Lee and Craig Williams’s Elk Run Ranch is a private and serene 150-acre property
Winding up the half-mile drive from Snowmass Creek Road to Lee and Craig Williams’s signature Elk Run Ranch, the appeal of the Old Snowmass setting is abundantly clear. Private and serene, with undulating hillsides, waterfall ponds, and panoramic mountain views, the 150-acre property is a true sanctuary. “It’s almost spiritual,” says Craig. “Sometimes the wind blows, and it feels like there should be Ute Indians looking down at you from the ridge. It’s gorgeous.”
The centerpiece, of course, is the ranch house itself, a 7,000-squarefoot stunner that embodies the modern ranch vernacular and appears distinctly at ease in its surroundings. But, truth be told, it didn’t start out that way. Rather, when the couple, who call Houston home (they also have a condominium in downtown Aspen) and whose business is large-scale commercial real estate development, first discovered the house, it deviated from the theme in surprising ways.
The owners updated the interior by replacing drywall with flat-plank log walls for an authentic cabin feel
“From the outside, the house looked pretty good, with old barn wood and rusted roofing,” Craig explains. “It had good bones, but the inside was ‘mountain contemporary,’ with a stained orange ceiling and Asian designs. It missed it by a country mile.”
To get things back on track, Lee, an avid collector with a passion for interior design (she recently led a significant redesign of the exclusive Maroon Creek Club), set about raiding her inventory and scouring her numerous Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley resources for furnishings. In addition to high-end retail and antiques shops, many of her most unique finds come from consignment shops. “I’m attracted to hard-to-find items that nobody else has, and I always look at things as usable accessories,” she says. “It’s amazing what people give away.”
Originally the house’s exterior sported barn wood and rusted roofing, which the owners maintained
At the same time, an army of local contractors, painters, blacksmiths, and other tradesmen and artisans was assembled to tackle interior refinishing work. “When we did the project, the Valley was very economically depressed,” says Craig. “In order to return something, we decided we would have only locals work on it. We were 100 percent successful in doing that. Everyone stepped forward, and we did it all in 90 days. It was wonderful.”
Key to the project was replacing existing drywall, especially in the main livings areas, with flat-plank log walls with extra-wide chinking. “We’d never seen this kind of application done on interiors before,” says Lee. “But we wanted to do something authentic and match the inside of the house with the outside.” Reclaimed, 100-year-old siding from East Coast barns was collected and installed, lending an authentic log-cabin feel. Antique hand-hewn beams, some as long as 14 feet, added a dramatic effect to the high ceilings.
The property includes an outdoor fireplace
On the main level, the front living room is testament to Lee’s meticulous taste, as is the level of detail achieved throughout the house. Everything from custom fireplace screens to intricately carved hunting cabinets, from castles in Europe to paintings from the 1800s, depict rustic mountain scenes and wildlife detailing. Furniture tends toward rich leather and polished wood, accented by animals hides, statement bronzes, rare serape rugs, and strategically placed trophy mounts. “It’s a Ralph Lauren kind of look,” she says. “But it’s homey. It makes you want to sit on the couch.”
Decorative wood and ironwork was used to highlight or reinforce existing features in other rooms as well, such as the kitchen cabinetry and stove hood and a main level theater and pair of master suites also have chinked log walls. A grand stairway to a trio of upstairs bedrooms features a custom iron rail, for which several blacksmiths contributed pinecone details.
Over the last year or two, the ranch has become more than a getaway from the hustle of Houston (just a quick two-hour flight via their private Learjet, which Craig captains), or the bustle of Aspen, for that matter. “It’s so peaceful,” says Lee. “We love to come here and just be.” Craig adds, “The city is great, but it’s confining. We have ambitions of retiring here someday.”
photography by Jim Paussa