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Altitude Adjustment

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Photos by Robert Reck

Chad Oppenheim embarked on the renovation of his Aspen home with a single inquiry: "How can we make it disappear?"

Such was his guiding principle as he transformed the mountain retreat into a modern masterpiece influenced by his time in Japan, his wife's childhood in Switzerland, an chis love for the snow-capped Rockies. Oppenheim, principal of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design, committed himself to creating a timeless design- one that will be "forever elemental and beautiful," as he says.

The home hasn't completely disappeared, but with its reclaimed barn wood and locally quarried stone, it melds into the alpine landscape. Oppenheim's intent was to make the house "harmonious with its surroundings," and in that, he clearly succeeded. To be sure, most houses don't boast such a bounty of surrounding bliss: the towering boulders scattered across the quarter-acre property, the crystalline stream that gave the home its name (La Muna), towering trees, and, of course, the Rockies themselves. Given this abidance, he sound to connect the home to its location "in a very visceral way." For the designer, "The house is more of a backdrop to the place."

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In renovating a home that endured countless additions since it was built in 1971, Chad Oppenheim embraced the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi— the idea of finding beauty in imperfection. He wanted to create a home perfectly suited for his wife and their children. Doing so took a holistic approach- not architecture alone, or interior design, or just landscape design. It took the whole package, as he worked to take advantage of the pristine setting. In essence, Oppenheim was answering the question, "How does one design a life?"

Inside the home or out, Oppenheim deployed the same materials— wood, stone and copper. Two of his favorite outdoor features— the hot tub, a riff on traditional Japanese hot springs and the fire pit— are savored year-round. On a sunny day in Miami, he says he'll think wistfully of his family huddling around the fire pit on a snowy night, enveloped in the skin rugs draped around the home as they enjoy a communion all too rare in modern life.

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