When you’re build-ing your own house, the most frequent comment you’ll hear is, ‘It must be so fun to build whatever you want!’” says Emily Hagedorn, who, along with her husband, Brad, recently brought to life this dreamy home in West Vail. “But that’s just never true. In reality, you have a ton of constraints.”

For this couple—she’s an analytics engineer with an eye for design; he helms local development firm ArcWest Properties and custom home builder Mountain Valley Homes—those limitations included a steep lot that had been zoned for a separated duplex, one half of which had already been built in the 1980s; the Hagedorns’ new home would become the other half. Local design guidelines required the two homes’ exterior aesthetics to complement one another and, because both structures could only occupy a certain combined footprint on the site, the couple’s 2,400 square feet of living space would have to be stacked vertically in three levels—challenges met with help from architecture firm TAB Associates. Inside, however, the duo had an open floor plan, up-close mountain views, and the freedom to design as they pleased. Here’s how they made the most of it.

5280 Home: A black-and-white interior has never looked so inviting.
Emily Hagedorn: We wanted our house to feel cozy and welcoming. As we searched for inspiration, we found ourselves gravitating toward Scandinavian and Australian designs—modern spaces with clean lines, black accents, and a more masculine aesthetic.
Brad Hagedorn: The modern Australian architecture we were drawn to takes a lot of those minimalist Scandinavian design elements and adds more contrast and warmth, which makes them even more relatable.

Which you did here by pairing crisp white walls and black window frames with white-oak floors.
EH: I’ve always been drawn to a lighter oak floor. It adds warmth as it brightens the rooms—while also allowing us to go bolder by staining the window frames black. A lot of people were taken aback by that [latter] move, but I didn’t waver.

Were you as certain about matte-black kitchen cabinets?
EH: We asked ourselves, should we go with wood? Should we go white? But I just couldn’t sell myself on the white, which would have blended into the walls, and it would have been impossible to match wood cabinets with the floors. So, we went all black—and we love how it grounds the room.

So much that you painted your bedroom black and your den a smoky green?
EH: I liked the idea of the rooms we relax in feeling cozy and cave-like.
BH: We both grew up on the East Coast, where you get those slow drizzle days that encourage you to hunker down. We don’t get them very often in Colorado, so I feel like Emily was trying to bring those days into the house with her design.

It sounds like you prioritized comfort in finishes and furnishings.
EH: I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of pretty furniture that we didn’t like to sit on. I wanted blankets everywhere and for every chair to feel like you could stay there a while. A lot of our furniture is quite modern, but I looked for real leathers and woods and natural linen and sheepskin to soften those lines.

You even snuck some of that inviting texture into your sleek kitchen.
EH: I didn’t want it to feel cold and industrial, so we wrapped the steel ceiling beams in white oak; selected soapstone countertops for their subtle veining and texture; and chose brass hardware with a knurled texture, which brings some warmth to the modern, flat-panel cabinets.

What’s your approach to incorporating colors other than black and white?
EH: I always gravitate toward neutrals and earth tones—even my pops of color are muted blues, greens, and browns. I wanted rooms that feel calm, and for me, that means tones that reflect the views outside.

And your open floor plan provides views at every turn.
BH: We knew we wanted a great room on the top level for that reason. It’s like you’re looking out into a pristine mountain landscape, but you’re really on a .15-acre lot with homes all around you.
EH: In the fall, when the sun hits the aspens on the hillside, the golden light just pours in. And when we get a big snowstorm, it’s like living in a snow globe.

Design Pros

ArchitectureTAB Associates
Interior DesignEmily Hagedorn Interiors
ConstructionMountain Valley Homes