Debbie and Bill Pain's mansion has been a labor of love, three years in the making. The castle-like home meticulously blends details of the Old World and new, from reclaimed stone unearthed in the 1800s to fiber optic lights tucked into the mortar.
As guests ascend the curved, exterior stone staircase, a 10-foot, hand-carved alder door greets them. The home actually has 53 of these labor-intensive doors, which took Ron Bosanko of Bosanko Woodwork five days each to make. Above the front door, tiny points of blue fiber optic lights illuminate a massive stone arch. To the right, treads of the interior flagstone staircase glow with hidden fiber optics.
The home is meant to replicate a series of stone vaults and openings, feeling as though an old building had been added onto, and updated, throughout the centuries.
Thirty percent of the stone, used on both the interior and exterior, came directly from the Pain's backyard, which sits on the Blue River. In the late 1800s, dredge boats stopped there, leaving behind piles of rock in the process of gold mining.
Designing, and redesigning
"We've gone beyond building a house," says Fred Horvath, owner of Blue River Custom Homes. "We've created a full (experience.)"
But it didn't come easily.
"A home of this level, we haven't seen much of in Breckenridge, so we had to build it a little differently," Horvath says. "It's a very complex home, in the sense that we've had to work out the details."
Normally an architect designs a home and then the builder constructs it, but in this case, Horvath and Will Mosher, of Willynn Electrical, built and designed as they went — often going so far as building features, obtaining the Pain's feedback, and then designing and building again.
The enormous stone wall in the great room exemplifies Horvath and Mosher's commitment to working closely with the homeowners. The home was nearly finished when Debbie Pain realized no manufacturer produced a gas fireplace grand enough to balance the multi-level stone wall meant to host the hearth. An open, wood-burning fireplace wasn't an option, due to safety concerns. After considering design solutions for a month, the team finally settled on placing two gas fireplaces within the wall. Bosanko created an approximately 10-by-14-foot ornately carved alder mantle to anchor the fireplaces.
"(It's) the most spectacular thing I've ever seen," Schutz says.
Beside the stone wall, the original architect drew the elevator to be a regular, enclosed system. But two things occurred, encouraging Horvath and Mosher to open up the wall and install glass on the various levels. First, Debbie Pain felt a little claustrophobic in the closed-in elevator, and second, the builders saw the potential of the views, which looked out on the great room, and beyond, to the Blue River.
"We were problem solving all the way through," Horvath says, or, as Mosher lightheartedly calls it, "going by the seat of our pants."
But looking at the house, no one would have ever guessed Horvath and Mosher made decisions as they went because the original plan didn't fulfill the Pain's needs for such things as storage or a large kitchen island and bar.
By altering the plans, the builders accentuated rooms. For example, they eliminated an exterior staircase, intended to extend between the main-level kitchen and the outdoor kitchen below. By doing so, they made way for a larger island and a window seat that overlooks the river.
The added space suits the kitchen, fit for a chef. Cabinets match an ornately carved hearth, set beside the kitchen. Double-thick slabs of granite feature one-of-a-kind scalloped edgework. In keeping with a European theme, the Pains ordered two ovens from La Cornue, founded in 1908 by Albert Dupuy, who invented the first residential gas oven. The copper sinks originate from Mexico. Within the alcove ceiling, Andy Thomas, of Versatile Strokes, artistically painted an approximately 22-foot elongated Damask pattern, with a brown leather background and metallic gold finish. More than a dozen lighting modes, from cabinetry and wine rack lighting to under-cabinet task lighting, showcase the kitchen. Extremely rare 8-foot planks of mesquite imported from both Argentina and Texas ground the floor with knotty textures and dark stain.
A homeowner's treasure chest
The Pains live in Cherry Hills Village along the Front Range and have been visiting Breckenridge since 1999. Their second home on Peak 7 "has given us the opportunity to create wonderful family memories and fall in love with the beauty of the Colorado mountains," says Debbie Pain. But one thing was missing from Peak 7: the river, so they purchased their current lot. "We bought a piece of the Blue River; the lot just happened to come with it," she says. "We wanted a lot where you could hear the river from every room, and the view from every window would be part of the Colorado ambiance we all live here to enjoy."
And so they designed their three-story home (with a rooftop level that features a kid's hideaway room — furnished in miniatures) to emphasize the river.
Another important aspect in designing the home involved adding only beloved elements.
"(Bill and I) promised each other from the beginning that we would not do anything unless we both loved it," Debbie Pain says. "Over the course of the project, we found our taste began to come together much more closely than when we first began."
The Pains owned about half of the décor that graces the home, and it ranged from an extensive collection of MacKenzie-Childs dish and glassware to Western and Native American memorabilia.
"We love European antiques, the American West and all things family," says Debbie Pain. "Our builder and the team of professionals he pulled together did a great job of helping us incorporate what we had into the fabric of the home."
For example, the Pains cherished two iron gates built in France in the 1700s. Alameda Ornamental Iron modified the gates, made them code-compliant and hand-forged three sets of matching metal work for the interior railings.
"Our homes have always been eclectic," says Debbie Pain. "When it comes to form and function, Bill tends to focus on function and I on form. Together, we make a pretty good team. Individually, we would have far more challenges."
Schutz also helped tie various elements of the home together. Stone arches and about 7,000 square feet of wall space fauxed in cool colors called for contrast. Schutz incorporated warm area rugs, overstuffed sofas and chairs and luxurious toss pillows in taupes, tans and creams to soften the atmosphere. In the three master bedrooms, she used feather beds, silks and velvets.
"All of the beds are something you'd expect a princess to sleep in — they're soft, luxurious, wonderful fabrics," Schutz says.
Every bathroom is unique; the sinks are either vessels or custom crafted, and two of the vanities that house them are made of transformed antique buffets. Each master shower stands out — whether it's adorned with two huge solid onyx sheets, boutique slab granite or a 7-foot marble mosaic.
Though most of the home exudes an Old World feel, the lower level is distinctly Western. Irregular cuts of flagstone comprise the floors, matching the main level, but downstairs, the baseboard is also composed of chiseled stone.
The grandchildren's room resembles a log cabin, with timbers sticking out of the plastered walls. The team even distressed brand new window frames to fit the style.
The home theater screen features the mantle Bosanko originally carved for the great room — before the fireplace became so grand. Thomas layered angels on the faux-painted ceiling. Down the hall, he created an enchanting powder room, pasting and painting pages of the New York Times from the early 1900s onto the wall.
"We wanted to build a home that was timeless, elegant and sophisticated with just enough whimsy to be certain it wasn't too overwhelmingly serious or too heavy," Debbie Pain says.
Perhaps Debbie Pain's favorite area of the home is tucked away downstairs, in the hallway. Thomas incorporated a photo of Debbie's grandfather on a recessed wall, and the team finished the vignette by building an old fence in front of the portrait and placing her grandfather's saddle on it. Her grandfather regularly walked two miles roundtrip to ride his horse. He took his last ride at age 90.
Alcoves along the hallway also showcase authentic Native American regalia Debbie Pain wore as a child. Navajo rugs define areas throughout the home; the Pains purchased the rugs directly from weavers on the reservation in which their son works as a poverty attorney.
"I know everyone says this, but we really paid attention to every single detail in the home and how it was going to interact with every detail," Schutz says. "It was a process, but in the end, I think we got a really extraordinary product."