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Madderlake Design Creates a Thoughtful Estate in Aspen

By Ali Margo | January 1, 2019 | Home & Real Estate

Architect team Madderlake Design creates a home for the ages on Conundrum Creek.

madderlake-0001.jpgModest materials like cedar siding and concrete were used for the exterior of the Conundrum Valley House—a new conception of the modern mountain home.

For Tom Pritchard and Jody Rhone, a house is not so much about materials or rooflines or window configurations. For the principals of Brooklyn-based architect and landscape firm Madderlake Design, it’s a meditation on what constitutes beauty: considering the way an eye naturally moves across a space (hint: not in a straight line); thinking more about purpose and how a space is lived in, not shown off; and how a design will transcend time and, perhaps more importantly, current trends.

“Whether we were designing gardens, terraces, landscapes or architecture, we realized it was all one thing,” Pritchard says. “We conceive of it all as one holistic piece. It’s about seeing things as totalities—not architecture or landscape, but just design.”

madderlake-2.jpgThe double-height living room.

That approach is what resulted in the seamless beauty of the Conundrum Valley House, a 7,500-square-foot single-family home situated in a steep hillside where the towering peaks of the Elk Range create a womb of pristine wilderness. “We felt an enormous responsibility building on that lot. It was important that the house should not stand out but recede into the hillside in a way that belongs to the site,” Pritchard says.

Building into the hillside also came out of necessity—it turned out the site was in an avalanche zone. Modest materials like cedar siding and concrete were used for the exterior, a nod to the traditional mountain cabin, even though the home’s overall design is quite modern. “It’s not a steel and glass structure with a lot of crazy moves; it’s very quiet,” Pritchard says. “The materials speak to the landscape itself.”

madderlake-3.jpgA curved staircase and wall mimic the way the eye takes in a space.

Inside, the focus is on craftsmanship with a lot of curved lines cut from wood, like a ribbon staircase, railings, walls and ceilings. “Gentle curves add a voluptuous character to the inside,” says Rhone. “The way it flows, it’s more organic and naturally leads your eye from space to space.”

Siberian fumed larch was used in more intricate pieces for the graphic quality of the grain, and vintage heartwood pine floors evoke a rustic vibe. “People look for luxury with bling, materials like marble and things that knock your socks off. We wanted to find beauty and elegance in the way the materials came together,” Pritchard says. Rhone also notes an intentional contrast of a linear exterior design with the softer, curvier features inside. Throughout the house, muted earth tones in gray concrete pillars and a massive black marble kitchen island draw from the natural surroundings.

madderlake-4.jpgA bedroom feels cozy yet connected to the natural splendor outside.

“We thought a lot about the experience of living in a place like this, where you can see the art and the poetry in it, a space that feeds your mind and your spirit,” Pritchard says. “We are always trying to evolve, and finding that language and making it convincing is very hard. We hope this house embodies that idea.”