Modern In Denver Magazine
Summer 2018

So does Peter Blank, whose last 10 years at the helm of Mile Hi Modern have made him a powerhouse in Denver’s emerging modern real estate scene. So it stands to reason that when Blank––who had previously lived in such mid-century modern

enclaves as Krisana Park and Lynwood––decided to design and build his own sleek and sophisticated house in Hilltop, it would be the apotheosis of all he has learned and seen over the last decade. “My cumulative life and career in real estate––the design elements that have always subconsciously resonated with me––were a huge inspiration for this home,” Blank says. “I wanted to do the Peter Blank Mike Hi Modern version of a house: a light home anchored in raw materials, open but intimate.”

That is evident as soon as you walk up the broad, low, asymmetrical “Barcelona-style” steps toward the home’s entryway. “I absolutely love the anticipation of walking into a courtyard setting,” Blank says.  “There’s a feeling of mystery when you walk toward a house where there is no intuitive sense of where the front door is.” Because of Denver’s strict building codes, a solid wall in front of the courtyard was verboten, so Blank opted for a custom, laser-cut bronze screen that feels artful and transparent but still cocoons the calm courtyard, encircled by pine trees.

Pass through the front door and you find yourself standing in a grand foyer that is “the size of a small apartment,” Blank says. “A lot of people thought I was nuts to have so much ‘wasted space’ there, but I wanted to make an immediate visual statement, with the space defined by a solid limestone wall on one side and a limestone colonnade on the other. There’s nothing pretentious or ostentatious, just a very strong architectural presence. And by the way, once people saw the finished entryway, they no longer thought I’d wasted space–they thought it was amazing.” Despite the unencumbered freedom that the wide-open concept provides,

the home also pulls you in. “You don’t feel lost in this house because somehow it embraces you,” Blank says. That flow can be attributed to a number of decisions that Blank, working with architect Brian Ojala of Entasis Group, made during the organic design process. “I wanted a house with no visual clutter––and that meant no doors,” says Blank. “When you walk through this house, you walk into vestibules. You don’t see doors to the bedrooms, you don’t see doors to the basement, you don’t see doors to the kitchen pantry. You just walk, and every time you turn a corner there’s an element of surprise.”

Though every design decision was intentional and assiduously thought out, Blank wanted a feeling of disarming simplicity throughout the home, which has 2,900 square feet on the main floor and an additional 2,900 square feet in the basement. “I was influenced by mid-century design,” says Blank, “I wanted continuity of materials––white rift oak & natural limestone–and architectural strength with clerestory windows, cantilevering structures and broad roof lines.”
Adds Ojala: “Everything was honest about this house. Everything. There was a very limited material palette, but we focused on texture throughout.

The retaining walls are a split-face stone, and then we have the millwork (by kevin Vesel of Vesel Brand) and the oak floors. That’s essentially it. And every single turn, every detail, has a purpose.”  They also aimed for a feeling of lightness. To that end, “everything in this house floats and is underlie,” says Blank. “in the kitchen, nothing touches the floor. The televisions appear to float in custom-designed wall cavities. In the dining room, the limestone wall doesn’t touch any other wall, and it disappears up into a skylight. It’s such a strong structural wall, and yet it seems disconnected from everything around it. You just look at it in amazement. Even the bathtubs and sinks seem to float.

I also chose to have no baseboards, so stone goes to wood in every application, and the limestone is all from the same quarry so it’s identical everywhere, though it can look different because of how the lights hits it.”

In a nod to International Design, the limestone is dry stacked inside and out. “I did not want to see any grout,” Blank says. “The beauty of the dry stacked stone is that it has a Roman/Greco aesthetic––and stands the test of time.” Though Blank was integrally involved in every decision, he is the first to say that it took a village to make this house a reality.

In addition to architect Ojala, the team comprises a who’s who of Denver’s design community, including Kevin Vessel of Vessel Brand, who did all of the home’s custom millwork; Old Greenwich Builders; Italian firm Boffi, which designed and installed all of the closets; and Harrison Home Systems, which made it a “smart” home. “Peter and I worked together from start to finish on this house, and it was all about purity of form––the essence of space, light and material,” says Ojala. “We stripped off all of the unnecessary components to leave the pure essentials.”

The design process was also unusually organic, with decisions being made or revised as the house was actually going up. “it was not liked we said, ‘Okay, the design is done. Here you go, builder,’” says Ojala. “It was ongoing napkin sketches. Peter and I would go to the site every day and say, ‘Okay, we got the shell built. How do we infill these walls? How will the millwork terminate? How does the fireplace wall look? It was hand sketch, hand sketch, hand sketch, always going to the next level, the next level, the next level. I probably have 500 sketches after the project was submitted for permit. It was a living process.”

The process was also “exceptionally organic and and collaborative,” says Cress Carter of Old Greenwich Builders. “ At the time we build this house, the structure was probably as complex as any house we’ve ever done. Just look at how the roof cantilevers were there is no support and the wide open spaces with glass.  Peter had a hand in everything–he’s excellent at interacting with creative people.”

That included some fo the best craftspeople in town.  “Peter had such a strong vision––he’s really a genius when it comes to the interior palette––but it wouldn’t have been successful without all the local craftsmen,” adds Ojala.

Chief among them was Kevin Vesel, who did all of the millwork, whose color he describes as “warm driftwood.” It was a challenge, but that is something Vesel is used to. “We do a lot of things on every project that have not been done before,” he says. I bring in ideas from all over the world––I see what’s cutting edge with different vendors and different materials––but Peter’s input was extremely valuable and really showed up in the final product, which is not only unique but outstanding in terms of quality and finish. He’s a much better interior designer than most interior designers I know.”

Finally, Harrison Home Systems made the beautiful house smart, too. “This house was not only design-focused but technology forward,” says George Harrison. “Peter has the ability to control everything from a single app on his phone through a home automation system called Savant; he can do it remotely or with voice control. He also has new Lutron palladium keypads, which are very clean keypads; they are unique in Colorado and can control shades and dim lights to accentuate the home’s unbelievable architecture.”

Modern, yes. Cutting edge, of course. But to Blank, the essence of the home echoes what Leonardo said all those centuries ago. “The house is classic but open, and it embraces art in all its forms. The simplicity of it is its brilliance.”