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Homes in the Vail Valley: Reed Home, Bellyache Ridge
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Artist and landscape architect Rosalind Reed cherishes the element of surprise and color, and uses both liberally and to arresting effect in her work. It is somehow fitting then, that her home, high on a ridge in Bellyache proves a wonderful surprise in itself. 

The road up Bellyache winds and climbs until it reaches a summit high on the mountain.  But that is not where the journey ends. Off to the side, a dirt road takes over from there, meandering deeper through aspen and pine, seemingly bent on disappearing into ever thickening forests. Then, as you round a bend in the off-mainstream road, the trees suddenly fall away, and a treasure of a hidden, nearly untouched valley opens as if summoned like Brigadoon from nowhere. It’s hard to find a more picturesque landscape, where forests run deep, encircling open meadows, under the rocky skyscapes of the dramatic New York Range.

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There are only seven homes in this secluded and very private enclave of 35-acre lots. Through a gated entrance, basking in the glory of the views, Rosalind Reed’s home is perched. “It took a while for my eyes to get accustomed to the majesty out here,” admits this Chicago transplant. Let loose from the confines of the city, her artist’s imagination soared and came home to roost in this vast landscape.

“I see stories everywhere,” Reed, a member of the Vail Art Guild, says of her artwork. But that vision certainly can be said of her home, too.

The Bellyache home is both unimposing in its simplicity and striking in its difference. Reed did not design or build the original barn-like structure, whose carefully weathered face is mostly notable for its strength of line and the way its timeless appearance flows seamlessly with its Western setting. The most unusual element of the exterior is Reed’s addition – a red-capped, silo-shaped structure, grounded in stonework, which adds a welcome roundness to the straight lines of the original exterior and an element of intrigue for the onlooker. Then, there’re Reed’s gardens. In the summer, her designs riot colorfully around the expansive property, diverging playfully here, and winding in and around trees and meadows.

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When Reed first bought the Bellyache home, she lived here part-time while still pursuing her successful, award-winning landscape design business of 25 years in Chicago. Now, a full-time Bellyache resident, she is mostly retired from the landscape design business, doing only occasional projects for friends or former clients.

“When I first saw the house, I thought it was amazing,” says Reed. “I like the feeling of a home rooted in barns, with a kind of modern functionality.” Yet, she assures, the entire house is low maintenance.

The original building was of post-and-beam construction, with beams crafted in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that were then re-fitted and raised here in surprisingly short order. One of the magnificent crossbeams in the living room still bears the inscription of its Lancaster origins. Much of the exterior woodwork and the interior doors, trim and flooring are reclaimed wood from the Salt Lake City Railroad trusses. The ceilings throughout the home are dramatically high, matching the scale of the massive beams and trusses. ”It keeps it open,” Reed observes. Yet, lower, dropped crossbeams in choice places, such as in the living room, also bring a sense of intimacy to the soaring heights. Wall finishes through most of the homes are kept light to offset the naturally dark wood.

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It is in the home’s interior, where Reed begins to weave her story. Instead of matching wood tones, Reed has playfully offset the natural accents and juxtaposed the play of light and dark with surprising splashes of color. All the paned windows are framed in bright colors. Much of the paneled cabinetry, too, is colorful, rather than somber. Nor are the splashes of color uniform throughout the home; each room has its own personality, such as the green windows and cabinets in the living room, or the daffodil yellow windows in the upper guest suite. “The use of woodwork can be overbearing to me,” she explains. “I wanted it to be bright, and I like it as a contrast with the wooden trim.” It all works symphonically, enhancing the ageless feel, while adding a welcoming, heartfelt touch.

In the living room, the large, paned-windows overlook Mount Jackson, Gold Dust and Mount Holy Cross, as well as the expansive, pristine valley floor below. An impressive moss stone fireplace is one of the home’s two wood-burning fireplaces, lending warmth to Colorado’s chilliest nights. A white sofa is paired with plaid upholstered and rattan chairs; and underfoot are some of Reed’s favorite woven rugs. “A good day is when I can go buy rugs,” she quips. A delightfully rustic, double-Dutch door caps the relaxed mountain feel, and opens onto steps that wind to the patio and hot tub.

