After two years of searching for a dream house, artist Meg Miller and her husband, David, purchased, then scrapped a "mint green 1950s box" in Denver's tony Hilltop neighborhood and rebuilt from there. "I wanted my home to be a work of art," says Meg. "In our old house people basically spent 98% of their time in 400 square feet, which was the kitchen/family room area. I wanted the kitchen to be the heart of this home."
As a result, the Millers’ 2,200-square-foot first ﬂoor has almost no interior walls and only one traditional door, to the powder room. The feeling when you enter the house is that of tremendous light, space, and color, thanks to an eclectic collection of furniture, repainted antiques, and art. And the kitchen is the anchor for all of it. More than anything, Meg wanted an open space where everyone could do separate things and still be together. She may be the first to laugh at her Colorado need for feng shui ﬂow, but there's no question about her success in achieving it.
WHAT MAKES THIS A COOK'S KITCHEN
Meg, who loves to entertain, will tell you straight up that everything starts and stops at the massive 10 x 7-foot island. Meg wanted the kitchen to be smack in the middle of the house, and the island is its heart. Congregation, connection, preparation, and celebration all happen around this polished, finely honed concrete work of a Denver craftsman. ("He had to create a special template because he had never done anything this large," says Meg.)
From her cook's perch at the stove, it's a step or a turn to the sink, dishwasher, and plates. All manner of stove top necessities—pots, pans, utensils, spices- are in surrounding drawers. lnlaid iridescent glass tiles serve as inset trivets for anything hot. There are more cabinets underneath the front of the island for baskets and larger pieces that aren't in the regular dining rotation.
When there's a crowd, which is often, counter stools are moved to the living area, and the island serves as the perfect bullet area. Thanksgiving, birthdays, Super Bowl parties, the family's annual Bubble Bread Brunch-there's no meal that can't be accommodated by this massive counter space.
Striking the Right Balance Photography by Ron Pollard
Although many people have a reasonable idea of the style of home they want from the outset, the ﬁnal design can still be inﬂuenced by the surrounding architecture.
The challenge is to come up with a design that reflects the individuality of the owners, yet still retains complementary elements in keeping with the neighborhood context, says architect Kevin Stephenson of Semple Brown Design.
"The predominant period of architecture in this neighborhood is the 1930s to 1960s, with an eclectic mix of styles from International and Modern, to Tudor, Colonial and Ranch."
"A soft, earthen-colored brick was used extensively around the house as a grounding material set against rust-red CorTen steel panels, giving a modern twist to the traditional palette found in the neighborhood," says Stephenson.
The homeowner says the choice of materials was always destined to be out of the ordinary.
"We’ve strived throughout to use either unconventional materials or conventional materials in an unconventional way. We knew we didn't want to use stucco and wood on the exterior, so when Kevin suggested CorTen steel, we knew it was the right choice for us."
"The biggest challenges were dealing with a small site and a fairly large program. The ground floor needed to maximize the buildable areas. So, though unconventional in this neighborhood, the garage was placed on the basement level. To make this work, the entire house was built only partially below grade, which also helps get much better natural light to the basement. The main level of the house is about five feet above grade, but most never notice because the entry door was held down purposely to relate to the neighboring home entrances. The art studio window, adjacent to the entry, starts at the floor, so that from the exterior visitors perceive the window sill as being at a similar height to the surrounding homes. These are visual tricks to help integrate the home into the fabric of the neighborhood," says Stephenson.
Unconventional materials and practices have also been incorporated throughout the interior of the house, mainly in response to its dual function as home and work space.
One of the owners is an artist, so a major part of the program was integrating a studio where the homeowner could work and bring prospective clients in to see her work, with as little disturbance as possible for the rest of the family.
"The art studio was originally conceived in a basement location by the owners, but this was in complete conflict with the requirements — great light, easy access for visitors, open connection to the family areas. To resolve this, the garage was pushed under the house and the art studio placed front and center, with huge windows to the street. There is an open gallery space and powder room next to the art studio and foyer. A pair of 5 ft-wide floor-to-ceiling sliding metal doors work to separate the studio and great room during a showing with a prospective client. The doors are perforated, so hooks can be easily moved from one location to another depending on what art is being displayed. The large window to the street allows passers-by to view the easels and ever-changing work by the artist.
The kitchen, too, comes in for some avant-garde treatment, which the owner admits has more to do with aesthetics than functionality.
"Aside from the practical aspects of the space, the only other functional element that I wanted included were the glass doors. The rest of the materials were purely aesthetic and an opportunity to incorporate an intimate, personal touch into what is traditionally a utilitarian space."
