Washington Street in the Governor’s Park neighborhood partners gracious, turn-of-the-20th-century homes with condos and apartments that arrived on the scene in a more recent era of Denver’s residential expansion. At 727 N. Washington, massive trees shelter the recently renovated home built more than a hundred years ago. The lines of the Mediterranean Revival style home beg to be admired. The standout beauty of the residence is in the painstaking preservation and re-creation of elements from the early 1900s.
When he came across the property, Douglas Kerbs, who has been at the top of his profession since he launched his luxury real estate career in 2005, was not really looking for a new home. Many know Kerbs through his affiliation with LIV Sotheby's International Realty and former association with Tiffany & Co. Denver residents are especially aware of his community support and board involvement at organizations, such as the Corporate Development Board of the Denver Art Museum, University of Denver High School, Colorado Neurological Institute and The Denver Future Forum.
While he has redone several homes and high-end real estate is now his business, 727 N. Washington would become something special to Kerbs. “It just kind of spoke to me,” he remembers, describing that while other of the neighboring, stately houses had gone through many iterations—changed into law offices and other places of business or reconfigured into condos—this handsome home had remained what it was built to be: a single-family residence.
It needed a lot of love, according to Kerbs, yet the 6,600-plus-square-foot structure was almost entirely original. “There was so much in the home that had not been ruined, but neither had it been taken care of. It was all here. It was just a matter of bringing it back to life. What I wanted to do in this project was not sacrifice the integrity of the home.”
Today, the home has been restored to its former beauty. Updates enhance the living experience but minimally alter the flow and features of the initial design. Surprisingly, the ceilings on each of the three floors are high. Rooms are wide and welcoming, which eliminated the need to tear down and rebuild during the renovation. And, thanks to a grand assortment of windows, an amazing amount of light brightens the space.
The front door opens onto an elegant, gallery-like foyer with a vaulted barrel ceiling and ornate plasterwork. The essential palette here and throughout the home is white to off-white. Kerbs chose monochromatic tones to showcase the pure beauty of the original architectural detailing.
To the left is a formal salon—very 1911—but the walls are a chic black, which would not have been done back in the day. The antique, gilded settee and chairs are period-specific but upholstered in patent leather, integrating another unexpected touch. The seating is arranged in front of the fireplace, one of five that retain their original surrounds, but have been conveniently converted to gas.
The expansive dining room is across the hall—a blend of authenticity and current aesthetics, achieved through an eclectic mix of art. The central entry/gallery continues toward the back of the house, past the main staircase. Tucked away and around the corner is an elegant powder room. Its most striking feature is a shimmering Lalique chandelier that reflects delicate patterns across the walls. The living room entrance frames a grand piano. A large fireplace, with comfortable seating all around, is decorated with a botanical plaster frieze in the style of Della Robbia. Just beyond the living room is a conservatory. There, a delightful wall font with vintage spigot was once, and still is, used to water the plants. A series of tall, almost step-through windows open onto the yard and pool.
Uncommon in the heart of the city, the large swimming pool and interlocking paver deck is perfect for warm-weather entertaining. While the pool is obviously a recent addition, the large brick patio and knee wall with concrete balusters along the side of the house is a classic Mediterranean Revival outdoor design element. The exterior elevation is a combination of white plaster and stucco with taupe trim. Original floral friezes and traditional keystones provide decorative touches prized in an earlier age.
The kitchen retains its original dimensions. Under-counter cabinetry is reminiscent of early-20th-century storage. Kerbs chose bright-white subway tile for the upper walls to visually expand the space. A pair of smoke grey, crystal chandeliers over the side-by-side, marble-topped islands add a splash of splendor in an otherwise understated, pristine place. The adjoining butler’s pantry has a door with a small glass pane that once allowed staff a view to the dining room and the ability to pace the serving of each meal. Original to the pantry is a zinc sink and hardwood countertops, which are now covered in glass to protect the wood. Kerbs acknowledges it was fun to discover the many, built-in treasures the home offered, like the pantry cabinet that contains an ingenious warming element—a predecessor to today’s popular warming drawers.
Another marriage of antiquated and updated is seen in the original, ornate radiators, which still provide heat to the first floor. Kerbs preserved them because they are not only beautiful but functional and speak to the integrity he was determined to maintain. A practical and modern addition is the new, high-velocity system that heats the upper two floors and also provides air conditioning.
What was once the billiards room is on the lowest level. There is indeed a table and original racks for pool cues, but also a more contemporary, great-room atmosphere. The art in this area is modernist, as depicted in a series of colorful, Warhol-like images of Marilyn Monroe on one wall and Shirley Temple on another. The large fireplace is yet another focal point.
There are no overhead pipes to compete with the clean lines of the ceilings. Kerbs had the plumbing rerouted and hidden away. The original concrete floors in the wide, central hallway were sanded and polished to preserve yet transform. Past the lower laundry room—another is on the second floor—a bath was reworked for convenience. The black and white tile once again mimics the period. Kerbs converted part of the basic basement to an impressive catering kitchen, which has outdoor access to the pool and yard. The pièce de résistance is the wine room, with its original brick walls sealed to capture and hold the cool temperature. The dining table was a Portuguese barn door in a former life. It is surrounded by antique, ladder back chairs.
The home has two staircases, typical of the time it was built. The back staircase begins at the kitchen and winds down to the lower level and up to the third floor, where staff would have had their rooms. The front staircase leads to the second floor, where there were originally five bedrooms and four baths. This is the other area where Kerbs repositioned walls and plumbing to refashion the look and function. Now, there are two secondary bedrooms linked by a Jack-and Jill bath. Each of the bedrooms has a walk-in closet, as well as another auxiliary closet with an in-wall safe. The inclusion of closet space certainly wasn’t representative of floor plans in the early 1900s, but was a feature the original owners had the foresight to include.
Across the broad landing is the spacious master suite. “The idea here was to make this an antithesis to the rest of the house,” notes Kerbs. The ceiling moldings are black; they are white in other rooms. Grasscloth covers the walls, and a flat screen sits on a large artist’s easel, suggestive of an oversized canvas. What was once a sleeping porch is now a workout area that overlooks the pool. Windows wrap the room and invite the light.
In the bath, onyx borders the central section of the floor done in deep-veined, Calacatta marble from Italy. The tub is original. New, dual vanities are separated by a glass shower. The walk-in closet is a take-off on the Yves Saint Laurent boutique in Manhattan. “Rows of hanging racks come directly out of the ceiling. I come in here, walk through the racks and choose something to wear. It’s like shopping,” Kerbs smiles.
Moving to the top of the house, the room arrangement is that of a private guest floor with two bedrooms, a study and a sizeable bath. There is also a family-room for relaxing.
His home provides the perfect backdrop for an art collection Kerbs has assembled and enjoyed over many years. Several pieces have enhanced his previous homes; others are newer and blend beautifully with the traditional lines and dimensions of the rooms and hallways they grace at Washington Street.
The home is truly a gem. “Being in real estate, I see a lot of homes around the world.” Kerbs proudly adds, “You rarely find the level of detail represented here.”
BIO: Marge D. Hansen is a Broomfield, Colorado-based freelance writer/editor and a regular contributor to Colorado Expression. Her articles appear in a variety of lifestyle magazines and websites.
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Savory bites from last year's edition of Confetti. Can you believe the new issue will be coming soon?