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Urban Cowgirl

March 19, 2009 By “De” Schofield



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The hand-carved settee and table are from India; the Rice God and Rice Goddess statues are from Indonesia.
Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft
Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft
Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft
The master suite’s entry, above, has a 42-inch LG television and its own sound system (two Niles PR6 in-wall speakers).
Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft
Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft
The foyer, below, is topped with a chandelier of faux antlers; the rug is Persian.
The interior designer took great care in showcasing the loft’s original brick walls
Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft

Home theater impresario Jeffrey Smith collaborates with his artistic daughter in creating a romantic, rustic “sky lodge” theme for her downtown Denver loft.

Growing up in the bluegrass countryside of Kentucky, Ashley Harper Smith became obsessed with nature. “I was never happier than when I was in the woods, horseback riding with my sister,” she recalls.

With her busy schedule, she yearns for those idyllic days. “I’ve always had this dream of living in a tree house surrounded by woods and nature and horses,” she says.

With the help of her father, Ashley is living her dream.

After graduating from Northern Kentucky University with a fine arts degree, Ashley moved out West to fulfill a lifelong dream. In Denver, she began teaching art to high-risk children, and later earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver.

This Renaissance woman—artist, yoga instructor, cyclist and certified horse whisperer—has found her professional calling as a family therapist at Denver’s Children’s Hospital.

The hand-carved settee and table are from India; the Rice God and Rice Goddess statues are from Indonesia.

Dad is an architect, interior designer, furniture designer and manufacturer, and a home theater designer, as well as the president and founder of First Impressions Themed Theatres Inc. in North Miami, Fla. Jeffrey not only helped his daughter purchase her new residence in the trendy LoDo District, but he also orchestrated the loft’s interior architecture and managed all of the construction detailing, furniture design and technology installation.

“Ashley lived in two previous places near downtown before she asked if I would help her look for something downtown,” Jeffrey says. “We agreed that a space in one of the historic loft conversion buildings would be the ideal choice, and we were fortunate to [find] one in the WaterTower Lofts complex.”

While house hunting, Jeffrey and his daughter discovered a nearby gem as they stood on the balcony of one of the two properties on their short list. “We turned to each other and said, ‘What is that building?!’” Ashley recalls. Originally built in 1894 as a warehouse, today’s WaterTower Lofts housed the American Furniture Company in the early 1900s, and a variety of other businesses later on.

Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft

Jeffrey attests that it’s one of LoDo’s few historic brick-and-timber buildings that lent itself to a residential renovation, thanks to a multitude of noteworthy architectural attributes—from heavy exposed timber beams to interior brick walls, forged black-iron structural strapping, high ceilings and large, tall windows.

“Ashley is an artist, so a loft is ideal for her,” he says. “This space has lots of great natural light, plus the building has real architectural integrity. It’s a piece of Denver’s history, and we were very happy to have found [it].”

Soon enough, the deal was sealed.

“I was immediately drawn to the warm feel of the exposed brick and the beamed ceilings, and began envisioning something majestic—like a grown-up’s tree house with woodsy green and earth tones,” Ashley says.  

Jeffrey set about tackling a complete makeover for the 1,200-square-foot space, which had reclaimed plank oak flooring. While the apartment’s views of the Rocky Mountains to the west, downtown to the east and Coors Field figure prominently in the floor plan, technology drove the design. “For me,” Jeffrey says, “it’s always ‘form follows function’—how everything works to provide maximum viewing and great lighting control to compose a space that is as brilliant functionally as it is beautiful.”

Urban Cowgirl Denver Loft

The home’s centerpiece is the open family room/theater/dining area. About 20 feet long and 20 feet wide, the space works well for small and large gatherings and movie nights.  

As with the majority of Jeffrey’s large-scale projects, virtually every component of the design, aside from the antique pieces and collectibles, was custom designed and manufactured by First Impressions in its South Florida quarters, then shipped cross-country in the company’s specially outfitted semi for assembly and on-site installation. “The entire loft was preassembled in Florida, including all major furniture and electronics components, draperies, fireplace,” Ashley says.

“Everything—even the privacy wall for the bedroom entry and the library. It was quite a scene when this huge black trailer rig pulled up outside the building. It’s still amazing to me how everything came together flawlessly.”

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