The design of this restaurant, located in Aspen's only five-star, five-diamond hotel, was not only a complete renovation of The Little Nell's existing multi-level 120-seat premier dining facility, but an exploration by us into the viability of establishing a spare, warm, and contextually-appropriate modern aesthetic in a mountain-town setting. The client asked that our new design avoid the trap of nostalgic rusticity by turning away from their former restaurant's worn-out Rocky Mountain stage-set of claustrophobic rooms filled with heavy furniture and antler chandeliers.
In order to achieve the maximum degree of transformation of the existing, we were especially motivated to create strong visual and physical relationships between the new restaurant's enlarged bar area, two-level main dining area, and private dining rooms so that guests in one space can share in the liveliness of the adjacent spaces. As a means to provide privacy where needed, full-height wood stave screens, along with low frosted grey glass railings, create veil-like enclosures that separate but do not sever the visual connection between spaces - or guests. The full-height wood stave screen walls at the entries to the two private dining rooms pivot so that they can be rotated to open or close those rooms from the main dining areas as required. Between the bar and the raised private dining room beyond, full-height glass storage cases showcase the rarest of the restaurant's Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning bottles while providing another type of visually permeable screen through which the activities of one area can be partially seen - but not at all heard - by the other.
The name of the new restaurant, which recalls Aspen’s past as a mining camp during the Colorado silver boom in the 1880s, specifically refers to the 47th element on the periodic table. Similarly, the tight material palette of which the design is comprised takes its inspiration from the mining past of the town, as well as from the colors and textures of all four seasons of the Elk Mountains that border the town. Deployed in their untreated state, natural materials such as flamed flagstone, reclaimed Colorado redwood, oxidized steel, crystalline white granite, and blue/gray saddle leather, reflect the textures and hues of that landscape - nugget silver, lichen gray, soil brown, snow white, bear black and river blue. The palette of major materials throughout is woven together to create a sensuous and sophisticated series of spaces that evoke the character of the wider Aspen context with a distinctly modern aesthetic.
All furnishings and fittings, including the blackened cherry dining tables, steel and leather banquettes, and reclaimed Colorado redwood and white granite sideboards were designed to celebrate their materials and the unpretentious craftsmanship used to assemble them. The absence of any protective coating on the natural materials of these design elements intentionally promotes their ability to age through use with grace - not unlike the natural landscape of the Aspen area.