05 Jun Designing the West: Peaceful Retreats
The roots of service run deep in designer Joe McGuire’s life. As a boy he grew up at Rancho Encantado, a ranch hotel on the outskirts of Santa Fe (now a luxury, five-star, Four Seasons resort). The ranch was owned by his aunt, Betty Egan, who adopted him after his mother passed away, and McGuire remembers being captivated by the aesthetics of the ranch.
“Aunt Betty introduced me to a world that was beautiful and elegant, and gave me my first glimpse of authentic Santa Fe style,” McGuire says. “The hotel’s interiors were clean and restrained, with whitewashed adobe walls, Spanish Colonial antiques and a great art collection. The property was out in the country, and it had tennis courts, a pool and horses. The guest rooms were small casitas — very private, with no televisions.”
The ranch attracted celebrity guests such as Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. One morning, Ralph Lauren invited McGuire to join him and his family for breakfast as the venerable designer bounced around product name ideas for his newest clothing line. McGuire scrambled off to find a thesaurus and joined in the brainstorming session — all in a day’s work for a young man who learned the hospitality business from the ground up. “If anything needed to be done or a guest wanted something, we just jumped in and did it,” he says. “We didn’t even think about it; personal service was a huge part of what we offered.”
As much as he loved the ranch, McGuire longed to see a different part of the country when he graduated from high school. “Growing up in the West,
I really wanted to experience life on the East Coast,” he says. Attending college at the University of Pennsylvania, he studied art history and literature. “I enjoyed Philadelphia’s energy and the city’s classic architecture, and I even became accustomed to the winter weather,” he says.
After earning his degree, McGuire moved to New York City to work for Christie’s auction house in the appraisals department. “I traveled to some of the most lavish houses all over the country with the company’s art and furniture experts, and coordinated the valuation and photography of their collections,” he says. “My boss, [the late] Richard Wunder, was such an elegant man and I learned so much from him. I met many interesting people during my years at Christie’s; it really was a dream job.”
McGuire missed the mountains, though, so in the mid- 1990s he headed back West and settled in Aspen. A friend hired him to manage her furniture store, where McGuire soon began helping customers choose fabrics and furnishings. “Before long, I was assisting people with their remodels and interiors. There was a lot of residential activity in Aspen at that time and I learned many aspects of design through hands-on experience.”
In 2005 McGuire founded his own company, Joe McGuire Design; three years later, Aspen Magazine named him one of the resort town’s hottest modern designers. “My style is contemporary and clean, with some traditional elements,” he says. “When my clients hire me, it’s often because they’ve seen some of my designs or images and feel most at home in an uncluttered, modern space.”
McGuire’s interiors often reference the surrounding environment, from art and photography by local artists to rustic, regional materials used in sophisticated, clean-lined furnishings and finishes. He’s seen design trends evolve in recent years. “In Aspen, people used to ask for more of a local mountain vernacular, but increasingly they want more modern spaces. My clients are also trending toward very high-end products and finishes. Many of our projects are second homes, which give people the opportunity to try new styles they haven’t used before.”
The firm has done numerous residential projects — both new construction and remodels — in Aspen, Boulder and Denver, tackling everything from expansive estates and grand cabins to luxurious penthouses and single-family homes. Most recently, the firm designed a half-floor apartment at the Four Seasons Denver.
McGuire added accent lighting and hung a vintage Navajo rug in the niche of his clients’ existing river rock fireplace; the antique hopi peach basket is from Medicine Man galleries in Tucson. Photo: Gibeon Photography
Even as the company has grown, McGuire remains true to his roots. “I see my job as performing a service for people and helping them create homes that are calm and beautiful,” he says. “I take that responsibility seriously and at the same time I always try to remember to be grateful for the amazing experiences and opportunities life has given me.”
He’d like the firm to expand into more commercial work in the future and has his sights set on one industry in particular. “One of these days, I’d really love to design a hotel,” he says.