The sign as you approach the cozy little cabin reads, “Welcome to the Ranch.” And a more welcoming, friendly place is hard to imagine. Whether you are a kid, or a kid at heart, Bill and Maggie Rey’s laid-back little ranch is an enchanting place to be come winter or summer. Every door, every turn holds yet another surprise, another treasure to uncover. And, each weaves another fascinating story.
Although “the Ranch” may seem a bit of a grandiose moniker for this humble, yet charming, one-acre property, it is nonetheless apropos on many levels. The low lying home, with its wide, sunny deck, surrounded by rambling woods, truly is the proverbial log cabin. But don’t let the modest size, rustic exterior or gravel drive fool you. Here is a home filled with fine art, western heritage and thoughtfully accumulated collections fit for any ranch – not to mention many a collector’s dream. But this is no hands-off establishment. This is a place meant to be lived in and laughed in, and a picturesque base for pursuing creative and intellectual passions.
Funky Little Cabin
Bill Rey has owned the cabin for 19 years. Maggie DeDecker joined him 17 years ago, when they married, adding to Bill’s family of two daughters. The family has since expanded with seven-year-old twins who undoubtedly help keep the place lively. The couple, that owns the Claggett-Rey Gallery, finds their home a down-to-earth respite, and a perfect place to raise children.
“We want it to just be simple,” says Bill, whose gallery is in Vail. “It’s a quiet respite from the office.” Bill describes their home as a “funky little cabin.” The term is an endearment of a place that isn’t quite the norm in a valley liberally strewn with multi-million dollar homes.
Ed Steinle, an old time local, first built the cabin in 1973 out of a log kit. The logs were shipped via train through Wolcott, and then transported to the site which took over 60 trips. The cabin was even smaller and more basic back then. Bill bought it when he was looking for something smaller than his previous Singletree home. After doing the condo thing for a while, he happened on this small jewel. It was on the market one day, before he snapped it up. Finding a cabin surrounded by trees this close to Vail, where he worked, and so accessible was irresistible. “There is something wonderful about being in a little space,” says Bill, contentedly. There are only10 homes in this neighborhood, which shares well water. It is an enclave of builders, veterinarians, jewelers, real estate agents – people who move and shake this valley. And, says Bill, “all the homes are a little different.”
“One of the greatest challenges in the Vail Valley is there are these wonderful homes, but they have no soul,” observes Bill. “Even if you have a vacation home – a second or third home – it should tell the soul of the owner.” If there is one thing the Rey cabin has, it is soul, – unmistakably and uniquely its own. The Reys tried to modernize the home a bit for today’s needs, but kept the integrity of the original place, with its log walls and quirky floorboards. Just under 3,000 square feet – with the add-ons the Reys created – the rustic cabin supplies a surprisingly perfect backdrop for the couple’s passion for Western memorabilia and fascinating collections.
The wide, wooden front door has historic roots of its own as, at one time it adorned the Meadow Mountain Ski Lodge, long since a memory. Today, the house boasts two guest rooms, including the twins’ bedroom, a new master bedroom and bath, living area, TV room and kitchen.
The living area alone is a treasure trove of western art and memorabilia. An impressive, river-rock fireplace was created by Gerald Gallegos, who had just opened Gallegos Masonry. A buffalo head overhead the substantial log mantel came from a buffalo ranch, the Diamond Tail Ranch, which is owned by one of Rey’s partners in the gallery. “In the wintertime, sitting by the fireplace, this is a cozy little place,” assures Bill. Spurs lay on the mantel, and an adjacent wall holds a steer skull, festooned with Indian beads. Beaded pouches, surely from the days of Wild Bill Hickok, hang next to it. On the other side of the doorway, full cowboy regalia, complete with rope, hang waiting. Every other wall is filled with fine Western art, years of personal collecting by the Reys. Both Bill and Maggie grew
up appreciating fine art. Bill’s father is Jim Rey, an accomplished artist, and Maggie’s sister is Jane DeDecker, an accomplished sculptor. Western sculptures adorn tables along with treasured collectables – not necessarily collected for their inherit value, but rather for the personal memories they supply. “Everything we own means something,” says Bill.
“It’s a visual gallery of our life.” And their passion for all things western comes from childhood, too. Bill grew up on a ranch near Durango, after his family, which included four siblings and parents moved from Palo Alto, where he was born. Maggie, the youngest of 10 children, moved from Iowa to Loveland, Colorado, where the Reys still own a duplex. “Collecting from the West and living with the west, they are antiques of our life and relationship,” says Bill.
