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Rocky Mountain High: Our Holiday Week in the “Magic Mushroom House”

Munk's Junk (Everything Else)
This beautiful stained glass window somehow completely captures the spirit of the house.

Oh 1973, I remember you like you were yesterday.  While the Watergate scandal was exploding, the Allman Brothers’ Ramblin’ Man was blaring out of speakers across the country, I was in East Brunswick, New Jersey trying to cope with the simultaneous separation of my parents and Sonny and Cher.  Meanwhile, two thousand miles away in Aspen, Colorado, architect Andre Ulrych was building one of the most evocative and interesting homes in the country (incidentally, 1973 was also the year that Aspen resident John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High peaked at number nine on the Billboard Pop Chart).

Ritchie and I were so thrilled to be invited to spend the holidays by the home’s current owners, our friends Patty and Peter Findlay.  Patty told me that Ulrych concept was inspired by a conch shell and the resulting rounded contours of the home makes for a unique sense of light and space. I was struck by the way the sun’s movement would illuminate details of the interior and play with the various textures and colors.

The sunlight was a source of fascination for me as it changed throughout the day

Patty and Peter bought the house in the early nineties from the legendary Barbi Benton, the home’s second owner, and their creative sensibility has, if anything, only preserved and strengthened Ulrych’s original vision.  Though it seems counterintuitive, the home is at once of its period and outside it.  A glorious snapshot of 1973 and yet completely contemporary.

The Magic Mushroom House, as it came to be known, was clearly a labor of love by a very gifted artisan; indeed, the completely round home feels less like it was built and more like it just sprouted organically from the ground, rather like its namesake.  Evidence of Ulrych’s craft and sensibility are evident everywhere you look, from the inlaid starburst motif that adorns the many wooden doors, to the cave-like nooks and crannies that seemingly pop out of nowhere to the outrageous stone fireplace in what Patty calls the “love pit”.  If the “love pit” could speak, I have a feeling it would have a great deal to say but a great deal of trouble remembering much.

Patty and Peter's fireplace in the "Love Pit" reminds me of a cross between the fighting apple trees in "The Wizard of Oz" and something from H.R. Puffenstuff!

 

I got a bit of a cold the first day we arrived so I stayed close to the house, which when you’re in a house like this is definitely not a bad thing!  Plus, skiing conditions were poor due to a very unusual lack of snow so I really felt no pressure whatsoever to do much at all the first few days, which left me lots of time to relax.  This has to be one of the most chilled out interior spaces anyone ever made.  On the third day I started taking pictures of the house’s charming, small details.

The reflection caught a pair of vintage Herman Miller Eames lounge chairs and ottomans. My first therapist Bruce Fader had the same one. Curiously, when I first saw it upon arrival, I had a sort of Pavlovian response and started telling Rich about a dream I had on the plane...

I am so drawn the feel of the house, which I sometimes call “Treehouse Chic” that I created a whole store, Laurel Canyon, that was fully in the spirit of the Mushroom House.  The chance to spend so much time there and absorb the incredible vibe was an incredible gift.  So thank you once again Patty and Peter for inviting Rich and me to play.

Patty and Rich in the gondola on our way to the top of Ajax Mountain for lunch

 

"Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forests and the streams seeking grace, in every step he takes..."

3 Comments

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