Interior design in resort towns is in the midst of a renaissance, and Vail is leading the way. By Ryan Waterfield
Studio 80 Interior Architecture & Design
Believe it or not, Tracie got her design start building forts as a kid in Iowa. About that time and how it has influenced her work today, she says, “We were building in trees, out in the pastures, in snow drifts, or in old barns. I always got a sense of purpose when creating these imaginary spaces. Looking back, it is inspiring that what I loved doing as a child has helped me in doing what I love today.” Being the architect and designer of these forts, in all manner of places, exercised Tracie’s sense of what great design can do for our sense of wonder.
When asked about her favorite rooms to design, Tracie says, “Kitchens—they are the heart of the home, and there are so many things coming together that not only need to look great but function, function, function!” And to look at her work, it’s obvious that her designs are well planned and well executed, but the overall impression is that her designs are timeless. She’s as comfortable with a mountain retreat that seamlessly fuses traditional mountain architecture with contemporary appointments and finishes as she is a resort town penthouse condominium whose underlying logic seems to be easy elegance.
Tracie approaches each project with the understanding that interior design is really “about psychology, problem solving, and hard work.” Because everyone comes to Vail with an idealized vision of mountain living, she knows that her designs have a lot to live up to. “Each person brings an idea about what she wants her ‘mountain experience’ to be. It’s an eclectic mix of styles because people come from around the globe and they bring different perspectives on style. At Studio 80, we really work on a mixed bag of unique projects.”
Amy Casey and Courtney St. John
Amy Casey and Courtney St. John, the team behind Casey St. John Interiors, were both hooked on design early in life too. Amy says, “Both my mother and grandmother had a love for interior design. From a very young age, I always noticed the details in friends’ homes or at the classical amphitheater at the local college.” But it was a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago that sealed the deal when Amy was 14 years old. She says, “It opened my eyes to the world of art and architecture.”
Courtney St. John recognized that she had a calling in interior designs when she was making rugs for her dollhouses out of wallpaper samples. She says, “I started sewing as soon as I could master the sewing machine.” And Courtney has nurtured that passion throughout her life while studying art, art history, textiles, and interior design. Finding inspiration in her past, Courtney says, “It may sound cliché, but my childhood memories and my parent’s effortless style continue to inspire me.”
Together, Amy and Courtney make a formidable team and approach design with a sense of adventure. About tackling even the most eclectic of jobs, Amy says, “We think a great designer can find the perfect use for just about anything. We can appreciate the ornate details of 18th century European design as well as the Modern period of the early 20th century.” And Vail is the perfect place to practice interior design, because, as Courtney says, “We love our Colorado clients because they really are from everywhere—and that gives us the opportunity to design a special space for families to create memories and traditions in Vail.”
A special project that Courtney and Amy are particularly excited about? “We recently completed a yacht renovation in South Florida—an unlikely project for designers based in Vail, Colorado! It was an amazing learning experience with a beautiful end result,” says Amy. They approach every job with a commitment to collaboration because Courtney and Amy know that the best designs come from open communication with client, architect, builder, and designer. Courtney says, “We are really good listeners. That’s part of what makes it fun—creating our vision of a space based on the client’s needs and concepts. We aim for each project to be something totally unique and personal.”
Elisabeth Reed: Reed Design Group
Picture this: 7-year-old Elisabeth Reed, armed with a notebook inching a 4-foot-wide armoire, a 7-foot-tall desk, and two pretty hefty twin beds complete with headboard and footboard around her room looking for the right configuration. Her inclination to perfect her space manifested itself early—and often. It wasn’t just once Elisabeth dedicated an entire day to rearranging her bedroom; she undertook this task on a monthly basis.
But what started out as a solitary experience, a dreamer’s reverie, has turned into a highly collaborative process. “I come from a design/build background and I think the collaborative process between architect, contractor, designer, and homeowner is supremely important.” And her favorite type of space to design? Elisabeth says, “Any space that a client is excited to use! I am accustomed to working with clients who have been through the design process once or twice before and have a strong sense about what they want. Each job is different because each client brings a different way of living in their space.”
