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Lon McGowan in his flagship design shop, Alpine Modern, just off Boulder's Pearl Street Mall —Jon Rose

Shop Talk: Alpine Modern

Tastemaker Lon McGowan seeks to elevate contemporary design in Colorado.

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If you think Boulder is a bastion of flannel-clad outdoor-fitness freaks, well, you’re right—but not as right as you used to be. Lured by the city’s booming tech scene, coastal transplants have injected a heightened taste for modern design into the People’s Republic. It’s from this melting pot (Patagonia’s ruggedness meets Apple’s clean lines) that design shop Alpine Modern emerged in summer 2014. As owner Lon McGowan created the brand, his primary question was: How do you take a modern home and design it so that it lives in harmony with the mountains and with nature?

The answers can be found just off the Pearl Street Mall in the company’s flagship store—founded as LON Little Shop in 2013—where graceful terrariums (below) from Canada’s Score & Solder share space with plush rugs from Arvada’s Auskin Sheepskin. The brand’s reach, however, extends beyond home decor. Alpine Modern now encompasses a quarterly magazine, two retail storefronts (including a shop at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art), and, as of July, a cafe—all of which promote contemporary mountain living. Alpine Modern Café (above right), located near Chautauqua Park, looks like a rustic stone cabin from the outside. But within, white walls, walnut tables, and Carrera marble countertops provide a clean, modern backdrop for the staff to serve local coffee from Huckleberry Roasters and MiddleState and simple, elegant meals (such as an egg served on toast with sea salt and olive oil) that call to mind a Parisian bistro.

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McGowan—a Vail native who, after a decade in Seattle, moved to Boulder five years ago—hopes to expand the Alpine Modern brand to mountain communities around the world, and not just by opening more retail shops and cafes. This past summer, Alpine Modern released its first in-house line: travel bags, hats, backpacks, apparel, and leather belts made contemporary through sleek brass buckles and crisp stitching. “It feels like everything is very tourist-driven,” McGowan says of mountain towns. “[Elevating the aesthetic] gives permission for designers, builders, and architects to think differently about how we build our communities.”

—From top: Tanya Dueri; Jon Rose

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