CONTENT

FEB
03
2014

The Nature of Nuance

The Mellin family blurs the lines between work and play in a highly conceptualized home and office remodel that celebrates precision.

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WORDS  // ELEANOR PERRY-SMITH
IMAGES // DANIEL O’CONNOR

 

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IT CAN BE CHALLENGING for observant eyes to thrive in an imperfect world. The abundance of wavy road lines and mismatched socks don’t go unnoticed. Many designers and creators have mentioned that the only way to ease their hyperawareness is to walk into a simple and balanced home. That’s how they recharge in order to do their best work.

Scott and Heidi Mellin certainly know the meaning of hard work. Aside from the important job of parenting their two children, they have full-course occupations. Scott is the CEO of Factory Design Labs, one of Denver’s top global ad agencies, and fills the rest of his time cycling, skiing and as a Trustee for the Museum of Contemporary Art. Heidi also volunteers for the museum and is an avid cyclist, and chef, but she also plays a vital role in the aesthetic she and Scott curate in their daily lives.

“It’s harder to design with minimalism than with flourish,” Heidi says from the Southwest Littleton home they bought eight years ago. The space sings of simplicity, but it’s a freshness that didn’t come easily. Heidi is passionate about art and design, spending years researching products and thumbing through foreign magazines. So when the time came to update their mid-century modern home, she was prepared.

“We did not want to make this a vintage revival,” Heidi explains, and she also didn’t want it to be contemporary, but truly modern. “We wanted to respect the architecture, but we had to make it functional for our family.” The Mellins purchased their house at the apex of suburban scrape-and-build fever. However, they felt fortunate to buy from the original owners, and sent them a letter stating their intentions to give the home new life, not completely wipe it away. But it needed some serious renovations, and when the Mellins set out to find the right people to bring their vision of a modern home to life, they hit their first wall.

“We went through a lot of architects and we couldn’t find the right builder,” Scott says as he prepares to step out the door and onto his bike. The busy CEO definitely had a hand in conceptualizing a home that refreshed him, but Heidi was in charge of the heavy lifting. After multiple interviews with architects who weren’t quite listening to their distinct intentions, she finally landed on Scott Parker of Nest Architectural Design to plan the project over the course of a year: “Scott is very humble and put aside his own design aspirations, and actually designed what we wanted.”

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“We did not want to make this a vintage revival,” Heidi explains, and she also didn’t want it to be contemporary,
but truly modern. “We wanted to respect the architecture, but we had to make it functional for our family.”

 

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The Mellins joke that their additions were just a kitchen remodel, but indeed the design and renovation was largely to accommodate a state-of-the-art Varenna kitchen from Studio Como, complete with a pizza oven. Greenwich Builders crafted Heidi’s custom floating bench concept in the breakfast nook. A support beam runs through the great room and kitchen, extending to the front and back exteriors. “I wanted to tie the house to the landscape and give guests a sense of arrival,” says Parker. “The same spider-leg structure was used at the covered patio.”

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A pocket office off the breakfast nook is comfortably large and uses a flush track system. The den was originally a carport. “Modern architecture is so challenging and rewarding because of what it takes to make it look easy. There is so much to experience in this house, yet it comes across as sparse if it isn’t given the opportunity to reveal itself,” Parker explains. The overall goal was for the home to seem effortless, which it does, despite the six years the Mellins spent planning and sourcing.

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The Mellins added 400 square feet to the back side of the original floor plan. The new garage, thoughtful mudroom and laundry area make smooth transitions for this active family. They also finished the basement as a large play area for their kids.

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Heidi and her husband didn’t have a typical approach to creating a home. One standout feature was their desire for strict symmetry. “We wanted that sense of calm that symmetry offers,” Heidi explains. This meant contractors used lasers to make sure each electrical outlet was level. The hallways flanking the kitchen are exactly opposite, as are the guest room and master bedroom, mirroring each other from across a vast, covered back patio with skylights. The Mellins also wanted attention to minute detail on every surface, and that’s when Parker rose to the occasion.

“The surface of the master bath floor and wall run continuously through the shower. The materials change, but the glass enclosure appears to be sitting on the floor,” Parker points out. “The baseboard trim is set into the face of the interior walls so that they align. It makes for a very clean transition from floor to wall,” he adds. “All of these decisions needed to be understood early in the construction process to look simple in the end.” As important as it was for Heidi to have an understanding architect, the same went for the builder. The Mellins chose Cress Carter of Old Greenwich Builders to carry out the construction.

“Flush and recessed were big themes in this house,” Carter points out. “There’s no protrusion.” Carter’s company is known for its advanced craftsmanship and professionalism, but Carter points out that a successful project is a two-way street. “Heidi was there every day and had a perfectly pleasant way of articulating what she expected,” he says. Heidi also made a point to uphold another important maxim: the best work is done on a full stomach. “She would show up with the most amazing food,” Carter recalls—an aspect that let him to create a trophy, naming her client of the year.

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Strategic skylights play an important role in the feel of the master suite, including one above the black mirrored closet doors. “The new roof gave us a lot of permission to do this work,” Heidi points out. Details like recessed curtain tracks and a dual entry, double-headed shower make the space a calming oasis. Their home is also equipped with an A.V. system by Residential Systems Inc. The Control 4 system allows them to listen to music throughout the house and on the back porch, just off the master and kitchen. The thin-bezel speakers complement the home’s style and can be controlled from an iPhone. 

 

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The back patio is a living space unto itself with refrigeration, cooking and counter space. The slotted skylight utilized materials from a different part of the house. The result is a fresh new perspective that celebrates the integrity of the original structure. The vast back lawn is refreshingly unencumbered except for a small retaining wall that elevates the yard’s plane to patio level. This view of the back faces north with the master suite to the left and garage on the right.

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The award makes Heidi chuckle, although it’s clear that both she and Scott have a lot of respect for those they work with, and those who work for them. That’s the reason Scott brought Heidi on board when his company moved to the old Janus building in Cherry Creek. She was faced with the task of designing three office floors, but making sure the client floor had an altogether distinctive atmosphere. “Scott was adamant: no cubicles. He wanted to bring clients in here and portray an image that wasn’t a typical office,” Heidi explains. “He also wanted it to be a place where staff felt comfortable and would be proud to work.” The other parameter was to design an office that reflected the feel of the Mellins’ home—clean, bright and simple.

So Heidi got to work sourcing furniture from Studio Como so that the office stood out. The top floor reception area is a bold example of the aesthetic. Huge, west-facing windows, everything white (including duct work), glass conference rooms beyond one desk and two red couches set the stage. The area is four times the size of an average reception space. Volume is a powerful force when not over-articulated. “I don’t mean to be cliché, but when you’re proud of your environment, you step up your game,” Heidi remarks. And for a couple that never stops moving, but maintains a healthy work/life balance, the cliché must be true. After years of design and construction, the Mellins can be proud to call the office home, and their home a sanctuary.

“Scott was adamant: no cubicles. He wanted to bring clients in here and portray an image that wasn’t a typical office,”
Heidi explains. “He also wanted it to be a place where staff felt comfortable and would be proud to work.”

 

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The client floor of Factory Design Labs harnesses natural light and uses furniture sourced from Studio Como, such as red Cassina sofas, Morsco coffee tables, and orange Arper chairs. Scott’s minimal office is fitted with just a gray B&B Italia sofa, and Tom Carlson’s encaustic grayscale paintings. Architectural details like knee-high cutouts add interest, giving the office the unconventional tone that it strives for in all facets.

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 For more on Daniel O’Connor’s photography visit his website: danieloconnorphoto.com

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