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A Groovy Aspen Retreat

The W Aspen Hotel & The Sky Residences in Colorado takes its design cues from a variety of eclectic sources—from the Ute Native Americans and the silver miners of the late 19th century to the swinging counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s, the current crop of globe-trotting billionaires and its location’s history of being the town’s Red Light District.

“The 1960s and ’70s were a special time for Aspen,” said Anurag Nema, principal and co-founder of NemaWorkshop, which collaborated with architects Rowland +Broughton and Marriott’s design team. “It was a center for the counterculture youth—Hunter Thompson, the father of gonzo journalism, lived and ran for sheriff, the great John Denver wrote songs about Aspen, which fueled the mountain town’s popularity during the time period. Actually, many big celebrities moved and built iconic houses during the ’70s. Think Barbi Benton’s dream house. These out-of-box designs became the symbol of ’70s hedonism.”

Throughout the design, silver elements and finishes can be found; the DJ booth in the lobby is derived from the idea of a silver nugget. The carpet patterns in the public spaces are inspired by the different fabric patterns created by the Ute Indians, who lived in Aspen before the arrival of miners.

Nestled on the ground floor, 39° is an underground cocktail bar and grotto wherein the legacy of Aspen’s Red Light District—on Durant Street, where the hotel now resides—comes to life. A plush red palette recalls a Victorian Bordeaux aesthetic through vivid velvet patterns adorning a mix of curved platform and pit seating areas. These areas are accessorized with signature W pillows inspired by iconic works by Thomas W. Benton. A Gabriel Alcala mural interpreting the Aspen landscape through the lens of the Bohemian era of excess is displayed behind the bar.

The iconic Rocky Mountains also have an influence. “At check-in, wooden desks evoke the Rocky Mountain landscape through stacks of wood contoured to mimic the mountain terrain, adorned with intricately detailed terrariums with figurines that showcase seasonal Aspen activities from hiking to skiing,” said Nema. “A mural by the artist Gaia anchors the space, featuring contemporary interventions on the classic Rocky Mountain landscape painting.”