The dining room is assembled with an artist’s eye. Sage-green windows and bright green floorboards contrast vividly with the red leather dining chairs, encircling a traditional wood trestle dining table. On either side of the granite-topped barn-red buffet, are two of Reed’s own paintings. A contemporary black-and-white of a ballerina poses charmingly with an incongruent broom propped nearby; bold swaths of blue and yellow framing her stage. Reed explains that it was inspired by a trip to an artist cooperative in Cuba, where she spied a lone statue of a ballerina.

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On the other side of the buffet, is a painting with a totally different feel and technique: a more classic piece in deep, satisfying hues depicting the Indian paintbrush found throughout the area. On adjacent walls are other pieces Reed has collected over the years; some from Beaver Creek, some from Chicago or other places she has visited. “I like collecting things that grab my attention,” she observes.

Reed’s furnishings throughout the home are eclectic. “The entire house is not furnished in any one style,” she explains. She prefers, like her art, to collect whatever speaks to her.

It was Bob Lundell, the general contractor Rosalind hired to build the home’s addition, who suggested a silo-shaped structure. Reeds imagination was immediately captured. Today, the upper silo is a study of light and nearly 360 views through high-stacked windows. It is indeed a room of inspiration – perfect for an artist – and serves as Reed’s birds-eye studio. Inside, canvases sit ready on easels, the smell of paint prevails; mugs of paintbrushes stand at the ready. Endless views, the rambling garden and wildlife delights prove ample fodder for her art.

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Reed’s property runs from abundant forests to open meadows. Through the silo windows, a long slope, dips into a depression below, before opening onto the valley’s tree-circled meadow. In the depression, Reed constructed an eight-foot deep snowmelt pond that serves as the area’s drainage area. One day, her neighbor spied a mama bear taking her two cubs swimming in the pond. Another day, the sight of migrating elk pausing to play, then running down the embankment and splashing repeatedly into the pond, surprised Reed.

Reed’s gardens tell stories, too. Each setting is unique prose in itself, sometimes appearing amid rocky outcroppings, popping up in unexpected places or playfully running through trees to open into the lush colors of a mountain meadow in spring.

Reed admits that when she moved to the Rocky Mountains, she had to readjust her scale significantly from her city confines. But, she had a clear vision. “I had this fantasy,” she confides. “I wanted a garden that looked like Mother Nature would have organized the garden and woven it here and there around the home.” But Mother Nature had another hand in her plan: burrowing chipmunks and mice kept eating her plants. One day, 80 cows showed up to devour her lilies. The result turned her carefully- laid plans into large, random drifts of plantings. Still, somehow, it suited her, and she made the most of it. “The designer part in me gave way to the random part,” she says. “Because I use native plants, I’ve incorporated repetition and randomness.”

“I think the thing that distinguishes my gardens from others is that I like that element of surprise,” explains Reed. She might suddenly interrupt a hedgerow; leave a trail of creeping thyme and rosemary peeking out in unexpected places; or plant 15 cutout sheep in a spiral meditation circle. One garden includes a waterfall terminating into a dug out wooden canoe. Sometimes, random things surprise her in a delightful way. In one area of the landscape, she asked workers who were excavating not to put any rocks in a particular spot, because she planned to install a picnic table. Somehow the message was misconstrued, and when she came home, she found a large picnic table made entirely out of stone. It was a wonderful mistake she now treasures.

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On Bellyache Ridge, Reed favors native or near native species from a similar clime. The plants she chooses are largely deer-resistant and will thrive in the rare mountain air. Her live-and-let-live philosophy prevails. She will extricate weeds; but if bluegrass pops up, she will let it stay. “If it grows, it stays. I’m all into success,” she says. “I want plants to grow, thrive and be happy.” Still, she loves variety; if she plants columbines and they begin choking out the fireweed, she won’t hesitate to pull some of the columbines. Reed also gravitates toward the strong vertical lines that echo the strength of the rocky peaks and the straight weathered planks of her home’s exterior, like penstemons and foxglove.

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Reed transplants little, chooses perennials, and has virtually abandoned the annuals and potted plants that dominated her earlier life in Chicago as a landscape designer, where form and structure predominated and landscaping was in smaller, confined spaces, with only the occasional fire pit or small water feature.

Out here, Rosalind’s found, the sky’s the limit.

 

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