A COLORADO DEVELOPER REMODELED AND RESTORED THIS FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT-INSPIRED VAIL HOME FROM RENOWNED ARCHITECT ROBIN MOLNY.
A glass-filled cubist retreat from an iconic architect has evolved into a modern contemporary manse. PHOTO BY GORE DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY
WHEN MATT DYROFF FIRST PULLED UP to 1451 Buffehr Creek Road with his real estate broker, she asked him, incredulously, “You’re getting out? Nobody ever gets out.” The home had been on the market for years, and conventional wisdom suggested the property was a tear-down. Dyroff, a Boulder-based developer and designer, knew the property had a legacy that was worth preserving—and he had a vision on how to modernize the dated yet historical architecture.
Molny’s original Cor-Ten steel fireplace. PHOTO BY ASTRID CARRARO
The house, a sprawling cubist retreat in glass and steel by Robin Molny, a renowned architect and one of Aspen’s early urban planners, was built in 1974. In the mid-1950s, Molny served as a Taliesin Fellowship apprentice under Frank Lloyd Wright. The famed architect put Molny in charge of constructing one of his Usonian houses, modest, simply designed homes for the middle class. Molny moved to Aspen in the late 1950s, working closely with architect Fritz Benedict. In the 1970s, Molny designed the Aspen Athletic Club and Aspen’s pedestrian mall—and this home in Vail.
Skylights were thematic in the original design. PHOTO BY ASTRID CARRARO
It’s easy to see Wright’s influence on the Vail property, with its square shapes and flat roofs; large picture windows that capture views of the Gore Range, Vail and Beaver Creek; and the way the house hugs the steep hillside. The design is organic and in harmony with its surroundings.
Since leaving Wall Street in the ’80s, Dyroff has been acquiring and remodeling properties, from apartment buildings to off-grid renovations, through his company West Point Designs. He finds distressed properties; specs out floor plans, lighting and landscaping; curates the furnishings; and oversees construction. “I sketch everything out from start to finish,” he says. “It’s really about finding special opportunities and creating some magic out of it.”
Dyroff bought the home in 2002 for his own family. “I’d done boutique Victorian inns in Boulder, and I’d just finished a 20-acre, gentleman’s ranch near Niwot with lots of Ralph Lauren plaids, and along came this opportunity to do something modern,” he says. “Back then, no one was doing mountain contemporary.”
With the help of Boulder architect Pete Weber of Coburn Development, Dyroff renovated Molny’s original 3,100-square-foot home. And in 2010, he and Weber added 2,400 square feet with a popup and added the 2,000-square-foot guesthouse. To keep the main house private from the guesthouse (which is not for sale), they installed a green roof over the new construction, submerged it slightly into the hillside and built angled stone walls that preserve views while creating privacy from the home’s outdoor decks. “When you’re in the main house, it looks like you’re looking over a meadow. It feels like you’re the only one up there.”
A modern fireplace in rusted steel echoes Molny’s original. PHOTO BY 360 PRODUCTIONS
“TO ME, THE BUILDINGS OF THE SILVER MINING DAYS LOOK BEST ON THE COLORADO MOUNTAINS. THEIR COMPLICATED FORMS WERE USUALLY COVERED IN A HEAVY RUSTED CORRUGATED METAL.”–ROBIN MOLNY, ARCHITECT
Italian cabinets in blue mirror the sky. PHOTO BY 360 PRODUCTIONS
Initially, the project presented a design challenge. “It was just sitting there like a rusty old can,” he says. But under that rust, Dyroff saw architectural genius. Molny’s liberal use of Cor-Ten steel—designed to rust to a reddish-brown patina—was a nod to the crumbling remnants of the mining era. “To me, the buildings of the silver mining days look best on the Colorado mountains,” Molny told House Beautiful in 1978. “Their complicated forms were usually covered in a heavy rusted corrugated metal.”
Incorporating the same flagstone flooring inside and on the terrace makes the interior feel bigger, like the flooring goes right through the wall. PHOTO BY ASTRID CARRARO
Dyroff was intent on respecting and complementing the property’s history. “I told people, ‘This isn’t a tear-down. It’s a restoration.’ Molny was before his time in designing modern living.” To emulate Molny’s Cor-Ten steel, Dyroff’s team had to do a certain amount of workshopping to create the desired effect. “New steel comes with a petroleum coating so it won’t rust,” he says. First they treated the new steel with muriatic acid. That didn’t work. “I was thinking about the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and how they used Dawn dish soap to get oil off the ducks.” The team used small brushes and laundry detergent to scrub away the petroleum so the acid would work. “It rusted up beautifully,” he says.
To stay consistent with the original design, skylights were incorporated into the addition and the rusted steel theme is echoed throughout. Molny’s wood-burning fireplace, crafted from the reddish steel, remains the centerpiece of the space. Molny said the fireplace was among his few “interior extravagances.” “To me, it’s just fabulous,” says Dyroff, who dutifully restored the fireplace to its former glory. He added another fireplace in the addition and surrounded it with rusted steel to match.
During the renovation, Dyroff discovered wooden doors made from individual pieces of wood the size of a credit card laminated together to create a textured surface. “I thought they were interesting, but they were painted black,” Dyroff says. “We sandblasted them, and they were just beautiful.” That original door was used in the remodel, and a Fort Collins company replicated 20 more. Modern updates include floors of reclaimed wood and concrete with radiant heat, beautiful glass mosaic tile in the primary bathroom and terraces surrounded by custom-welded railings to match the Cor-Ten steel.
In the addition’s kitchen, Dyroff departed from the 1970s avocado countertops, brown cabinets and brick flooring that defined Molny’s original kitchen. Instead, he brought in Italian cabinets in an electric blue hue meant to match the Colorado sky—visible through the kitchen’s skylights.
This four-bedroom, 4½-bath home also has two outdoor showers, a hot tub, a fire pit and plenty of spaces for relaxing and entertaining. Contemporary furnishings inside the home, which is being sold furnished, include pieces from B&B Italia and Roche Bobois. There are multiple outdoor living spaces set on different levels so you can pick your après-ski spot and settle in with a glass of wine to watch the sun set over the Vail Valley. And when you do, be sure to raise a glass to Robin Molny. $9,875,000, Jenifer Shay, Engels & Völkers, Vail, 970.376.2752, jenifershay.evrealestate.com