Refreshing a Vail Duplex

Dan Braun’s career takes him around the world producing live entertainment events, but Vail is the place that feels like home.

In the main living area, the fireplace is wrapped in steel paneling, which relates to the overhead reinforcement of the existing ceiling beams. In the far corner, Anda swivel chairs from Ligne Roset (ligne-roset. com) populate a light-filled corner which serves as a reading nook. Photo by Brent Moss.

When he purchased this 2,000-square-foot, hillside duplex on the north side of Vail five years ago, Dan Braun knew it needed significant work. So he and his duplex neighbor hired Basalt-based contractor Sno-Away Inc. to upgrade the exterior style, functionality and energy efficiency of the 1988 structure.

Once the exterior work wrapped up in 2013, the focus turned to the interior. Sno-Away owner Ross Dombrowski introduced Braun to architect Sara Upton from Rowland+Broughton’s Aspen office. She opened up the compartmentalized floor plan so that it better flowed between spaces and stayed true to cleaner, more unified design.

The existing winder staircase was reconfigured into a switchback to improve connectivity between floors, and the original railings were replaced with glass and metal to allow for light from the upper floors to reach the main level.

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The walnut dining table from Urban Hardwoods (Seattle) is a custom live-edge piece with a painted steel sled base. The Tessa chairs from Ligne Roset are soft and modern, complementing the organic lines of the table. Photo by Brent Moss.

Next, Upton says, the glued laminated timber beams (glulams) on the main level needed reinforcement for support. The solution was to install steel C-channel reinforcements on each side of the glulams. “Bringing in the structural steel in the living room to take out the 1-inch sag in all three levels throughout the home was quite a challenge,” Dombrowski says. It required the help of a crane but ultimately ended up being an attractive design element.

The result, completed in 2015, is a home with a loft-like feel, featuring a ground floor with a garage, mud room, laundry room and crawl space and three floors of living space that include a kitchen/dining/living room combination, three bedrooms, three bathrooms and an upper-story loft used as a casual office. When selecting furnishings for all three floors and the patio, Rowland+Broughton interior designer Leslie Cope kept the look “minimal with pops of color.”

The neutral interior palette allows for mountain views to be the primary focus and creates a backdrop for an expansive collection of photography Braun shot during one calendar year when he traveled to all seven continents for work. “They very much represent the feelings of the places and times when they were made,” he says. “Black and white was the perfect medium because it is so absolute—binary if you will—and the year was intense.” The color photograph on a stairway landing between the main and bedroom floors depicts the fairy-tale-like St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow against a brilliant blue sky. “The single color picture is there because Sara said I needed a contrast piece as a conversation starter,” adds Braun.

The walnut millwork throughout the master bedroom was done in collaboration with BenchCraft Custom Woodwork ( and customized to fit the small footprint and exemplify the modern/clean aesthetic. The doors and floors are white oak. Photo by Brent Moss.

The only other artwork on the home’s walls is a peaceful glass piece called “Rain” that Braun purchased from a Vail gallery and that hangs by the dining table.

Cope is especially fond of the dining area. “The table makes a statement,” she says. “It distinguishes the two areas but doesn’t compartmentalize. I love how the dining room opens to the kitchen, which has clean, sleek and beautiful finishes.”

Dombrowski particularly likes the team’s use of wood. “The flooring, doors and stairs in white oak and tiles and finishes are beautiful,” he says. “The white oak end-grain accent wall in the powder room is truly stunning.”

Upton’s favorite area is the corner of the living room with two swivel chairs and a lamp. “Dan’s vision was sitting in the corner and reading,” she says, noting that she and Cope are also working on Braun’s Portland, Ore., residence.

“In short, my home is brand new,” Braun says. “We redid everything. I wanted a place that is comfortable, inviting, modern, uncluttered and warm and with natural elements like wood and stone.”

Now, just thinking about Vail “makes me smile, any season, any time,” Braun says. “When I am on the phone from my home, friends who don’t know that I have made a trip to Vail will say, ‘You’re in Colorado, aren’t you?’ because they can hear it in my voice. That’s the outcome I was hoping for.”