The TV room used to be far more museum-like, explains Bill, but had to be kid-proofed after the arrival of the twins. Art covers walls and an ornate, vintage butcher-block table holds one of their Joe Beeler sculptures. But a wide bookcase is now caged to ward off sticky hands. It is filled with an enviable collection of books – everything from tomes on fine art, Western history, classics and philosophy – to satisfy Maggie and Bill’s equally passionate love affair with literature. “We love to read and learn; ours is a life of learning,” explains Bill – whether it’s wine, art, antiques or history.
In the bead board hallway leading to the bedrooms, another collection of artwork hangs – this time, predominately sketches and paintings by Joe Beeler. A framed letter, penned by Beeler, is brought to life with clever sketches. Despite their passion for Western memorabilia and artists, the Rey’s art collection is surprisingly eclectic. This is demonstrated to perfection in the master bedroom and bath. Breathtaking Western scenes from some of the finest contemporary Western artists are found on the bedroom walls, as well as those of Eagle Springs, a lake in the Rocky Mountains and a Wayne Wolfe piece of the Mount of the Holy Cross.
The artwork also reflects travels afar, including paintings of the Tivoli Fountain and Italian studies by Gerald Fritzler, which hang alongside some of the Colorado landscapes for which he is known. “Everything has a story,” assures Bill. “You won’t find matching sets of anything.”
Hanging above a wooden side table is a beautifully stylized painting of Christ by Walt Gonske. Beneath the table, with its Southwestern adornments and statuettes, sits a colorful row of cowboy boots, both ornate and traditional leading the mind to wonder what tales they would have to tell, if they could. The inevitable stacks of books cover shelves and wooden floorboards, waiting to satisfy this pair of voracious readers.
Heart of the Home
Inevitably, all activity in the Rey home starts and ends in the kitchen. “The kitchen is attractive to all, even though it’s small,” observes Bill. When not eating or helping Maggie and Bill cook, the twins have the glue guns out to create some new art project on the mesquite plank table, crafted by Maggie’s brother, David. “Everyone in her family is an artist, in some way, “assures Bill. The kitchen, he explains, used to be a tiny little room. The room was expanded and now has new ash kitchen cabinets designed by Jake Steers. But the Reys kept the funky old floorboards for character and authenticity, and the room’s fire burning pot stove enhances that character. Above the upper cabinets are collections of colorful bottles, an old-fashioned birdcage and vintage lunch boxes, while the children’s artwork and pictures cover the fridge. A pie cupboard sits in one corner near a freestanding block table that used to be a wine display, pre-twins.
The home’s surroundings is magical year-round. In the winter, snow blankets everything and elk and deer are always wandering through. In winter, the property becomes the home of Club Igloo, a winter-wonderland tradition, inherited from their friends, the Dobsons, which still draws awe and lively winter gatherings. In the summer, the wide expanse of grass is dotted with dandelions and wildflowers. “We may have six months of dandelions, and the bees love it,” shares Bill. “We wanted to raise tour kids in as healthy an environment as possible.” Sculptures dot the landscape, too, including one by Maggie’s sister. There are still a lot of trees on the property today where trails, maintained by the Reys, run through them. A fire pit near the house adds a favorite family gathering spot to make s’mores. A ditch was also dug to create a water flow through the cottonwoods and edging the property. A tiny stone bridge leads to a perfect little arbor under some of the giant cottonwoods. The outdoor space, when strung with lights, is pure enchantment summer and winter.
One of the old cottonwoods that came down a few years ago nearly took out the shed. Since then, with downed trees removed, the shed was converted into a handsome barn, a nice 1,800-square- foot, stand-alone addition to the property. Inside, lies more of they Rey’s extensive Western collection, which includes Indian artifacts of blankets, drums and moccasins, as well as finely-tooled saddles and an entire coatrack of diverse cowboy chaps. Tooled leather stools and leather chairs provide a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the Western art, sculptures and literature.
“We did a lot of serious collecting before the kids came,” states Bill. Now the kids have their own special place above, where a wide-open playroom completes this kid-friendly haven. The Rey’s home combines a down-to- earth feel and encourages creativity and togetherness – from the kitchen’s plank table used for art projects to Club Igloo. The family has certainly put its spin on what it is to live in the West – the Rey way.