Kelly O’Donovan and her husband, Denis, had been house hunting for two years when they came across the private wooded mountain chalet set atop 2.61 acres in Aspen’s Starwood. The five-bedroom residence practically sang to them. After all, it was John Denver’s former home — the very home that provided the inspiration for his famous 1971 song, “Starwood in Aspen.”
“The location, the layout, and the history of the home instantly hooked us,” recalls O’Donovan, an artist and jeweler who owns the Elliott Yeary Gallery. “The location is amazing, since it is as close to Aspen and the ski mountains as you can be, yet you still have privacy and security, combined with huge mountain views. It was a bonus that John Denver built the home, and we loved the history. John Denver is a Colorado and an Aspen icon.”
Driving up to the landmark estate for the first time, the O’Donovans understood why the singer-songwriter had called the property “his sweet Rocky Mountain paradise.” They spotted deer, fox and red-tailed hawks. As they stood in the kitchen taking in the view of all four ski mountains, an elk with majestic antlers walked in front of the window. It was an omen. Recalls Kelly: “The home needed a full overhaul, but we were excited to know that we could be in a place where there was such an abundance of wildlife.”
With guidance from their real estate agents, Jim and Anita Bineau of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse, the O’Donovans purchased the residence in 2016. They quickly got to work bringing the home into the 21st century with new electrical, plumbing and other modernizations. They commissioned local general contractor Dan Coleman of Coleman Construction and architect Jeffrey Hancox. Dan’s wife, Wynee Coleman, sourced flooring, tile and plumbing fixtures.
“We call them our Dream Team,” says Kelly, who had collaborated on two previous commercial projects with them. “The goal of the remodel was to create the perfect family home for ourselves that would match our fun- and relaxation-seeking Aspen lifestyle.”
Two years later, the team succeeded in realizing the family’s vision for a sophisticated home balanced with casual comfort and preservation. They took great care to integrate many of the original architectural elements that Denver had infused in the home over the decades.
“When the O’Donovans bought this home, they had a choice to make,” explains Jim, who has recently listed the reimagined property for $11 million. “They decided to work with what John had already created here. They used the existing footprint and some of existing rooms, and saved all the architectural elements that they could. It’s basically a new construction home, with a rare piece of Aspen history attached to it.”
Adds Anita: “Kelly has a good eye for detail and color. She gave the home an upscale, sophisticated look mixed with vintage industrial elements. She kept a lot of the John Denver touches, like the original walnut cabinets in the kitchen and all of the built-ins. She took the beautiful stained glass in the cabinets and repurposed them in the master bedroom, with a stained glass artisan. All four wood-burning fireplaces, which you cannot build today, are original and were refurbished. There are so many artful elements throughout the house.”
The O’Donovans’ team opened up the already spacious 7,735-square-foot floor plan by moving walls, raising ceilings up to 25 feet, and increasing the number of floor-to-ceiling picture windows that frame the Rocky Mountain views. They created open spaces designed for the casual mountain lifestyle. A new kitchen with an oversized center island opens to the living room and dining room. A separate media room and game room offer more places for leisure. Large decks off the main entertaining levels offer more opportunity for get-togethers in the summer.
The master suite beckons, with its privacy, views, large walk-in closet, sumptuous bath and private deck.
A second bedroom suite is ideal for extended family stays, since it has a sitting room and bunk room for kids. Three other guest bedrooms, including one with an original loft, bring much-needed flexibility to a home in a resort market like Aspen.
“We love gathering with friends and family,” explains Kelly. “Having places to hang out, eat together, play games, listen to music and enjoy each other was imperative. There are plenty of beds and space for guests to stay for extended visits. The oversized kitchen island is where we gather in the mornings and sit by the fire while eating breakfast. The den is where you can find one of us many afternoons, reading a book. And the family room is where it’s at in the evenings for a game of pool or watching a movie.”
To maintain the informal, carefree feel of mountain living, the team selected finishes and colors that “would enhance the tranquil and laid-back vibe that already existed in the home,” says Kelly. “I wanted to make sure there were plenty of spaces to display art as well. While we wanted to have many windows because of the extraordinary views, I wanted to include special spaces to display paintings and sculptures. We have an extensive art collection, and the house acts as a blank canvas to display all the styles of art we own.”
Of course, the real art is the canvas of Rocky Mountain wildlife that exists just beyond the reaches of their home — a fact not lost on John Denver himself or anyone who visits the residence for the first time. Notes Anita: “The interior spaces really capture the natural beauty of Aspen. In the winter, you see the snow-capped mountains. In the summer, it’s beautiful with all the Aspen trees. When fall comes, you see gold and orange leaves.” It’s just the sort of scenery that must have inspired Denver to write nearly five decades ago: “I think on my children’s sweet smiles. I think on my home in Starwood in Aspen. All my friends and the snow-covered hills. Oh, my friends are the snow-covered hills.” Now, one fortunate homebuyer will have an opportunity to experience this same deep connection to the land in one of Aspen’s most legendary estates.
570 Johnson Drive
Aspen, CO 81611
7,735 sq. ft.