Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pass through any one of Denver’s iconic, hip or newly-trendy neighborhoods without spotting an increasing number of homes that demonstrate stand-out residential design. In a city that was once perceived as merely an access point to the Colorado Rocky Mountains, today Denver continues to evolve into an urban metropolis, rich with innovative architecture and leading-edge interior design.
To better understand the driving forces behind Denver’s evolving design style, I am speaking with Carlos Alvarez and Carolyn Morris, the architect/interior design duo behind Denver, Los Angeles and Bilbao, Spain-based architecture and interior design firm, Alvarez Morris Architectural Studio.
Famed for creating inviting and innovative spaces world-wide, the success of Alvarez Morris Architectural Studio is the result of embracing a variety of design styles, similar to the way the city of Denver continues to evolve by attracting residents from around the world who bring with them unique tastes for architecture and interior design. To Alvarez and Morris, the trend of embracing varied architectural and interior design styles is not only what makes Denver’s design style unique, it’s what makes it better.
Alvarez Morris Architectural Studio was established in 1998 when the couple, now husband and wife, lived in Spain. Wanting to return to the United States after the birth of their first child to expand their business, Alvarez and Morris carefully chose the state that they would return to, passing on some of the more traditional meccas for architecture and interior design like New York or Los Angeles.
“Denver is a very young city,” said Alvarez. “We wanted to live in a place that was both progressive and diverse in terms of architecture and interior design, so we chose Denver.”
By relocating to Colorado, a residential landscape free from set-in-stone design practices, Alvarez and Morris had the opportunity to execute their design styles with more freedom and ease than ever before. For Alvarez, the city of Denver’s openness to adopting new architectural styles created an opportunity to explore innovative design concepts, which he had not been able to experience fully in Europe because, there, architecture styles are more strictly defined.
“Selecting the architecture for the style of home you want should really come from within, and I see that trend happening more in Colorado,” said Alvarez. “Our Colorado clients are intentionally casual, yet sophisticated, and that defines the homes we design for them.”
Drawing inspiration from their extensive world travels, Alvarez and Morris largely incorporate design elements sourced from their international experience into their work. Increasingly, the team is seeing their clients follow suit.
“Our clients from Colorado are well-traveled and are wanting to incorporate a lot of influences from the places that they have seen into the interior design of their homes,” said Morris. “Colorado is young. We are not Europe, and we don’t have the old [European style of design] to mix with the new. We are fortunate to be able to create a new design style ourselves.”
Alvarez and Morris have also noticed that architecture in Colorado is no longer simply about following the architectural trends of yesterday, but are more about embracing functional design elements that support lifestyle.
“We are seeing better design in Colorado in general. There was recently a move toward more casual-style homes, and now the trend is shifting back toward higher-level style homes,” said Alvarez. “One thing that we find we are doing all the time, is blending the inside and the outside of the home. Even spaces that are not so big feel much larger because the interior and exterior [spaces of the home] are blended together.”
Among their various design styles, Alvarez and Morris design homes with influences that are both comfortably traditional, yet also celebratory of modern design. “I think over the past few years people are categorizing us as designers that mix traditional and modern styles in a good way,” said Alvarez. “However, we are constantly rediscovering ourselves.”
Not having one particular style is what Alvarez and Morris believe sets them apart from other designers. “I think our design style is that we don’t have one style. We don’t have one look,” said Morris. “As long as design is done well, it is easy to appreciate different styles.”
A recent endeavor highlighting Alvarez and Morris’ penchant for excellence, and unbiased design, was their involvement in the recent Denver Designer Show House, a home staging (and in 2017, home building) event created to showcase the latest design trends set forth by industry professionals.
Alvarez and Morris were the lead designers of the 2017 Denver Designer Show House, an event long-sponsored by LIV Sotheby’s International Realty. The Show House format was new in 2017, in that the home was a new-build, choreographed from the ground up by Alvarez and Morris. Alvarez designed and built the home, then Morris styled the interior of the residence once it was complete.
“In a show house, we get to design and build in the way that we think we should,” said Alvarez. “The Show House in Cherry Creek has all the comforts of home, but in a modern setting that supports indoor/outdoor living.”
From an interior design standpoint, Morris enjoys working on show homes for the versatility and inspiration they provide.
“Show houses let you have full reign of what you want to do,” said Morris. “It’s kind of fun to be your own client. People touring the home often become inspired by designers’ ideas, and leave having gained creative ideas for the design of their own home.”
Regardless of the project type Alvarez and Morris work on, the foundation of their business is built on respecting the balance between architecture and interior design.
“I think the collaboration of architecture and interior design is very important,” said Morris. “It’s really important that interiors are tactile, and on a human scale. Good design is about how you feel when you are in a space, more than just how something looks on a drawing.”
Alvarez and Morris’ dynamic approach to design is what sets them apart in the industry, and what raises the bar for good architecture and interior design in Denver.
“In the end, our partnership creates the best end result for our clients, because when we feel strongly about something, neither of us back down,” said Morris. “By working with an interior designer and an architect, who are both striving for the best result in their design, clients get the best of both worlds.”
By maintaining a design philosophy that it is ‘O.K. to be different’ when it comes to architecture and interior design, Alvarez and Morris continue to contribute to the evolving design style of Denver, which like the progressiveness of the city these varied styles are thriving in, is likely only going to improve.