Designer Sheri Russell updates a modern home in Park City with earthy hues, natural materials and toned-down treatments.

By Brad Mee | Photos by Scot Zimmerman

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

In the refreshed great room, canvases by artist Carlisle and a sliding fire screen adorn the fireplace. Neutral colors, clean-lined furnishings and updated lighting accentuate the interior’s spaciousness and views.

It began with simple botox and evolved into a mini-facelift,” says interior designer Sheri Russell, colorfully describing the overhaul of this contemporary home overlooking Park City. As the principal of In Studio Design, Russell was initially hired only to furnish the house, but as work progressed, so too did the project’s scope. “As we got into it, my clients realized how much they like the house and added to their wish list,” Russell explains.  The designer has handled many large Park City renovations and knew this project was unique. “Many houses are architecturally needy and have dysfunctional layouts, but this home had magnificent architecture, a great floor plan and good design quality, so it was much easier to alter and update.”

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

Located in Park City’s Aerie neighborhood, the steel, glass and sandstone house overlooks Old Town.

The house, featured before in Utah Style & Design magazine’s 2004 issue, is indeed magnificent. Designed by architect Charles Cunniffe, owner of Colorado’s Charles Cunniffe Architects, the structure is a livable sculpture made of steel, wood and Utah sandstone. The exterior’s cantilevered, barrel-vaulted roof establishes a curvilinear theme that defines much of the interior, where curved walls, rounded surfaces and serpentine motifs flow throughout. “I believe the outside of a home should give some indication to what’s going on inside,” Cunniffe says. And while the new owners loved the structure, they wanted to change the décor and a number of interior features to reflect their own style.

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

In the kitchen, walnut replaces multiple tones of maple on the cabinet doors.  Wood-textured porcelain planks clad the floors and a new, simplified island features a pattern-rich stone composite top. A new leather finish tones down the perimeter black granite countertops.

“We focused on simplifying the design,” Russell says. To accomplish this, she chose a calm palette of neutral, earthy tones that complements existing surfaces like the stained concrete floors, granite fireplace stone and wood ceilings. It also replaced jewel tones of magenta, plum and turquoise that animated plastered accent walls and details. The neutral colors help prevent a dated, locked-in décor, the designer explains. She also reduced the number of wood species featured in the home and eliminated their overly decorative inlays and designs. “The decorative designs were beautifully executed, but they created visual clutter—as did the numerous types of woods,” the designer explains. “A simpler treatment calms a room and makes it appear more spacious.”

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

A custom fixture created from clustered Bocci pendants hangs above a long dining table made from acacia-wood slabs separated by a removable trough.

In the kitchen, for example, Russell resurfaced the multi-hued maple cabinets with the less busy look of horizontally grained rift walnut. “The simpler and cleaner you make major elements, the more you can add accents,” Russell explains. She clad the worn kitchen floors in wood-textured porcelain planks and resurfaced the room’s glossy granite perimeter countertops with an updated leather finish.  Russell also replaced a “George Jetson” island comprised of two round tops with a more function-forward rectangular version topped with an eye-catching stone composite. The owners wanted something unique, she explains. “It looks as if you are looking through water into the bottom of a river,” she says, describing the island’s surface. 

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

In the guest-master bathroom, Russell replaced an ultra-contemporary vanity with a more storage-rich, double-sink vanity crafted of walnut.  A new Oceanside backsplash tile complements the existing shower tile.

Russell’s nature-inspired treatments extend beyond the kitchen. In the revamped dining room, a book-matched acacia wood table measuring more than 11 feet sits surrounded by texture-rich, wallpapered walls with a wool rug beneath. Above, a custom fixture created from clustered bulb pendants illuminates the space, and a nearby curved wall boasts a new cocoa-colored plaster finish. The dining space opens to a living room that’s similarly transformed. There, light fabrics, clean-lined forms and clutter-free design celebrate the room’s light-filled space and breathtaking views. Two strategically placed swivel chairs easily orient toward the mountain scenery or turn to be part of the room’s conversation area. There, a custom coffee table crafted from petrified wood and iron anchors the main sitting area. Above, serene abstracts by artist Carlisle adorn the large fireplace. “Like the windows, the art brings the colors of the sky into the room,” Russell says.

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

A hair-on-hide upholstered cushion tops a custom metal bench created with an attached side table.

Throughout the interior, Russell’s colors and material choices varied depending on the space and its use. In the peaceful master suite, where Russell created a new wall on which to orient a window-facing bed, aqua accents pop on a calm backdrop of sand tones and natural walnut. “Aqua is such a soothing color for a bedroom or bath,” she says. Meanwhile, the designer added shots of orange and brown to a top-floor loft space located off the upstairs landing. The bold colors were inspired by a Paul Seide neon art piece installed by the home’s previous owners. In the lower level, a bunkroom boasts more whimsical and industrial design treatments where pops of red and ebony animate the décor.

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

A new bedroom wall—one of the few structural changes made during the renovation—accommodates the view-facing bed and nightstands crafted by Bradshaw Design in SLC.

And linking them together is a seamless, simple flow of natural tones and materials. “Continuity makes a home more comfortable and coherent,” Russell explains.  Built-in storage that the designer generously incorporated throughout—including open shelves, storage-rich vanities, drawer-equipped bunks and cabinet-based windows seats—adds to the comfort and livability of the space.

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

A custom table created from steel and petrified wood anchors the great room’s conversation area with abundant style and book storage.

From room to room, the home provides ample proof of Russell’s ability to make simplifying a busy décor appear, well, simple. It’s not an easy task, she explains. “Simplifying can be hard to do, because you think you always have to do more.” Fortunately for the homeowners, she knows when enough is enough. Today, her clients enjoy a refreshed decor that, while far from bare-bones minimal, boasts a natural palette and uncluttered style that helped transform the home they now love.

Utah Style & Design: Mountain Home Makeover

King-sized bunks, designed with built-in TVs, nooks and under-bunk storage drawers provide flexible, inconspicuous sleeping quarters in the home’s lower level. “They’re tight and neat in the space,” Russell says. “You almost don’t notice that it’s a bunk space.”

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