Jeff Swanson on the staircase of their house
Updated: Sun, Feb 03 2008. 11 13 PM IST
When architect Jeff Swanson built his dream home in?Littleton,?Colorado, he thought other people might ask him to replicate it. But no one has. “When it comes to building houses, most people are concerned about being safe rather than being stylish,” says Swanson, 39. “They are scared about resale and property values, (and) they worry about what their spouses and neighbours will think.”
Swanson’s 5,700 sq. ft custom home is made from stucco, metal and concrete. It has framed outdoor views in nearly every room. The house has a painting studio and a home theatre. Its angular design unfolds to a visitor like a fine-art gallery.
Artist and designer Richard Nielsen (left) with architect Jeff Swanson on the staircase of their house
Swanson and his life partner, Richard Nielsen, 43, a painter, took heat for their building plans from their neighbours. Theirs is an older neighbourhood dotted with small lakes and dominated by ranch-style and Dutch Colonial-inspired homes. Swanson and Nielsen knew their house would stick out, but they still chose to build there because of its location and because building codes there contain few architectural restrictions.
The neighbhourhood had not seen much new construction, Swanson says. One neighbour “planted two large evergreens in front of her house so she couldn’t” see their house.
The two purchased their empty lot in 1998 and built from the ground up. The house was completed in 2000—on Valentine’s Day. The home, worth $1.7 million (Rs6.7 crore), complements the couple’s creative lifestyle. It includes a 28ft barrel-vaulted ceiling in the living room and a 14ft-high ceiling in the master bedroom.
Nielsen’s love of cooking demanded a fabulous kitchen. And Swanson wanted a soaking tub in the master bathroom. The landscape is filled with Nielsen’s favourite perennials. The interior wall is cream—for displaying Nielsen’s vivid artwork and the home’s equally stylized furniture collection.
A 4ft-wide, custom-made mahogany front door pivots on an axle. The serpentine exterior curves mimic the street. Scuppers on the roof serve as drains during heavy storms. A canted wall punctuates the entryway. Niches in most rooms highlight even more artwork.
The home’s open floor plan, linear walkways and various ceiling heights provide “unfolding experiences”, Swanson says. Indian and limestone slate in the entryway continues through the home, where the couple tries to blend minimalism with warm, traditional pieces.
An 18th century French Normandy armoire and a traditional Italian chandelier, for instance, are paired with a trendy sofa decked out in geometric-print upholstery.
Their decorating goal? “Casual elegance.” A daunting, art deco stained-glass Madonna is nestled into the dining room ceiling. Backlighting casts a warm glow behind the image.
Stamped concrete floors, cherry cabinets and black granite set off the kitchen, where warm weather brings martini shaking for cocktail consumption on the terrace. Throughout the house, windows draw the eyes to other spaces, like one 18ft glass-block wall that lets light in, but keeps lookie-loos out.
The master bedroom is the only room with window treatments: huge silk panels dyed in bold primary colours. But even in a home this eclectic, everything has its place.
“I knew there would be a piece of art there, so, I put up canned lights,” Swanson says. “I knew where my keys would be, so I built that angled wall there.?Nothing?was?accidental.”
See: More Pictures:
The exterior of Swanson and Nielsen’s home—the serpentine exterior curves mimic the street and scuppers on the roof serve as drains during heavy storms; a 1927-era art deco stained-glass Madonna hangs above the dining room table— backlighting casts a warm glow behind the image, which was salvaged from a burned-down church in Rochester, New York; the studio space of the house; traditional Italian chandeliers, paired with a trendy sofa decked out in geometric-print upholstery, in the living room.
Photographs by Andy Cross/The Denver Post/NYT
©2008/The New York Times
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First Published: Sun, Feb 03 2008. 11 13 PM IST