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Swaddled by a dense grove of aspens, a little spit of land juts out into rambling East Lake Creek. If there’s a more enchanting spot on 146-acre Pony Up Ranch in Edwards, it’d be hard to find. Which is why for more than two years, as architect Tom Cole and workers from Mccord Construction built and remodeled buildings on the property, the crew hiked out to this secluded spot each day to eat their lunches.
Inspired by these midday visits, the ranch owner commissioned a custom-built, canvas-topped platform tent for hosting afternoon cookouts and weekend getaways on that very site. The tent’s effortless Ralph Lauren–mountain look came together quite “by accident,” the owner says. But it takes more than kismet to pull off an outdoor room that feels like home. We asked the project’s interior designer, Andrea Schumacher, to share her style secrets.
On decorating with classic colors:
“There’s something so nostalgic about these Colorado red and deep indigo blue hues,” says Schumacher of the Ralph Lauren kilim rug that inspired the tent’s color palette. “They always feel right in a rustic space like this.”
On letting nature be your guide:
“The closer you get to the outdoors, the more rustic your furnishings should be,” Schumacher says. The Adirondack-style table and twig chairs on the tent’s porch are as rugged as can be, while the teak-and-leather armchairs inside have a more streamlined style. Antlers, animal hides, and a patinaed metal coffee table all reference objects and materials that might be found around the ranch.
On bringing the indoors outside:
“Before you furnish an outdoor space, think about what you’d want in the indoor version of that room,” Schumacher suggests. The designer dressed the tent’s raised camping cots with “the same things you might find in a luxurious master suite,” including Ralph Lauren sheets, striped wool Pendleton blankets, and Americana-inspired accent pillows.
On choosing portable furniture:
Lightweight furnishings that can be easily moved are a must for outdoor living spaces—even if you won’t need to store them elsewhere come winter. After all, it’s nice to be able to pull up an extra chair. “Here, we chose a hollow metal coffee table; bedside tables with removable wicker baskets in place of drawers; and armchairs with leather sling-style seats instead of bulky cushions,” Schumacher says.
On dressing for the weather:
“Choose fabrics and rugs designed for indoor and outdoor use,” Schumacher says. “They’re more durable than indoor fabrics and come in more colors, patterns, and textures than true outdoor materials—even faux velvets and shags.” Most are treated to resist water and stains, and some can even be bleached. (Check labels before you buy.)
On getting the light right:
“Add a mix of portable lighting fixtures so you can concentrate the glow where and when you need it,” Schumacher says. “Here, we combined candles, which feel so intimate, with a variety of lanterns that reliably light the space (no need to worry about wind) and a string of LED camping lights that are bright enough to read by.”
On remembering to layer:
“The trick to achieving an inviting, residential-feeling space is to create layers of furnishings and accessories,” says the designer, who laid a small tribal rug atop the sleeping area’s sisal floor covering, stacked cozy pillows and blankets on a wooden bench, and crowned a metal coffee table with a small animal hide and a tray that showcases accessories in varying heights. “We didn’t have true ‘walls’ to work with,” she adds, “so we hung a mirror and antler mounts from the tent’s support posts.”
Design your ideal backyard dwelling with help from these three Colorado businesses.
1. Studio Shed
This company offers stylish and sustainable backyard buildings—from home offices and music studios to greenhouses and doghouses—customized by you and prefabricated in Colorado.
Signature Shed (six by eight feet) from $5,940; studio-shed.com
2. Colorado Yurt Company
Go here for Mongolian-style yurts, customizable platform tents, and beautiful handmade tipis with authentic peeled lodgepole logs.
Yurts from $6,395, tipis from $710, and tents (platform not included) from $755; coloradoyurt.com
This tiny-home hotel in Lyons lets you try before you buy. Book an overnight stay in a cozy little casa (think 150 to 200 square feet), then tour a variety of for-sale models.
Hotel rates from $139/night and tiny homes from $45,000; weecasa.com
—Photography (from top): Brent Bingham; Durston Saylor (3); Styling by Andrea Schumacher