Calm Aperture

At a time where the home has taken on extra special meaning, ensuring the spaces around us are calm and uplifting to positively affect our wellbeing is becoming an essential part of how we design spaces too. How spaces make us feel has been a part of how I work as a Home Designer for a few years now. Designing spaces to just look aesthetically pleasing is no longer the full design package and becoming consciously aware that every component in our home has an impact on our daily mood is a vital step in changing our perspectives on how a home should be, look and feel to its dweller. 

We are fortunate to have a glimpse into this beautiful private residential ski-in ski-out chalet situated on the side of Eagle’s Nest in Vail, Colorado. A home that at first glance evokes simplicity, elegance and serenity. Award-winning, multi-disciplinary interior design firm Champalimaud, who are based in New York, were appointed to collaborate with the owners of the property. The brief was to tone down some original decoration decisions from a previous renovation of the property and create a sophisticated yet comfortable environment.

Being situated on the side of the mountain, surrounded by snow-covered mountains and Alpine trees, this property is encapsulated by endless views across the ski slopes, washed in white during the winter months. Its new interior pays homage to this with its pared-back approach to design and decoration. Outside literally becomes framed artwork within each room, to add layered texture, interest and stillness. As the year changes and moves through its seasons, so too does the outside context, meaning each day brings a different light and different backdrop story to the interior. The interior spaces and external context at Vail interweave and interplay with each other so exquisitely to embrace this continual change. 

The natural light that falls within the property has a dramatic effect on how each space feels and has had to be intricately considered in detail to assure the rooms feel warm and welcoming at all times. Whilst the fabrics, colours and materials chosen for the home, may feel quite neutral across the board, every design decision was bespoke because of the theatrical and extreme contrasting changes that occur across the seasons. Champalimaud describes how the light reflects off the white snow, drawing all warm tones and colour out in the winter but in summer the bare mountains bounced in brown. The chosen finishes have a distinct relationship with the context of the enveloping environment – it’s a fresh look but heavily influenced by the external backdrop, to ensure an inviting continuity all year round. 

When a property is located in such an impressive setting, why would you ever compete with the beauty of nature? Nature has always been there to enable a feeling of calm for us, and as we become more aware of the profound benefits nature offers mankind, I feel it’s one of the most important factors to consider about home. 

Champalimaud highlight that one of the challenges of the project was to create intimate spaces whilst also honouring the grandeur of the chalet. There is a luxury of volume to play with, within this home, most notably in The Grand Room due to its double-height space and mezzanine library. The architectural forms and volumes are quite diverse throughout the house. Each room speaks for itself. But to create that dialogue throughout the house, a consistent language needs to be orchestrated to generate a coherence of calm. To add to that, where each room is architecturally unique, dynamic and powerful a clever use of one material has been installed. The Grand Room is covered across all six planes in Koa Wood. The Koa wood panelling was already in situ when Champalimaud came on board – their challenge was  to celebrate its exotic and complex graining whilst allowing the panelling to ground the new interior design. With the floor and ceiling being in the same material as the walls, it composes the room. It quietens the architectural features of the room because the wood, even though it is a texture with depth, is also a neutral background which respects the interior architecture. Not only do the rich tones of the natural wood relate to the outdoors, the Koa wood panelling throughout enables the shapes of the room to create interest without overpowering the space. Through using one material, rich in tone and colour, it merges walls into the ceiling, ceiling into walls, and walls into the floor, allowing the physical components required to make a room functional to come alive. If the walls were too distracting, the effect of the select pieces of furniture, lighting, décor and accessories would be completely lost especially in a vast space like this. 

Creating an intimate space within the Grand Room is successful. Firstly, choosing to place this under the mezzanine library means the ceiling height is reduced in this zoned corner on the room. Clever use of benefitting from the change in ceiling height also creates a defined, cosy space for relaxing and enjoying drinks especially as the curved sofa has been designed with special touches such as the wood back returning into the corner of the room, which becomes a built-in drinks table. The panelling formation in the room here has been broken up by the reframed Matisse artwork which also inspired the colour palette, all adding to this corner feeling cosier and more relaxed. At night this would be accentuated from the glow of the two standing floor lamps which define the special area.