Elisabeth is inspired by “Functional design—when objects and spaces work well, they contribute in a huge way to quality of life.” She understands that design is as much about psychology, organization, and management as it is about creativity. “Designers do so much more than pick out paint chips and tear out magazine photos.” Highly trained, designers like Elisabeth Reed help clients realize their ideal spaces and their idealized way of life.
And since the rest of us need a little professional help to make the most of our spaces, Elisabeth offers this kernel of advice for designing a bedroom: “Keep the furniture to a minimum; incorporate good directional reading lights above your headboard—bedside table lamps just don’t do the trick; and don’t be afraid to use some saturated color or wallpaper on the walls and ceiling. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, a place you can rest and rejuvenate.”
Dallas Lyon: Lyon Design Group
Dallas Lyon’s brother was one lucky guy. When she was seven years old, she designed his tree house, “complete with posters, a red shag rug, and a secret door in the roof.” Her brother loved the design so much that he gave her a membership in his tree house club. And an interior designer was born.
Inspired by the beauty of nature and the art and innovation of architecture, Dallas is also inspired by her extensive travel and the innate challenges of each project. Because she appreciates all periods and styles, Dallas is able to create distinctive designs that reflect her clients’ personalities and tastes. Whether she is working with soaring ceilings, walls of windows, or small and cozy spaces, Dallas is creative, bold, and never repetitive.
Dallas believes communication with her clients is key to a winning design. “I listen to my clients, come to understand their needs.” It is this process that allows Dallas to design for the way her clients will live in a space.
And no matter the scope of a client’s project or the needs the client brings to the table, Lyon Design Group offers comprehensive design services—everything from Auto CAD design and space planning to decisions on art and accessories and finishing touches like fixtures. As for the color that Dallas couldn’t live without, she says, “White. It offers up so many possibilities.” And isn’t that what interior design is all about? Capitalizing on all the possibilities in a given space.
Cathi Branden: MF, Inc. Design
For Cathi Branden, there is no better place than Colorado to do interior design, because ultimately interior design is about bringing beauty from the natural world into the home. Inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s quote “The beginning of wisdom is the observation of nature,” Cathi says, “What better place than Colorado to put that into practice?”
Cathi also finds inspiration in the past. “I blend the traditional with the modern. You can’t design for the present without acknowledging and appreciating the past.” But the foundation of Cathi’s designs is “listening to a client’s needs.” Committed to meeting a client’s needs, Cathi says, “I take their needs and purposes and translate them into a beautiful interior design. Function is critical and form is critical. I don’t sacrifice one for the other. Then I add special touches by accessorizing.”
With a background in the fashion and clothing industry and decades as a buyer in the furniture industry, Cathi brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to each job. MF, Inc. has received numerous awards and has completed projects across the country including South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and California. As owner and principal designer, Cathi oversees every aspect of each project. About her approach, she says, “We’re committed to helping our client’s realize their dream spaces. I work on every stage of every project, and I make it a priority to see the project through to the final touches.”
A recent project in Dallas’ most desirable area, Highland Park, stands as a testament to Cathi’s attention to detail and vision. The owner of the home bought it as an investment project and hired Cathi to head the down-to-the-studs remodel. “We kept the 1920-built home’s exterior charm, while fully transforming the interior for modern living.” Finished with natural surface materials, an inspired color palette and fabrics, Ann Sacks tiles, and filled with antique rugs, the home did not sit on the market for long. A California couple fell in love with it, down to every piece of selected and custom-designed furniture and curated art, and bought it all. “This type of project is a trend among savvy investors. Buy a home, put a little money and creativity into it, and sell it for positive gains.”
No matter the environment or the demands of the project, Cathi says, “If I’m designing for a couple, I think it’s essential to understand each spouse’s perspective. If I’m working with an investment-minded client, I understand those goals, too. Communication is key. ”
Bringing a unique talent to her design projects with her floral designs, Cathi says, “Floral arrangements bring the beauty of the outside in and gives the interior space a sense of life.” Passionate about living and working in Colorado because, “the mountains, the mountains, the mountains,” she relishes working with her Vail Valley clients. “They demand comfort and the highest quality in all aspects of a project. I love the challenge.”