Photography by Kimberly Gavin |Published in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine
When Todd and Mandy Robison bought an odd-shaped, nearly half-acre lot at the corner of Foal Drive and Winslow Road in Edwards, they knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. One of the last undeveloped parcels remaining in Singletree’s tony Sonnenalp Club golf community, the lot also was one of the most desirable, a promontory with a commanding southern exposure overlooking the slopes of Beaver Creek and the rugged profile of New York Mountain. But it came with a formidable caveat—a covenant that the lot’s previous owners (who live to the north) wrote into the sales contract dictating setback and height restrictions to preserve their view to the south. An unwritten Singletree design review restriction also mandated that any home built on Foal Drive needed to blend with the Southwestern style that was adopted when the neighborhood was developed in the 1980s. “This lot had been here for a while and had scared a lot of people off,” says Todd. “We kept flipping around our design to make it work, but we’re pretty happy with how it turned out.”
Unlike the faux adobe-walled, clay-tile-roofed mini mansions that populate much of Singletree, the Robison residence is a modernist riff on the Southwestern vernacular, a sleek contemporary box of steel and glass with a flat metal roofline; it blends yet stands out, as a Klee might sharing wall space with O’Keeffes in a Santa Fe art gallery. Inside, big mountain views—maximized with floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides—lap at sand-colored Siberian larch hardwood (sourced by Arrigoni Woods) that dominates the 3,700-square-foot space, even the chic master bathroom. The flooring, like so much else in the home, is a custom touch either hand-picked or hand-built by the couple, whose eye for unique finishes—and knack for doing the heavy lifting to make them happen—often creates impeccable, one-of-a-kind results.
The Robisons—both dentists—spent their formative years in the valley, and cultivated their elegantly fashionable style sense, remodeling Peak Dentistry, a fledgling practice in Edwards’s Riverwalk they bought in 2004, doing the bulk of the work themselves. “We didn’t have much money after buying the practice, so we just did what we could, and we did it ourselves,” explains Mandy. “We did the whole remodel for, I think, $7,000—we’d be there late at night because we couldn’t work on it during the day when we were seeing patients, and we’d be there ’til midnight on the weekends. We worked really hard to build it up.” After conquering their first DIY commercial remodel (the two have since expanded their office, finishing that project last summer while they were in the throes of construction on Foal Drive), they bought their first home—an early ’90s–era fixer-upper down the street.
Like the Foal Drive residence, this home also presented challenges. Namely, no working heat, no ceilings, and a litany of other aesthetic and structural problems that kept the couple busy over the next 11 years. “There was a part of us that was like, ‘What are we getting ourselves into?’ But that’s kind of what we do, so we just jumped in and started working,” says Mandy. “We gutted the whole thing and worked on it the whole time we were living there; I don’t think we had ceilings in it for a year, the subfloor was exposed, our families would visit and we didn’t have any doors in the house! So we knew we could handle a house that we were building from scratch—and we weren’t doing it all ourselves this time.”
In the summer and fall of 2016, they hired Pavan Krueger of Krueger Architecture & Design, and Alex Coleman of Coleman Custom Homes to realize the home they envisioned on Foal Drive—and work around those tricky laws limiting building height. To that end, Krueger oriented the home so that it didn’t interfere with sightlines of neighbors, sinking the main floor (with a kitchen, great room, and master suite) below grade to accommodate a second story (which houses three bedrooms and a rec room for their two children, Graham, 7, and Georgia, 5); the Robisons’ original vision of a peaked roof was also scrapped to conform to neighborhood design standards and to allow for a second floor that wouldn’t obscure views.
Todd spent much of his time on-site during construction, putting his welding expertise (gleaned from a custom-bike company he ultimately had to sell to keep up with his day job) to practice by tackling metalwork projects, like a floor-to-ceiling black fireplace fashioned from cold-rolled steel that dominates the east wall of the main floor’s open-plan living area (witness Mandy holding the whole thing in place as Todd feverishly welds after the two agreed they could get the project done in an afternoon before the kids returned home from school). That floating steel staircase with larch treads and cable rails at the center of the room? Also Todd’s handiwork (although the opalescent light fixtures resembling seagulls soaring above and around the stairs are by Brokis, a Czech glassmaking company). An Arclinea kitchen, custom-built in Italy (exactly like the kitchen in their previous house down the street), occupies the west end of the main floor. As futuristic as the galley of a starship, it’s a seamless wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry concealing pantries and drawers and a suite of Gaggenau appliances special-ordered and shipped from Munich, Germany; a white pod that hangs from the ceiling like a HAL 9000 digital assistant from 2001: A Space Odyssey is a Fireorb, an ethanol-fueled hearth, one of Todd’s favorite features.
Ask the kids what they enjoy most about the space, and they’ll point beyond the wraparound patio to what appears at first glance to be a koi pond, but actually is a sunken trampoline custom-built into the front lawn, which doubles as a playground and a dog run for their goldendoodle, Barkley. For designer Sian Christie, it’s the master bathroom. “It’s just gorgeous,” she gushes. “From the floating vanity (a wall-to-wall mirror that’s lighted from behind), and the larch-wood floors they continued in there, to the textured large-format porcelain tile and the raw concrete countertop, the finishes are so sleek.”
While the Robisons have been living in their new home since October, as of press time, it was still a work in progress, with critical details—like custom-ordered furniture—yet to arrive. “Some of the things we’ve used in this house were things we’ve wanted for a long time—maybe it just didn’t fit or work in the old house, or we couldn’t afford it,” says Mandy. “We don’t mind living through the process and getting our things little by little and getting something that’s really unique.” Adds Todd: “Part of it for us is figuring out how to do it, and that’s part of why I got involved building different pieces and doing a lot of the work. I think you’re constantly growing and evolving, and that’s reflected in your home, and I always say you finish a house the day you sign the contract to sell it.”