DawnElise Hamilton is a self-described “girl from New York City” who had never visited Colorado prior to designing the interior of a longtime client’s home in Telluride. “Telluride may be the most beautiful place I've ever seen,” she says. “The ruralness does not appeal to me, but every time I turned my head I thought, ‘This place is so gorgeous!’” Telluride’s natural beauty is impossible to compete with, and Hamilton knew as much. Prior to her role as president of DawnElise Interiors International, Inc., she worked in New York as a curator at various world-renowned museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art.
“Every view is a landscape painting,” she says of the site of her client’s painstakingly curated Colorado residence.
Hamilton’s simply elegant, nature-inspired interior design allows exterior views to take a front seat. She credits Narcis Tudor Architects based in Telluride for masterminding the remarkable remodel.
“Big windows were added in the living room. I wanted the interior to blend and meld and be visually restful enough to not feel competition from the outside. The interior flows right out the window,” she says.
“The architect was able to create a circular balcony that offers stunning views of the surrounding area,” she says. “This was not new construction. There were two existing detached balconies, and the architects created the connection. The circular balconies and terraces really make wonderful use of natural landscapes.”
Circles repeat as a motif in the design: “We worked a lot with geometric shapes,” says Hamilton. “There is a lot of roundness.”
The Telluride house is the third residence Hamilton designed for these clients since 2008. She also designed a large, lavish and highly publicized garage for the client’s car collection. Moreover, Hamilton worked for the real estate developer over many years designing interiors for the client’s for-profit affordable-housing projects.
“It was very fulfilling. He is recently retired and was always interested in workforce housing,” she says. “For many people, his housing was the best place they’d ever lived. He always cared about interior design and had 85-inch TVs in beautiful common spaces with attention to detail, even doctors’ offices on-site. He gave low-income people nice, affordable places to live.”
For the client’s Colorado lifestyle, Hamilton adhered to a limited color palette: “No bright colors. We used earthy tones found in the landscape all around. I wanted to let the natural beauty speak and not try to overpower it, but to work with it,” she says.
The interior’s textural appeal draws from leather and wood, stone and steel. Unexpected surface finishes such as metal atop a wooden railing and playful features such as the Formula 1 race car-inspired foot pedals that control the flow of water in the main bathroom’s sink add individuality to the extraordinary home.
“It’s very modern with clean lines. These are very meticulous people. The design is reflective of their discipline. The home is comfortable and casual, but very organized. There’s a reason behind everything. Everything has its place,” she says. “There might be a stray coffee cup in the sink. Maybe.”
For Hamilton, the project’s biggest frustrations arose from the remote Colorado location. “The closest Home Depot is in Montrose, an hour and a half drive away,” she says. “It took me six months to find a wallpaper hanger, and he drove two hours to get to the job. The pace of the project: I pulled my hair out!”
In the end, however, Hamilton accomplished a blissfully refined home sanctuary in a majestic rustic setting. She’s especially fond of two light fixtures that are a nod to the natural beauty of Telluride’s expansive skies and majestic forests.
“One is a custom-made chandelier that looks like the planet Saturn,” Hamilton says. “The other reminds me in a modern way of branches on a tree.”
In this Telluride home, Colorado’s outdoor scenery is always a welcome houseguest.
Colleen Smith—a longtime contributor to the magazine—is an author, art director and filmmaker who lives in historic central Denver, where she’s renovating a 1921 brick bungalow.
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