Photography by Brent Bingham
If you were to look in a dictionary for the explanation of the word “home,” you would find many definitions. “A place of residence.” “The place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.” “The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” However, for most, those definitions are simply not adequate. The definition of a home goes far beyond the structure itself, for a home is built by the bond of family.
And it’s that family bond that consistently draws world-class skier Mikaela Shiffrin back home. It’s the place where, no matter what Shiffrin might be going through, no matter how challenging her life gets, she will always have her family looking out for her at home. Her sanctuary.
So it’s no surprise that, when Shiffrin was ready to buy her first home, she made sure there would be room for her close-knit family: mom, dad and brother, Taylor. That was the priority.
“I’m really home two months out of the year, max,” says Shiffrin. “So when I’m home, it’s important to me to be around family. I’m lucky that they were willing to do this with me. I don’t think I would have been able to live in my first house alone — my dream house — if they weren’t along to join me.”
Mikaela’s “sanctuary,” as she refers to her new digs, was designed by Shepherd Resources, Inc., architect Douglas DeChant, and built by Jim Guida Construction.
Guida had owned the lot for about a decade and had DeChant design a home for the lot at that time. Then the stock market crashed so they shelved the project. However, last year, the two decided to move forward with a new concept.
The contemporary home’s design is what Guida calls clean and modern. “One of the biggest things we liked about what Doug and his team did was the modest profile of the home on the street side,” he says. “Then you walk in the front door and all you can say is, ‘Wow.’ The views are incredible! And it has a very large lower living level, as well, with more patio doors and windows than the living room area, bringing the outdoors in as much as possible.”
“It was a fairly challenging site because it was narrow at the street and broadened in a wedge to the far side of the lot,” explains DeChant. “And the plan had to begin fairly narrow on the front side and then broaden to the back side of the property. And it was steep. So, it became a solution of layers: the upper, the main and then the lower layer, all stepping down the hillside.”
Luckily, Shiffrin found the 5,400-square-foot home while it was still under construction, and was able to make changes and add some creative ideas of her own.
“Mikaela brought all the fun stuff to the home,” shares Guida. “She came along right at drywall, which was a perfect time, as she got to pick out many of her finishes: the flooring, cabinetry, tile, fireplace and all the reclaimed wood. She added a lot of new things that we don’t do that often.
“For instance, she asked if we could put in something like a dumb waiter. She said, ’I’m always lugging heavy bags out of the garage.’ Fast forward. A month later we had a dumb waiter at the back of the garage where she can load up her bags and push a button so they go right down to the lower floor.”
According to Guida, just about everything on Shiffrin’s “wish list” just seamlessly worked out. It was as though the home was designed — from scratch — just for her.
It’s interesting to note, that DeChant never met Shiffrin. “We were hired by Jim to design the house and then Mikaela requested changes,” he says. “I was directed by Jim to make the changes. He would meet with Mikaela and her parents and bring me the assignments. It was really different, as we usually have a very close relationship with our clients. So, I’m very happy that it worked out so well.”
Shiffrin describes her home as having “a mountain-chalet, spa vibe.” After years of traveling in Europe, she has developed a taste for the contemporary and natural wood, which is featured in various rooms in her home. And Balz Arrigoni, of Arrigoni Woods, who was her “wood go-to,” made that all happen.
“What’s special about the wood is that it’s over 100 years old, with its original surface, truly the way the wood was treated at the time,” explains Arrigoni. “The wood on the living room wall comes from a barn in Switzerland, and the beams in the living room and master bedroom come out of an old farmhouse in Austria. The wood floor is also a product from Austria and is oak with a natural oil finish.
“The shelves for the World Cup trophies came out of an old cow barn in Switzerland. They’re thick floorboards which are naturally textured from the cows walking on the boards, which give them the worn look.
“My philosophy is that you choose the wood and not put a finish on it, so the wood can do its job. Wood cleans the air and contributes to a healthy environment in a house. So, by choosing a raw wood, the whole system is healthy. And it was just what Mikaela wanted.”
When it came to furnishing the home, Shiffrin and her mother, Eileen, were inspired by interior designer Donna Lang and Nancy Rehder, owners of Home Outfitters in Avon.
“When Mikaela and her mom first came in, they wanted to know if we would be interested in working on a project with them. And shortly after our initial meeting, they were leaving for World Cup, so we did much of the work through email,” explains Rehder.
“She knew the look she wanted,” says Lang.
Mikaela sent photos she liked to the team, and they were pretty consistent.
“We knew they would be living there as a family and wanted a relaxing, comfortable feel to the home,” Rehder says. “Mikaela wanted a Zen-like, hip feel combined with a sleek, Italian look. So we were able to blend the two styles together. Sleek, young and hip, yet comfortable for the family.”
Through it all, the goal never got muddled.
“We figured out early on that her home is her safe place to relax, unwind and just be herself with friends and family,” Lang explains. “Her mom gave advice from the get go: ‘Remember Miki is not a 50-year-old woman.’ It constantly reminded me that she is young, her taste will change and we needed to give her a good base to grow with.”
And though she can “grow” with her house, it already represents who she is now.
“She has quiet places for all of her trophies and quiet corners for everybody,” Rehder describes. “There are champagne tones, with pops of purple and blue, colors that Mikaela loves. But, otherwise, the d.cor is subdued, as this is her place to relax. It’s not fussy. Not messy. Very clean. Not cluttered with a lot of stuff. The place is easy, comfortable and very understated. Mikaela is not a show-off girl. She and her family are hometown Vail people. A very close, real family.”
You can clearly hear the joy in Shiffrin’s voice as she talks about her new home, which, by the way, is filled with music and speakers everywhere — even in her closet!