"The kitchen has a very structured design when viewed in plan, but the varied materials used for the counters and cabinets, combined with the owner's own selections of furniture, give it the eclectic feel. The reason for this aesthetic was to make the kitchen a more comfortable place for the family to congregate. It is thoroughly modern but when you're in this space you feel comfortable and at ease. Too many modern kitchens strive so hard to be pristine that they become uninviting and sterile," says Stephenson.
As well as the owner's personal brief for the property, they also worked with a Feng Shui consultant to improve the ﬂow of positive chi throughout the home.
“The Feng Shui consultant was part of the design meetings right from the beginning. The impact on the design can be seen throughout the home, though only to the trained eye — the staircase for example with its two turns so that you enter facing east and exit facing west. I found that most of the principals of Feng Shui just made sense and were easily woven into the layout of rooms, circulation and program adjacencies. There were some challenging moments, but for the most part the design process flowed as well as the house does when you experience it first hand. I think the best architecture comes from those sites and situations with the most constraints, and though it never felt like an obstacle, the use of Feng Shui added just the right amount of complexity to the project," says Stephenson.
"Everything about the design is based on Feng Shui principles. I believe this home is a product of the best elements of both Feng Shui and architecture, the fact that every space is used and everywhere you look there is a beautiful thing to rest your eye on, whether it's a row of windows or a jutting wall," says the homeowner.
Kitchen Ideas Article by Daniel Gregory, Photography by Lisa Romerein
It's no surprise that the owner of this Denver kitchen is an artist who works with a mix of materials. Meg Miller wanted the kitchen in her new house to be a feast for the eyes, as well as a central gathering place for family and friends. "I wanted innovative ideas, not just the usual granite countertops," she says. So she and her design team dreamed up an L-shaped space with back-painted glass cabinets and a large concrete— and mosaic tile—topped island at the center. According to Miller, the new kitchen functions as "a living room- it’s where we hang out, where my kids do their homework every night, and where we have casual meals." There's even wine storage built into the cabinetry. "Everything about the space is purposeful," she says.
The kitchen is designed around a 6- by 10-foot island with a range on one side and a spacious breakfast counter on the other. A curve in the island makes it easier for the family to see each other when they're seated.
Strips of pearlescent mosaic tile (in hues ranging from amber to seafoam green) run across the top of the island, adding texture while covering seams in the concrete. The tile strips continue up the posts supporting a glass shelf that serves to divide the space.
Miller used back-painted glass in a lively green for upper cabinet doors to reflect light and pick up the greens of the mosaic tile.
Countertop appliances like mixers and toasters are stored in the glass-fronted cabinets; garbage and recycling receptacles are below the sink.
The refrigerator is hidden behind back-painted glass cabinet doors to the right of the double ovens.
To avoid a cold, austere look with all the glass and concrete, Miller chose a floor of engineered wood in antiqued hickory, which is a rich, nutty brown.
Architect's Choice Award Winner: For Art's Sake Article by Betsy Lehndorff, Photography by Ellen Jaskol
From the street, the ﬂat-roofed home looks like a work of art — a collage layered with squares of color. The walkway is gray, the building's foundation and sides are taupe. On top of these visual building blocks a brown steel rectangle is pierced by a window that looks into Meg Miller's color-ﬁlled studio.
The effect brings trafﬁc to a halt.
"I'm telling you, people stop every day," the 47-year-old artist says. "They stop in their cars. They stop walking.
"I didn't just want a home for our family. I wanted a sculpture that you could live in. I wanted everything to be beautiful and functional. and everywhere you looked there would be a great window or great art."
The Hilltop residence Meg shares with her husband, David Miller, and their two teenage children is a 2007 Architects’ Choice Award winner. Behind the modernist facade of CorTen steel and glass. 5200 square feet of living space has been laid out according to feng shui. A Chinese practice that channels positive and negative energies throughout the house.
"I wanted the house to have harmonious energy, and people feel it," Meg says. "They feel good when they walk in the door."
But turning all these ideas into a set of architectural drawings wasn't easy. Even more challenging — the Millers’ lot was only 50 feet wide. Surrounded on three sides by other property owners. Without an alley. A parking garage would be nearly impossible to build.
Initial ﬂoor plans were a jumble, and just when the Millers were about to give up, Kevin Stephenson stepped into the picture. As Meg sits in the finished basement of her home, she recalls the instant connection she and her husband felt when they met the 35-year-old associate at Semple Brown Design.