In contrast, some of the smaller rooms have less of the Koa Wood, perhaps only clad on one plane – floor or ceiling, which means there is a continual relationship between spaces throughout the chalet but also makes these smaller rooms feel even more intimate as desired by the client. Champalimaud have made the Koa Wood more of feature in different rooms. Where the material is only on the ceiling it is emphasised against the different coloured walls, giving the illusion the ceiling is much closer. 

A lovely dichotomy that is apparent across a variety of rooms is the change in language between the architecture itself and the furniture. Where rooms have strong architectural masculine lines, this is balanced with soft curves, circular furniture and relaxed drapery. Even the subtle patterns in the rugs offset the strong contrasting ceiling features. In contrast, where rooms have arched ceilings which have more feminine energy to them, the furniture counterbalances this in its rectilinear form. The variety but blending of different forms and shapes, patterns and textures amplify the calmness felt throughout the home which can only have a positive impact on mood. 

The mood of the home owner being a very important aspect of the finished design, is why it’s a delight to hear about the collaborative design process that occurred between Champalimaud, the homeowners and contractors. It was important for the clients that the house had a sense of formality to reflect their elegant lifestyle despite the house being located in an ideal location for a variety of sporting activities. It’s an unusual feel for a mountain chalet but also clearly evident that the client’s wishes and desires have been placed at the heart of the design process. Where the clients expressed parts of the original home felt dated, it was Champalimaud’s goal to elevate the interior design and simplify some of the interior architectural elements. Partner Anna Beeber shares, “we brought the clients to showrooms and studios to meet the artist behind some of the items that they were considering purchasing. It helps them feel like they’re part of the hunt and makes them feel like everything they choose in their homes really feel like they are theirs.” Quite simply, this is music to my ears, because the story of the home always becomes a curation of the person who lives within it. Champalimaud shares this was an educational and memorable process with the client.

The lighting features throughout are striking and unique, a testament to the client being involved within the design process. When lighting and furniture become sculptural it also has a relationship with the artwork, as all are artisan creation. The choices of everything within the property have been driven by the client but guided by the design house to capture the balance and common theme throughout. As the client’s collection of artworks was extensive, the colours from the paintings and drawings informed and inspired most of the colour palettes for each room.  

White is used a lot throughout which is reflecting, purifying, clarifying. The character of the “distinct Koa wood graining makes it wonderfully complex,” but also creates a very strong presence, a grounding, and solid backdrop. These rich brown tones and coppers connect us to nature and this colour makes us feel very safe. The indigo, navy blues represent connection and this colour is very centring and calming in itself. The colours used throughout are subtle yet highlight key aspects of furniture within the diverse spaces. Adding textures in with colour generates interest, variation, balance and as always, the fabrics soften the architecture to make the house feel like a home. The upholstery fabrics were bespoke to handle the ever-changing light. I particularly love the delicate, soft undulation of the sheer curtains, from Champalimaud’s latest collection designed exclusively with fabric house Holland & Sherry, that blend into the room without disturbing the apertures or views. 

The interchange in this home, between respecting the original building, considering the views from the inside out and the views internally, in relation to how the family wanted to have a sophisticated, opulent yet warm, inviting and relaxed atmosphere, is exquisite. Champalimaud has impressively played with the illusion of space and scale to create engaging zones. The layered, eclectic textures within expansive and assorted spaces have enabled unique sensations to occur within perfect harmony of a family’s personality. The building speaks through definition, the artwork speaks as it enthuses the ephemeral décor. The result is a very elegant, stylish place to be. Grandeur, yet a series of defined cosy corners throughout for the perfect relaxed calming home from home. 

We feel calm from all of these spaces collectively, because we see balance across the components that make up the design. The more balance we see and experience around us, the more content we feel on the inside. The more content we feel, the bi-product of truly enjoying home, positively impacts our thoughts, feelings, emotions and ensures are wellbeing is optimistically supported by our environments. 

Emily Smith

Cleverly remodelled interiors in aesthetic buildings have always inspired Emily. That’s why after studying Interior Architecture, she pursued her London career with several high profile design studios. Today she deploys her decade of experience within the interior design market consulting on a range of transformational projects. She is passionate about design that not only has strong visual appeal but also a direct and positive impact on wellbeing. Emily will be guiding us through the world of interior architecture and design from her unique perspective this season.

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