All Together Now

A historic Observatory Park farmhouse is perfect for entertaining thanks to a thoughtful, hands-on renovation.

September 2013

To call Eliza Prall’s Observatory Park home a labor of love is a bit like calling the Great Pyramids a little construction project. She bought the corner-lot fixer-upper in 2006. And with the help of her partner, Bill Carleton, she spent the next four years transforming—often by hand—the quaint three-bedroom farmhouse into a 4,200-square-foot ode to entertaining, complete with a magnificent kitchen and patio, both of which practically beg for a party.

“I looked at 60 houses before I found this one,” says Prall, who owns Prall Marketing and co-runs a party supply site, called theentertaining
shoppe.com, on the side. “The bones were so perfect. But as charming as it was, it didn’t have some of the living spaces I wanted.”
That’s putting it mildly. Prall and Carleton spent three months (pre move-in) rewiring, replumbing, and replastering the outdated house, which had only two other owners since it was built in 1910. “There was dated wallpaper everywhere, the original knob-and-tube wiring, and avocado appliances in the kitchen,” Carleton recalls.

Even after some renovation, the home’s original 1,950 square feet and one-and-a-half bathrooms were a tight squeeze for the pair, Prall’s two younger sons, a dog, a cat, and Carleton’s teenage daughters (one in college who would visit on breaks). Prall describes the master bedroom as a maze of closet rods and shelves with the bed in the middle. “We’d lie in bed and decide what we were going to wear that day,” she jokes.

They’d also lie there dreaming about the addition they planned. (When Prall bought the house, her L.A.-based architect sister, Becky Casey, sketched a floor plan that included an addition.) In 2009, they were ready to realize that dream.

The couple enlisted the aid of a local architect to translate Casey’s initial drawings into actual plans. But, as sometimes happens with remodels, visions weren’t aligning. Over dinner one night with family friend (and celebrated Denver architect) Sarah Semple Brown, the couple mentioned their project. “I looked at the plans and went, ‘Oh my God. This does not make sense,’ ” says Brown, principal at Semple Brown Design. “Something just got lost in translation between Becky and this architect. So I said, ‘We’re going to need to intervene.’ ”