Although Airoom’s CEO Michael Klein has renovated and built thousands of homes and commercial buildings in Chicago and throughout the Midwest—this opportunity was calling the Airoom team West. “I’ve always been a big fan of Aspen,” says Klein. “It’s great in the winter, but I think it’s even more beautiful in the summer and fall.” As a student of architecture and building, Klein didn’t believe that most of the current Aspen housing market had adequately captured the city’s natural beauty and today’s way of life being offered by the incredible surroundings. So, in 2014, an investment group set out to find the perfect piece of land to build this portfolio-making piece through Airoom’s Michael Bennett Signature Projects division.
For more than a half-century, Airoom Architects, Builders, and Remodelers have been the foremost home remodeling and custom home builder in the Chicagoland area. Michael Bennett Signature Projects—a division of Airoom—focuses on approximately 10 clients per year, whose primary objectives are about unique design and products, form and function, ergonomics and space, and technology integration. This Aspen home was such a project.
“There were a number of boxes that we needed to check when it came to finding a place to build this house,” Klein explains. “We wanted to make sure that whenever you are there, you always feel like you’re on vacation. To make this possible, we wanted a great view of the mountains and river, a real sense of privacy, a ranch for horses, and only four minutes from downtown Aspen.”
When the parcel that met all these requirements was presented to the group, Airoom went to work. It took two years to design this 10,000-square-foot retreat home, 14 months to permit it, and two and a half years to build.
“It was something to be the new guy on the block not having built in Aspen before,” Klein notes. “The restrictions, rules, and timelines took three to four times longer than what we were used to. While that can be frustrating, we knew that what was waiting for us on the other side of this project was worth it.”
This Western retreat—affectionately called “5K River Ranch” was surprisingly designed with the idea that less was more. “Often, when we’re working on an urban or suburban project, there is an emphasis on creating interior design statements,” Klein explains. “But for 5K River Ranch, we had to stay away from anything that would distract from the views. Wherever you are in this home, the outside is inside.”
When you enter the house, an open and airy tone is set from the beginning. With a floating staircase and a custom 18-foot Italian teardrop chandelier, there is no question that attention was paid to every detail. To reinforce this point, Airoom gravitated toward natural stones and finishes. For example, several of the bedrooms feature a Japanese Shou Sugi Ban wood plank. The color of the planks can be altered by choosing different species and flaming them. The team complemented each bedroom with stones, porcelains, and molded tiles in the same palette for the adjoining bathrooms.
“For every Michael Bennett Signature home we build, there is no less than 20 to 25 iterations of plans,” says Klein. “We do this in an effort to think everything through before the building begins. It helps us make fewer mistakes. Sometimes I drive our team crazy because I’m a little bit obsessive when it comes to these projects. You don’t have to be this way, but when something is this important to me, I can’t help it.” Airoom showcases its technological know-how throughout 5K River Ranch. One of the home’s greatest assets is its 14-foot folding glass wall doors surrounding the home that are controlled by an air system for easy operation.
“This was something I really had to fight for,” Klein says. “All of our manufacturers proposed a 12-foot door with a transom and I knew this didn’t meet our vision. We figured it out and made it happen, and the 360-degree views now speak for themselves. It was worth the fight.”
Other noteworthy features are the 5K River Ranch bunk rooms. “Typically when you’re on a retreat, you have more adults than bedrooms, right?” asks Klein. Airoom created several bedrooms that have queen bed pods, cloaked with curtains for privacy, complete with individual televisions and charging stations for electronics. Creating custom solutions for somewhat unique real-life situations is what Michael Bennett Signature Projects are all about.
While the inside is more than inviting, the team made sure to maximize the benefits of the Aspen landscape. With water features, a 60-foot lap pool, custom fire bowls and tables, natural wood-burning fireplaces, and solar-heated concrete throughout—the exterior of 5K River Ranch enhances Aspen’s dramatic scenery.
It may sound as if money were no object when creating 5K River Ranch, a project where an Airoom team member touched every element—from design and build to decor. “You always have to respect a budget,” says Klein, whose father founded Airoom in 1958. “But with a Michael Bennett Signature Project, more respect needs to be paid to the end result, what you’re after, and what the end product becomes. It is about lifestyle first and foremost. Budget can’t be the number one driver in a project like this. It just can’t.” While Klein will never complete a project without taking note of things he might do differently, 5K River Ranch is as close to perfection as he will allow himself to admit. “The serenity and quiet of this retreat are like nothing I can explain,” he says. “You can’t appreciate it until you actually experience it.”
To learn more about Airoom, visit airoom.com, and to learn more specifically about Airoom’s Michael Bennett Signature Projects, visit mbsp22.com.