"It was like he read my mind with everything," Meg says. "It's about what he knows, what he does best."
"So often as designers, we have to work in a vacuum."
Stephenson says. "This time there was bountiful information, Meg and David had so many ideas, so it cut through a lot of searching that goes on. The design felt like it came together by itself."
The Millers' quest for a unique home began in July 2004, when they bought a lot in Hilltop near their existing residence. Meg wanted a home inspired by modernism, except that it would be warm and inviting.
"I wanted something that had enough of that classicism but was fresh and new."
"Nobody wanted this to look like a Martian ship that had just landed here," Stephenson says.
Meg wanted light-filled family areas toward the back of the home. which her feng shui consultant advised would utilize the lot's magnetic harmony. She also wanted clean, architectural spaces that would showcase her eclectic, assemblage-style artwork and her eclectic assemblage of furnishings.
"I like to blend styles that complement each other." Meg says. "I've got my mother's dining-room table, my grandmother's mirror. They are collections of our lives."
In September 2004, Stephenson went to work on the design; construction began in January 2005. Nine months later, the Millers and their children Zach, l8, and Mara, 15, moved in.
Placement of a two-car garage was solved by tucking it into the basement at the end of a steep driveway. To save money, a conventional garage door was installed and painted a dark brown color to mimic expensive wood. Same with the front door at the end of a walkway made of concrete pads. It opens inward to a ground-level foyer equipped with a generous coat closet. A short ﬂight of wall—to—wall hickory stairs leads past a sculpture-filled niche and up to the main level. The same antiqued ﬂooring is used throughout the house, its natural hue providing a warm foundation for white walls and exposed steel beams.
To separate Meg's studio from the rest of the house, Stephenson designed a series of lightweight perforated aluminum screens that can be pulled across the main entry to screen the family living area from visitors. The large panels also serve as an impromptu gallery wall when needed.
Beyond them, the main floor contains an open kitchen, living room and dining area. Polished concrete countertops are inset with tiny iridescent tiles. A trio of skylights 17 feet above throw down natural light. Glass cabinet doors are pale green, and Meg updated her vintage dining table with a coat of chartreuse paint and surrounded it with chrome and clear acrylic chairs that look like tipsy cocktail glasses.
The south side of the living room is illuminated by an inset ceiling with more skylights. Walls are white, furnishings are comfortable and neutral, and Meg's paintings splash color everywhere, like exclamation points.
The steps leading to the finished basement are covered with industrial, diamond-plate steel.
"We took very unconventional materials and were really creative in how we used them," she says.
Stairs to the second floor consist of hickory treads supported by steel risers. Handrails are matching hickory, screened by sheets of clear, textured plastic.
"It's very clean and very modern," Meg says. “But you have to have this very, very Victorian carved mirror in the bathroom."
She's referring to the aqua-tiled powder room adjacent to her studio. Above a glass sink, Meg displays an antique mirror in carved wood frame.
"Same thing with my art." she says. "When I'm doing a painting, I get into this dance; if there is a color or shape at one end of the spectrum on the canvas, I need to do something to contradict it and bring it all into balance."
Upstairs, the family's bedrooms are oriented around the home's central skylight. Expanses of glass atop each wall inside and out allow light in from all sides while at the same time preserving privacy.
"We painted the roofs eaves so they match the interior ceilings, and when you're on the bed looking up, the windows seem to go away," Meg says. "It's like you're looking out into the treetops and the sky and the moon.
“This house supports everything we want- my art, our relationships, friends, my family."
Meet the Artist - Revealing Denver to Itself Article by Nichol Weizenbeck
Finding an artist that is grounded yet interesting, talented yet humble, worldly yet motherly, seems as improbable as transforming a manhole cover into art.
Meg Miller sees undiscovered art in the open; patterns in sidewalks, bottle caps, peeling paint--- just waiting to be discovered by the right pair of eyes. Miller translates basic shapes and rough images into works worthy of adorning the walls in Andy Warhol's bedroom. Admittedly, Warhol inspired her, after having heard him described as a mirror for the world. From that point on, she saw an everywhere. Miller began taking all sorts of images from around the Denver area, manipulating them (Miller says "painting them"), and printing the finished work on large canvases. The results are stunning, and like most art, it must be seen in person to truly appreciate.
Almost as amazing as her art, is the fact that she is self taught. Miller started by selling floor cloths at local businesses. A Colorado native, Miller took a well traveled road through college, graduating with a degree in technical journalism and marketing. After college she worked on the non-creative side of advertising, but in time, started experimenting with paint and canvas as floor coverings. Eventually customers sought after wall hangings... and the artist emerged.
