Feature

Small Space, Big Style

Find chic design with purpose in this historic Jefferson Park home.

By
September 2012

Some interior designers might be reticent to make over a 1,230-square-foot home. Not Ashley Larson. Inside her Jefferson Park Victorian are the details that make true historic-design lovers swoon: skinny-plank hardwood floors, tall ceilings, original single-pane windows, and walls of exposed brick, all preserved since the home’s construction in 1891. So it’s no wonder that Larson fell in love with the home’s history and potential five years ago. “The age appealed to me,” she says. “The character was just irresistible.”

It’s a love affair familiar to many Denverites: The city is full of historic homes rife with charm—and imperfections, small rooms, and tiny closets. But rather than bemoan these design challenges, Larson, of Douglas Associates Interior Design, embraced them all and created a space that feels sophisticated, smart, and relaxed.

Her secrets are simple: First, take time to create a home that matches your lifestyle. “I didn’t do this all at once,” she says. “We had to see how we would live in the house.” The only decision she made right away was to build out the tiny master bedroom closets. (Larson created a pull-down system that allows for double hanging.) Everything else took time. 

When Larson and her boyfriend Evan Eitemiller have guests, she puts their set of Anziano chairs from American design house Donghia around the dining table. The rest of the time, the attractive, stackable chairs surround a funky vintage table in the back bedroom, which Larson transformed into a multipurpose study.

Larson’s wait-and-see approach gave her time to buy high-quality furnishings she loves rather than fill her home with pieces that won’t last, don’t fit, or don’t serve a function. “Don’t buy it all in a day, and don’t buy it all from the same place,” she says. “Your furniture should be a collection, built over time.” Larson’s collection includes pieces from some of the country’s finest designers—Rose Tarlow, Barbara Barry, and Paul Ferrante among them. 

And what to do if you can’t swing high-end pieces? Simple: Pick and choose. The mercury-glass lamps in her living room, for example, came from Mod Livin’ on East Colfax—a vintage spot with affordable, hard-to-find mid-century accessories.

Larson’s favorite splurge is upholstery. “It’s important to invest in high-quality upholstery. It’s like buying the crisp white shirt that looks perfect on you,” she says. “You can’t fake the feel and look you get from great fabric.” For her sofa she chose Sunbrella by Donghia, a high-performance fabric. (“You can clean it with bleach,” she says.) She also loves to mix fabrics in a single room: In the living room, the Wendell Castle chairs beside the sofa are covered in cashmere; the tufted ottoman is done in velvet; and the curtains, hung on a single rod across both windows to add sophistication, are linen.

The combination is irresistible—and that’s the point. Everything in Larson’s home is meant to be used, touched, and enjoyed. “We have to use every inch of our house,” Larson says. “We don’t have spaces where nobody ever goes or sits. And if you’re going to use your whole house—and you should—fill it with things you love.”