The Azizes’ Signature Style Makes a Bold but Irresistible Statement
Norma Aziz knew exactly what she wanted her new home in Vail to look like. When she spotted the home in a real estate ad, even her broker’s insistence she and husband Juan Carlos would hate the house in Potato Patch didn’t faze her. So vivid was Norma’s vision, she was able to see past the green beach siding, the pink limestone counters and dated finishes. Instead, she envisioned a clean, open environment of light, and striking black-and-white contrasts, where the gleam of stainless steel and the bright pop of red would enliven a sleek, contemporary space. After scouring some 40 homes, and having tried living in Buffehr Creek for a stint, the Azizes knew instinctively this house would be the perfect backdrop for family and friends. “I said, ‘this is the home I really want’, and I know what I want,” says Norma.
Vacation Turned Home
The Azizes had been coming to Vail for years – in winter for skiing, pre-kids; and in summer for biking and enjoying other summer sports aprés kids. Vail seemed a calm pace compared to their non-stop lifestyle in Cancun, Mexico, with its frenzied tourist businesses, adventure parks, spring break crowds and a constant influx of family and friends. “We came here to relax,” observes Juan Carlos. The Azizes still maintain a home in Cancun, in their native Mexico, where they return frequently for holidays and to visit family, and where Juan Carlos still operates his restaurants and sporting goods stores. But, a couple of years ago, they decided it was time to settle more permanently in Vail. Their three children, Charlie, Pablo and Andrea had entered Vail Mountain School. “When we came here, the kids didn’t speak English,” says Juan Carlos. “It was amazing how the community opened up to us.” And, they had started a shoe shop in Edwards, following Juan Carlos’ family tradition of operating shoe stores in Mexico. A year ago, they opened the chic women’s boutique, Sol, in Solaris. Women’s boutiques, points out Juan Carlos, is the hot market trend in the U.S.
The house on Sandstone Drive had good bones, and the architect who designed the home some 20 years ago had given the home sweeping, bold lines that could stand the test of time. The contemporary angles are never boring and move enticingly past walls of glass. A new, airy staircase of stainless steel and chrome climbs effortlessly to the living space where the house truly soars. The living and dining area rises two stories, and captivating windows fill the room with an abundance of light and a feeling of being outside. So much so, when a rainbow appears beyond the glass, it looks so close you could touch it. “One thing we immediately loved about the home was the light,” says Norma. Juan Carlos points out they rarely need to heat the upper level of the home. The three-story home hugs the hillside, which opens endlessly into forest service land and, along with abundant landscaping in the front of the home, blends surprisingly into the hillside. Says Norma, “I love the views and the forest behind. You can see everywhere.”
Her Own Way
Norma’s ability to see promise in the passé is an innate gift – perhaps even hereditary. Her father and brother were architects and engineers back home in Mexico. For years, Norma would rifle through the samples of their trades, dreaming of what her own home would look like some day. Now she finally had a chance to create that dream home. Acting as the home’s architect and designer for the remodel, all those years of whimsical planning played to her benefit. “For the first time, we own our own home, with our own design,” says Norma.
The Azizes changed hardly anything structurally inside or out, except replacing the roof and the wood decks with a synthetic, maintenance-free material that wears far better in Vail’s extreme weather. Points out Norma, “The existing finishes were good, but outdated.” The overriding idea was to keep the design simple. Although the Azizes love their sports and family activities, they removed all clutter, and opened the home up so the simple lines and clean surfaces could be appreciated. “I always like to have a home that does not have a lot of stuff everywhere,” explains Juan Carlos. “We have a lot of people over here. We like to entertain friends.”
Norma was not only bold enough to design a sophisticated contemporary home in the middle of this mountain-oriented valley, she also wasn’t afraid to turn other norms upside down. “I was thinking all the time: white, black, bamboo and stainless.” The walls inside and out were painted white, a perfect backdrop to Norma’s vision of stainless steel and black. The Azizes took bamboo, designed as flooring, and instead wrapped the walls – and even the ceiling above the bar – with bamboo, edging the walls with strips of stainless steel. The bamboo lends warmth to the room, notes Juan Carlos, while the stainless steel keeps the look modern.