With a deep interest in spiritual exploration, quantum physics and energy movement, this mother of two always looks for the connection between a microscopic speck and a massive mountain. Miller's unique visions are expressed in her pieces, affecting the viewer on a subconscious level. It is a tightrope act between contradiction and balance--- she paints until the act is concluded.
I found the mixed media, "Abstract Contemporary" pieces to be the most compelling--- radiating from the layering of tissue paper and paint, taking on an illuminated sheen. I was also captured by her use of visual and written elements, as seen in her "Abstract Figurative" works. "Imaginary Houses", is reminiscent of Hundertwasser, whom I admire, but unique in its own. I was transfixed by the meditative qualities in her “Pop Graphic Symbolic". The vastly different pieces shine a little light on the sways of Miller's life. Her lack in technical training allows her to paint from an intuitive place. Meg Miller's work is in some ways very personal, yet universal.
Epigraphical Storyboards: Meg Miller
"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction," says Meg Miller, 39, as she squeezes several large globs of acrylic green, red and yellow paint onto a tray. "In all of my paintings I am looking for this same balance and contradiction."
She sets a 36-by-36-inch canvas onto a wood easel and begins to tape off large rectangles and smaller squares, effectively dividing the canvas into multiple perspective points. Each section that has been taped off will carry a separate image and tell a different tale "I always divide the canvas into spaces within the space," she explains. "I don't like to put one image on a canvas—there are so many pans to the story." She proceeds to blend together red and green paints (opposites on the color wheel) with a ﬁne, sable-haired paintbrush.
Miller, a former advertising executive, is now displaying her artwork in Denver galleries and exhibiting in the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. She utilizes many media— including acrylic paints, molding and spackling pastes, handmade papers and pencil—to enhance the textures and colors in her art.
Each painting is designed as an epigraphical (the study of inscriptions) storyboard. Each segment within the painting represents a single thought, phrase or perspective, but is integral to the more complex whole. What appears to be abstract imagery is, in fact, the very deliberate use of ancient symbols.
Her dog, Sagris, a black mass of curls, barks in the corner. The pounding feet of her two kids are heard thundering through the ceiling of her basement home studio in Denver. It seems appropriate that her work is created amid all the commotion of a household given that a great deal of her art contains recurring images of houses and, in some cases, neighborhoods.
Feelings of warmth and accessibility emanate from her work. “I use images that mean something to me, like heans divided in two,” Miller says. ‘It represents two points of view, like my husband and me. They're also symbolic of relationships, love and life. . .nothing too mysterious.”
Miller is a self-taught artist of three years. She has taken several classes with the Art Students League in Denver and also in printmaking. Although her professional an training is minimal, the transition from business professional to artist has been, in her words, a smooth and spiritual one. "I felt a karmic ﬂow when I began painting. It was as if the universe had always been guiding me in this direction," she says.
Miller is currently displaying her work on an exclusive contract with Sophia Georg Gallery in the Cherry Creek area, and a full range of her work will be on exhibit at the CCAF. Her goal for the festival, as well her goal as an artist, is to provide the viewer with an accessible art form that is open, honest and reﬂective of her personality.
"I believe that art is the shared expression of both the artist and the person who buys and displays the artwork," Miller explains. "Both are striving to reﬂect upon and share insights into their personalities, philosophies and beliefs.
"It is tremendously fulfilling to be a catalyst of sorts—the one who provides the tangible and creative evidence with which the owner can express him or herself in their surroundings," she says.
Home Grown Talent Article by Alexei Rudolf & Elizabeth Train
Meg Miller describes her creative process as "pure, energizing joy." This energy permeates her monoprints, whose spirit and playfulness evoke pleasing sentiments at first glance. Meg begins each monoprint by inking a block with oil-based ink, laying handmade paper and/or other elements over the ink, and then placing 100 percent cotton printing paper on top. The image that emerges from the other side of the hand-rolled press is completely unique, and can never be reproduced. Meg continues the process by hand in her Denver studio, with acrylic paints, ink, pastels, and pencils. The hand-embellishing and creation of each whimsical house are Meg's favorite steps, for they allow her the most freedom and creativity- cherished aspects of all her work. Although she wanted to be an artist as a child, she was steered away from art for "practical" reasons, pursuing a career in advertising. Three years after becoming a full-time artist, Meg declares, "I have never been happier in my life." She strives to touch people and make them happy through her art. She also works in acrylics, which are featured in her "Epigraphical Storybooks," displayed in galleries throughout Colorado.