Many years ago, as I have dozens of times since, I met an interior designer for a latte to chat about her work. We sat facing each other at a small, wobbly wooden table, and after a few minutes of conversation, she turned her attention to my mug. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I can’t stop wondering why the handle is so meager. Seems like it should be a bit weightier to balance out the actual heft of the cup.”

She was right: The mug was of the awkward-teenager sort, with proportions that felt wrong in my hand. “Design matters,” she grinned. “You’d feel better if someone had paid more attention to the form of that mug.”

And that’s why I love design—and designers of all sorts. Their work seems romantic, right? But at the heart of it, they’re solving real problems. The best designs figure out the particular balance of form and function, and the byproducts are innovation and beauty.

You’ll find plenty of both in this issue, which reveals the winners of our first Top Denver Design contest. Earlier this year, we invited industry pros and homeowners to submit their favorite projects, and we got an impressive response from design lovers all over the state. Sorting through the piles of photos and corresponding descriptions re-affirmed my love for both design and the Mile High City. I bet you’ll feel the same way when you check out the 14 winning spaces.

And if, like me, you wander the city with one eye on the explosion of development happening in nearly every neighborhood—and if you sweat a little, wondering how the city’s aesthetic identity is morphing—you’ll be glad to hear from the design pros in “Straight Talk.” They dish on everything from the city’s signature look to how we actually experience buildings to why we should banish taxicab yellow from building exteriors. (Yes, please.)

Design matters because life happens in and around it: at your kitchen island as you prep food for the people you love, on the sidewalk as you meander by a gallery in LoDo, and yes, even as you wrap your hands around a warm cup of your favorite coffee. I hope you have time for all of those things this holiday season—and take a moment to appreciate the designers who make those experiences both effortless and beautiful.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home Winter 2016.
Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.