Take a stroll down this charming, historic street in Baker, and it’s hard to miss the new(ish) kid on the block: a bungalow with a monochromatic black facade and immaculately xeriscaped lawn amidst a row of vibrant painted ladies. The 100-year-old home’s otherwise unaltered exterior maintains its original architecture, but hints at the daring style of its owner—and a hidden, ultramodern addition on the back. The bold design choices come courtesy of architect Morgan Law and designer Noah Manos, principals of the envelope-pushing design firm Paper Airplane. We asked the duo about going big with a historic home makeover.

A 900-square-foot addition off the back of the house added a master suite with balcony to the second floor and an indoor/outdoor living area on the main level. A mix of natural-stained cedar, fiber-cement shingles, and aluminum-clad windows delivers a contemporary feel. Photo by David Lauer, styling by Kerri Cole

5280 Home: Let’s get right to your boldest design move: that all-black exterior.
Noah Manos: A monochromatic exterior has become one of the hallmarks of contemporary design. We thought that applying it to a historic facade would actually give that concept a little more of a nuanced meaning by poking at the conventions of the brightly colored, highly decorative appearance of more typical “gingerbread” Victorians.

It takes a special kind of client to say, “Yes, let’s go for it!”
NM: Our client has a great sense of style that strikes a balance between funky and adventurous with a crisp, clean, and timeless aesthetic. She’s got an affection for pink hair, black Audis, and white penny tile—and was inspired by the midcentury homes of Palm Springs.

In the backyard, Manos and architect Morgan Law created a courtyard feel with durable materials to accommodate the homeowner’s three bulldogs. The use of wispy blue oat grasses and steel planters creates a “tension between hard elements and soft, feathery forms,” Manos says. Photo by David Lauer, styling by Kerri Cole

That sounds like a dream client. But how does that vision square with a 100-year-old home—and the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission’s limitations for renovations?
Morgan Law: We were happy to work within the confines of Landmark to ensure that Denver’s historical fabric stays intact. Landmark tends to have a “business in the front, party in the back” mentality. Modifying the street-facing facade is very difficult—except for paint color—but Landmark, I think, understands the general design trend to integrate indoor with outdoor spaces; they have more flexibility around the back of the house.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home April/May 2020.
Cheryl Meyers
Cheryl Meyers
Cheryl Meyers is a contributing writer to 5280 Home, which means she gets to spend her days writing about Colorado’s most beautiful indoor spaces.