Shiffrin has been involved with absolutely everything from the beginning and there are specific things that she wanted, including the quartzite kitchen countertop that lights up. “It’s one of my most favorite, treasured things in the house,” she says excitedly. “Sometimes you see this countertop, say, at a hotel bar. And I wanted something that looked transparent. And if you look really closely, it looks like ice cubes. In the evening, when it’s lit up, it’s so neat. I just love this kitchen! The one in our old house was so small, that if someone was in there and another person came in, we’d say ,‘Get out, I was here first. You go away.’ Now we can all be in the kitchen at the same time.”
And they certainly can all relax on the extra large living room sofa at the same time as well. Shiffrin says that it took a long time to make a decision, as she wanted to pick a piece on which the entire family could veg. As she explained to Today Show host Natalie Morales, “It needed to be a napping couch, a chill couch, a movie-watching couch — where you can put your feet up — and a formal-party couch, as well. And it’s washable! It needed to be all of those things and Donna and Nancy found it!”
The sofa faces a magnificent bronze-and-copper patina fireplace that Shiffrin had seen during her travels in Europe. It was the feeling of old and new that she so admired. As well, the shelves with many of Shiffrin’s globes, of which she is so proud, is a focal point of the living-room decor.
“We have the World Cup circuit every season, starting in October and ending in March,” she shares. “In a way, the World Cup globes are as important to me as the medals, because it signifies consistency and performances throughout the season and career. When I was little, my goal was to be the best in the world and not just to win an Olympic medal. Because winning an Olympic medal doesn’t mean that you’re the best in the world. It just means that you were the best on that day.”
Said like a true champ, who receives emails and letters daily so, of course, a home office had to be included. And, hidden behind beautiful wooden doors, which looks like a wall, is a 12- foot desk for Shiffrin and her mom.
“It was not in the original plan of the house, so we added it,” says Shiffrin. “Mostly, I use it for correspondence. But my mom had all of her nursing books and all my schoolbooks on makeshift shelves that went to the ceiling in her bedroom in the old house. If there was an overflow of anything in that house, it would go into my parents’ room. Now we have some place for it. Two desks. One for me and one for my mom.” (As Shiffrin relates this, you can hear the excitement in her voice about being able to give her mother an uncluttered space in which to work.)
The 2,000-plus-square-foot space that she refers to as her lair, her cave, is Shiffrin’s piece de resistance — a space filled with all her personal “stuff,” that feeds her soul. In her bedroom, Winnie the Pooh, her favorite toy — a gift from her best friend — sits on a wooden shelf above her bed. (Pooh, she confides, “honestly” makes her feel better about everything.) Guitars lean on a wall. A keyboard, too, is always on call. A favorite photo of her with Taylor hangs prominently on the wall. This is the “stuff” Shiffrin wants around her when she’s home.
Mechanical shades and shutters allow this champion to sleep whenever and — with a push of the button — open up to the glorious view out her windows. “We have a resident hawk and deer that show up all the time,” Shiffrin quips.
Her movement studio includes a large storage space in which Shiffrin can store her extra ski suits and equipment and things like wrapping paper that need to “live” somewhere. There is also a Heininger bike in the room, that shows only wattage, that the family uses. “The bike was in the living room in our other house, and when people would come over, we would have to get three people to help move it into the garage to get it out of the way,” Shiffrin says with a laugh. The area also serves as a dance floor where Shiffrin and friends just “be.”
Shiffrin’s large bathroom and huge closet were made for a champ! The bathroom houses a beautifully tiled shower and large “soaker” tub that’s placed beneath a black and white painting of a flower — a piece that Shiffrin “had to have.” This room leads into the closet/dressing room, a special room in which Shiffrin keeps all of her world Cup championship and Olympic gold and silver medals. And, her shoes — which you might call her downfall.
“I didn’t have any closet space before and it’s easy to fill this,” says Shiffrin. “But I’m good about getting rid of things. This is a dream. I may not have a big closet like this forever, so I need to be aware of that.”
There is also a guest room on this level — although, with Shiffrin out of town most of the year, she might just have Taylor and his girlfriend, Christy, enjoy the entire cave — even though they have their own private area that includes a deck.
And then there’s the therapy tub, just outside Shiffrin’s bedroom which, she says, she uses “a ton.” She wanted a lap-pool, but there was no room. As it happened, the tub she chose fit perfectly in the allotted space. “During the winter, one of the best things I do for recovery is to get in the water for any amount of time,” continues Shiffrin. “I prefer that the water not be too hot, as it makes my muscles feel kind of sluggish. But, I wanted a pool somewhere when I train during the summer.
“And my dad figured out that if I tied a rope around my waist, I can actually swim. So he rigged something up for me. It’s sort of like an endless pool.”
Shiffrin has won two Olympic and seven World Championship medals for her 60 wins and 83 podium wins and three overall titles in Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G, Downhill and Combined.
Shiffrin will tell you that she became a world-class skier not due to her talent, her coaches or her love of the sport. But rather it’s because of her parents Eileen and Jeff, and her brother, Taylor, who have supported her, no matter what. They are her rocks.
They are her family. They are her home.
“The place is easy, comfortable and very understated. Mikaela is not a showoff girl. She and her family are hometown Vail people. A very close, real family.”
“It needed to be a napping couch, a chill couch, a movie-watching couch where you can put your feet up and a formal-party couch, as well.”
“Mikaela brought all the fun stuff to the home. She came along right at drywall, which was a perfect time, as she got to pick out many of her finishes: the flooring, cabinetry, tile, fireplace and all the reclaimed wood. She added a lot of new things that we don’t do that often.”
“My philosophy is that you choose the wood and not put a finish on it, so the wood can do its job. Wood cleans the air and contributes to a healthy environment in a house. So, by choosing a raw wood, the whole system is healthy.”