In the Front Range, the emphasis is on the mountains. They define the region in name, physically shape the earth in crescendos of varying scales, and etch an impossible-to-ignore silhouette across the sky. But part of what makes their presence so alluring is the contrast of what comes before them: a vast sea of sandhill prairie.
It was the prairie’s horizontality that appealed to a Studio Como client who was looking to furnish his new custom home designed by bldg.collective in unincorporated Boulder County. A fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style architecture and the Arts & Crafts movement, the homeowner hired interior designer Sara Shalls of Shalls Design Studio to integrate the interior of the flat-roofed ranch with the surrounding grasslands and open sky.
“The house was designed as a very contemporary and modern home with a material palette that was calming and warm,” says Steve Perce, principal architect at bldg.collective. “The furniture follows along with that approach: beautifully designed and well-crafted, and at the same time very livable. The right furniture in the right space completes the design. It allows you to not just occupy the room, but to use it. I see it as an extension of the architecture—the thing you can touch and feel.”
Sara worked closely with Studio Como design director Laura Folgoni on the project. “Sara had such a strong vision for this home,” says Laura. “This is all flour from her sack, as we say in Italy.” Laura picked up on the architectural elements right away, from her very first visit to the home in the meadow. “Architecturally, the house is amazing, inside and out,” she says. “Everything is clay plaster, and you notice that materiality immediately when you step inside. There’s an emphasis on nature, craft, and simplicity. The furniture had to reflect that. Contemporary Italian furniture is incredibly simple and timeless. It also tends to be quite low, like a beautiful sports car, so it was a great fit here. The proportions and shapes were in harmony with the architecture and with the client’s desires.”
Pieces from Minotti, Poliform, Riva 1920, Yerra, and Kasthall were selected for spaces throughout the home, from the living and dining rooms to the primary bedroom, office, guest spaces, and basement. “Everything we chose was quite sober,” says Laura, explaining how Sara led the design while she focused on layouts and provided knowledge about products, finish options, and material performance. “There’s a lot of leather, shearlings, some velvets, all creating that calm, serene, soft atmosphere,” she explains.
In the living room are two Ipanema lounge chairs and a Bristol sofa, both from Poliform. “The Ipanema chairs have this beautiful wooden frame, belting in the back, and suede pillows in a dark color. All of these elements together can recall an Arts & Crafts chair,” Laura shares, remarking on how well they work in relation to the minimal Poliform Blade dining table, made of a simple slab of wood, that sits in the adjacent dining space. “I never have a favorite piece,” she says, “only a favorite in context.”
In the primary bedroom, they placed a Minotti Yang bed, using its offset headboard to reinstate the horizontality of the frame. A Morrison sideboard, Close nightstands, and an Andersen Paolina chaise lounge—all by Minotti—excel in usability and comfort while keeping a low profile, careful not to obscure the view from the room’s window-lined walls.
“A lot of the modern architectural design that we produce here in Colorado has incredibly strong connections to the natural surroundings, which is often revealed through riffs on western vernacular forms and materiality with a lot of depth and richness,” says Steve. “Many people think that modern design has to be cold and austere, but the reality is that modern design can be incredibly warm and inviting. The pieces that Sara and Laura selected strike that perfect balance.”
Photos by Raul Garcia