The house on Garmisch Drive is a beautiful play on the old log cabin; juxtaposition of old, time honored traditions and new modern sensibilities. Tucked conveniently in West Vail, from the outside this home looks like it could have been there for decades – a mountain cabin set on a hillside, slowly encroached by homes built through the progressing decades.
In actuality, the home was first a spec house, recently built, and now brimming with an active and extended family. A discerning family, with its own litany of needs and visions of what would make the perfect mountain home: function as well as flexibility, convenience as well as craftsmanship – and have that spark of inspired design.
“Being in the construction business my whole life, I know, not just quality, but craftsmanship when I see it,” states the owner. “Add that to the efficiency of Austrian design and Swiss know how, the end product (of this home) is impossible to beat.”
The entire home was built with European traditions in mind. The exterior and much of the interior of the home is built of old, reclaimed spruce from Austria, aged in the natural way. The exterior is maintenance free, assures builder Balz Arrigoni, owner of Arrigoni Woods, as is every home he and his firm builds. It doesn’t need to be painted or stained. To begin, large roof overhangs shelter the body of the house.
“The wood is winter harvest,” says Balz. “When the tree is felled in the winter, it sleeps. When it is felled in the summer, it is still full of liquid. It is better in the winter; there is less damage. It will last a long time.” The entire house was made in Austria, including pre-made and pre-installed windows – a concept common in Europe. The home was then dissembled and reassembled on site in Vail. “This way, there is no warping or cracking,” Balz explains.
“We’ve been coming to Vail for many years, because we love the mountain, the village and the summer activities,” says the owner. “Having five kids, grandkids and son-in-laws, having easy access and lots of winter and summer sports options certainly shaped our narrative on what we wanted in a year-around vacation home.” And once the family saw the home, they knew it would be theirs. He adds, “It’s an easy commute from Dallas/Fort Worth to Eagle.”
The convenience of the home, close to everything, was certainly part of the draw for the family. It’s the craftsmanship of the home, however, that really drew them in. To begin, the home’s floor plan is light and open. The very structure lends itself to wide-open spaces, perfect for a growing family. The ceiling, which soars to high, sloped heights displays the frame of the home. Usually, Balz explains, homes are built with a wood skeleton, and than layers of drywall are overlaid. Ceiling beams are often added afterword, mostly for accent. The old, massive spruce beams in this home, however, are part of the very structure of the home and run from the outside attractively through to the interior; decorative, but in a fully functional way. There is no metal in the structure. Around the home’s wide foyer, the windows have been fitted with wooden slats, slanted to let light in and to offer privacy, as well.
From the entry, the home becomes anything but a mountain cabin. A bleached-wood, free-standing, divider wall hides the staircase below and is inset with narrow custom windows, adding a lighted glow to the room as the sun shines through from both sides of the area. From here, the home flows effortlessly into living, dining and kitchen spaces, perfectly suited for owners that treasure togetherness. The open design and floor-to-ceiling windows allow light to naturally infiltrate all the spaces.
“It makes the difference between an overly woodsy home,” assures Balz. The aged beams and accent walls offer continuity of the mountain home inside, but with delightful modern, upscale twists. Rather than at odds, the warmth and beauty of the old wood, coupled with whitewashed, new, oak floors, expanses of white walls and and sleek, clean finishes gives the interior a decidedly contemporary feel. Generous use of glass connects the home to its mountain surroundings, while also offering a clean, dramatic backdrop for sophisticated design and functionality. All the woodwork and wood flooring in the home was done by Arrigoni Woods. The varied and artistic way the old, weathered wood has been paired and interplayed with new, spruce and engineered oak from Austria adds a wonderful depth and endless variations of tones and eye-catching patterns, keeping the home anything but static.
“The expert design, craftsmanship and energy efficiency, not to mention the efficiency of space was a big plus,” says the owner. Wife and partner, Christina Arrigoni, along with Slifer Designs’ Kim Toms, created the interior design finishes in the home. The living room holds a wood-paneled freestanding fireplace, beckoning gatherings on chilly nights. The room also holds ample space and seating to spread out for individual pursuits, or relax and gaze at the valley vistas beyond. The wide windows are framed with white to keep the feeling of lightness flowing.