The home’s signature area is undoubtedly the living/dining area, which used to be a TV room and kitchen. The home originally had an open floor plan of living area and kitchen. But in Mexico, explains Juan Carlos, residents prefer their kitchens to be enclosed, private. So the Azizes took a small closet and expanded it. Today, wide doors, hidden by bamboo-wrapped walls to one side of the living area, open onto an efficient, white-and-stainless steel kitchen, which replaced the original green marble counters. The room is hidden from guests’ view, yet enjoys its own wonderful south-facing views.
At one end of the reconfigured living/dining area, is a spectacular bar, perfect for entertaining. The bar itself is a work of art, brought from Acapulco. Its curved, polished stainless steel base and counters shine under a semi-circular overhang, where wine glasses gleam from their hanging perches. Translucent, lollipop-red bar stools, which sit atop chrome pedestals make the area come alive in an utterly sophisticated way, while a fine collection of wine bottles are displayed behind in artistic fashion. Even more striking is the series of mesmerizing photos, layers of just eyes, hung one over the other nearby. These are the eyes of the Aziz family, again, Norma’s brainchild. “We didn’t want a lot of photos to be in the living room, so we just did eyes,” explains Norma. The eyes were created by a family friend and photographer, whose enchanting images are found throughout the home, capturing intimate family moments as the children grew from babies to teens.
The living room continues the black, white and red scheme. The floors were originally limestone, but are now covered in black-and-white larchwood flooring, with a zebra-like pattern that seems perfectly natural in its natural, but stunning way. Norma told Arrigoni Woods, that created the flooring, she wanted black and white and was shown a series of stained finishes created specifically for her, until she zeroed in on the one which Norma says, “reflects my personality.”
Determining exactly what the client wants is a matter of course for Minturn-based Arrigoni Woods. “We work very closely with the client, the architect and the builder,” says Balz Arrigoni, CEO. Arrigoni Woods: The European Collection, imports raw wood from Europe and hand finishes it with painstaking care, including using an endless variety of custom stains.
“We get the raw piece,” explains Christina Arrigoni, Balz’s wife and head of marketing. The raw pieces are then custom finished, hand prepared, wire brushed and hand scraped, making them far more durable as well as beautiful. Since woods used in Colorado typically expand and contract, especially with the abundant use of radiant-heated floors, Arrigoni floors are engineered to last a home’s lifetime, with not one, but three skillfully combined equal layers and hand-fitted with square pegs. The firm creates an endless variety of custom waxes and stains, to match whatever the owner has in mind. “A lot of Europeans use faux finishes on their floors, which wear naturally and look great”, explains Christina.
The furniture in the living room compliments the flooring: it is imported from Italy, and includes an inviting white leather sofa and relaxed black leather chairs. A glass dining table keeps the room airy and light, and is paired with white, molded dining chairs. Nail-polish red cubicle tables and a similarly finished, puzzle-like buffet bring added zing to the room.
Bamboo-covered floors lead into the private spaces of the home, where the bedrooms continue the clean look of uncluttered spaces. Their son’s once-pink walls, are now white, with black and chrome accents, and white tile in the bathroom. The same treatments are repeated in the master bedroom, which also holds a stainless steel fireplace, encased in a bamboo wall, and in their daughter’s room. At the end of the upstairs hallway, the floor opens up onto a dramatic loft overlooking the living area below and the spectacular valley views – a place the kids love to hang out. The TV is now ensconced in a downstairs lock-off, which was a combination rental unit and rec room. “Now, the kids have their own space downstairs,” points out Juan Carlos. “The family uses the whole house.”
Now, firmly entrenched in the Vail Valley, says Juan Carlos, “We used to say Vail is our second home. Now we say, Cancun is our second home. This is our first home.”