What do you do when everything about your luxury condo complex—dream location, spectacular views, great homeowners amenities—is perfect, but the condo itself… not so much. That was the case when a retired couple found a 4,000-square foot space in One Polo Creek, the 20-year-old mid-rise property in Cherry Creek. Having lived in one of the designs of nationally renowned Denver architect Michael Knorr, they enlisted his help to reimagine the uninspiring conventional layout to fit with their contemporary tastes.
“The owners saw that the floor plan was hopelessly outdated with no excitement at all,” said Knorr. “They said, ‘Give us something that’s modern, kind of hip and up-to-date.’” And so he did. In about a year’s time, he completely gutted the interior, ripping out all non-structural walls but keeping plumbing intact and rearranging ducts. “Gutting gave us the biggest opportunity to rethink it top to bottom. It wasn’t just a cosmetic fix; rather, it was grabbing something mired in the past and bringing it to the 21st century,” he said.
Instead of square, boxy, traditional rooms, the unit now has floating, angled walls that direct the eye to spectacular vistas on the outside and make small spaces seem bigger and big spaces more interesting. This extended line of sight is extremely important to lift the spirit and get a rush of excitement, Knorr explained, adding that architects can mold space to evoke emotional and intellectual responses. In addition, he changed the unit’s ceiling planes to add interest and drama and created a clean, wide gallery to display the owner’s extensive art collection. “We were well aware of the clients’ art collection,” said Knorr. “Very few apartments allow the luxury of that kind of space.”
Working with the clients’ art collection was the biggest challenge for interior designer Karyn McGowan, founder of KPM Design, LLC; she works often with Knorr. “We’ve done a lot of projects together,” McGowan said. “Some of my most successful have been with Mike, a very talented man. He hands over the finishes to me.” To give the clients’ artwork the most elegant backdrop, McGowan chose a neutral palette of warm gray, charcoal and pewter tones with accents of white and mineral tones of green and blue. She also considered texture and color for walls where art would hang, such as the gunmetal faux paint treatment applied behind the stunning steel and crystal teardrop sculpture that glows above the linear firebox in the living room. The result is a dazzling contemporary redo of the heavily carved, ornate wood mantel. In the entry, the eerily dramatic oil painting seems to flow out of the textured gray covering on the floating wall. In the long gallery that Knorr fashioned from a maze-like circular hallway, McGowan gave walls a neutral color to support the variety of art styles displayed. Natural walnut cabinets and interior doors add depth and warmth, as well as the quarter-sawn white oak flooring that flows throughout.
“Karyn really respects the architecture and enhances it rather than fighting it,” said Knorr. “Many designers look at just surfaces. It takes a really talented designer to think three-dimensionally. With Karyn, it always ends up being a better project.”
Certainly, the kitchen reflects the artistry of both of these talented people. Knorr lowered the entire ceiling and created soffits that work hard to hide overhead ducts and plumbing and provide a place for recessed lighting, resulting in a clean, tailored and crisp look. The soffits also shape the breakfast nook below. Without the circular ceiling coffer, the round table would be sloshing around the space, he said. The repeated theme of angles shows up in the island with the honed white quartzite triangular bar top piercing the polished charcoal countertop. “To add interest in such a serene palette, I played with different textures and sheen levels,” McGowan said. The textured laminate gray and brown cabinets contrast nicely with warm walnut cabinets above the stove. The backsplash is gray matte glass tile. The high-sheen, python vinyl barstools add another layer of interest. Exquisite Kitchen Designs supplied the materials.
In the dining room, Knorr achieves much of the same with the recessed ceiling of wood panels defining where the table should be. The dining space is an area rather than a traditional boxed-off room—it participates more in the living space, in line with contemporary style. The silver chandelier above the table is made of hundreds of very fine chain links creating a billowy, elegant look. Knorr repeated the angles theme in the asymmetrical fireplace hearth that provides a fitting platform for artwork. Again, in the powder room, the geometric shape of a suspended marble top vies for attention with the textured aluminum mosaic that sparkles as the backsplash. Mirrored rectangle medicine cabinets in the master bath lift up instead of sideways above a backsplash of abalone shell and travertine tile.
In the tranquil master bedroom, a beautiful wood soffit houses recessed lighting for a gentle glow. Striped sheers filter light during the day while blackout shades roll down for nighttime serenity. “Great care was taken to provide appropriate lighting to highlight each art piece,” said McGowan. In the living room, lighting comes from a cable of small spotlights stretching across the soffits; the concrete ceiling in the multi-level building limited the design options. “As a designer, it’s really gratifying to see the transformation of what the unit was to what it is now,” said McGowan. “I couldn’t picture it any other way.” Knorr’s take on the project: “A dowdy, out-dated apartment got a new lease on life.”
Michael Knorr & Associates
4501 E. Dartmouth Ave., Denver
KPM Design, LLC
BIO: Colorado native Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist based in Denver. She contributes regularly to Colorado Expression as well as other magazines and websites.
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