On the opposite side of the fireplace is a dining area, enchanting in its simplicity and use of natural design elements. One wall overlooks the front of the home, through more wooden slats keeping it well lit, but intimate. The adjoining wall is patterned with long planks of warm wood that climb seamlessly from floor to ceiling. “A lot of time the floor and walls are made to look like they match,” points out Balz. “This was done purposely. It is important.” Sliced aspen trunks are suspended in front of the wall, and set aglow with up-lighting, lending the illusion of dining in a forest. Balz designed and built the long, wood-plank table. “The owners wanted a table to seat 12 people easily,” he says. The rustic wood of the table is paired with slim, gray- upholstered dining chairs and a contemporary, rectangular outline of the chandelier above. Balz explains that, instead of using a lot of lighting fixtures, up- lighting and accent lighting has been incorporated into much of the home.
All the electronics were hidden inside the walls to await future purposes. The owners have already incorporated seven different lighting settings to use for a variety of moods and purposes. Off the common space, a reclaimed- wood deck provides the perfect outdoor spot for enjoying the aspen-covered hillside across the valley, its rustic textures blending with the mountain feel, with railings designed to shed snow so it doesn’t build up even during the snowiest of winters.
It would seem the very modern kitchen would not work with the generous use of wood in the home. However, the look does work. And well! It’s wide gray tiles, slick counters and streamlined cabinetry, by Studio Como, are thoroughly modern in both look and functionality. But here the wood floors have been bleached to a lighter color to enhance the warm gray of cabinetry, and an inset, wood breakfast area and richly textured wood ceiling keep it all one piece. The kitchen, designed by Christina, is not only attractive but has the latest conveniences for any cook. Pulls and hinges have been hidden, and custom drawers are perfectly fitted for efficiency. Electrical outlets pop up only when needed, keeping in line with the clean, contemporary look of the room. A surprisingly deep and generous hidden pantry rolls out from an impossibly narrow space between cabinets offering plenty of pantry storage. The appliances are all made by Miele. Frosted pendant lights offer ample illumination, while keeping lighting minimal, because plenty of light has already been incorporated in the entire space. Details, Balz states, are important. “It gives it a little kick.” The master bedroom beyond the living area is wide and generous, with glass doors to the outside and a sloped ceiling that lend an intimate feeling.
Balz explains he opted for rooms that seemed spacious, rather than dividing them up with extra walls, shelves and closets. “I like to keep it clean,” he says. The master bath is filled with windows, too, but the glass is frosted on the Dutch door and windows are fitted with wooden slats to lend privacy, still keeping the bath connected with its surrounding. A floor- to-ceiling, glass shower gives the room an expansive feel, while an egg-shaped, ceramic tub continues the contemporary elements found throughout the home. Near the entry, a powder room is compact in space, but generous on design. One piece of rich, dark, reclaimed wood climbs from the floor up the wall to the high ceiling above, contrasting richly with the custom-made white cabinets. A glass-and-wood stairway keeps even the small side entry space near the garage airy as it climbs to a generous loft above, used for play and relaxing. The mudroom at its base is fitted with wood-end paneling, some of which has been left to protrude to provide clever shelves for boots and mittens.
The 3,800-square-foot, four-bedroom home can sleep 18 people – which is not unusual for these owners. The downstairs holds three guest rooms, one that is a bunkroom. The reclaimed ceiling beams echo the color of the wood lining of the stairwell. The wall is made up of sawed off end-beams, sliced to 1.5-inch pieces and cleverly fitted to create an intriguing pattern. Balz explains using this technique in various accent walls is a way to utilize the lovely wood, instead of throwing it away. No treatments have been used on any of the walls. Doors, such as the nearly hidden hallway closet blend with the surrounding wood with hinges and latches hidden and unobtrusive.
No detail has been overlooked in this fine home: The wide windows, found in every room, are “tilt-and-turn” – a European tradition; old oak lines one or more of each of the guestroom walls; all the baths are roomy and boast fine Studio Como cabinetry and floor-to- ceiling glass showers.
The family room is spacious and, although it is on the home’s lower level and looks out on a terrace. “It doesn’t feel heavy,” notes Balz. Windows and glass doors keep it light. The room offer lots of space to relax and unwind. A wood service bar lends a place for snacks and drinks and sports a large, stylized bar light, with letters spelling out “Cowboy.” The impressive wood game table was built by Balz after the home was purchased. “They love to play poker,” Balz remarks. The room has blown insulation in the walls that keeps it cozy, while offering a superior sound buffer so people can watch television, while others sleep soundly just feet away.
A berm has been built around the lower level while trees planted on top rise to heights that reach to the living area windows above, giving the home a “forested feel.” The trees also offer shelter and privacy, encircling an outdoor Jacuzzi to one side of the terrace, and lending a world-of-its- own feel to the property, despite its neighborhood setting. “What is better than skiing all winter and summers that average in the 70s?” ask the owners. “What else do you need?”