Aaron Kennedy built 142 restaurants. Now he’s built himself a rural refuge.
For years Aaron Kennedy had admired a particularly bucolic stretch of road on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado. But when a plot of land on that road finally went up for sale, Kennedy, the founder of Noodles & Company—a $120 million national restaurant chain headquartered nearby—discovered it was too close to the street for his liking. The real estate agent suggested another property. “We go over and there’s all this rusted-out debris, sagging barb-wire fences, mangy horses,” Kennedy recalls. “But all I saw was the trees and I could just feel the quietude of the place. I was captivated from the beginning.”
Kennedy and his wife, Jenifer, bought the five-acre parcel, though they had to give the previous owner a year to clean up the grounds. In the meantime, the couple began snapping hundreds of pictures of homes they liked and ripping out pages from magazines to give to their architects at Semple Brown Design of Denver. The idea was a contemporary twist on classic rural architecture—part Philip Johnson, part barn.
The new 6,700-square-foot, three-bedroom house, which sits at the end of a 600-foot driveway, was also designed to conform to the Kennedys’ living habits. Thick steel barnlike doors soundproof the recreation room they built for their 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. “The kids can have fun screaming at the Xbox, and my wife and I can still hear ourselves think,” says Kennedy. Lately what he’s been thinking about is vegetables. A lot of them. This spring, Kennedy is teaming up with a local farmer to plant two acres of organic salad greens, tomatoes, green beans, and squash on Kennedy’s property, which is now 20 acres. “I got a big John Deere,” he says. “I’m starting to look like a farmer.” —
“We wanted to make the transitions between inside and outside almost seamless. In many places the material on the inside wall—whether it’s stone or wood—extends outside, and a glass panel intersects it. The design accentuates the natural surroundings.”
“The kitchen is the center of the house, kind of the nucleus. It has a big island made of polished concrete. I love to cook in there, and I’m a champion of big breakfasts. My signature dish is my pancakes.”
“We have a screened-in porch off the kitchen where we like to eat dinner when the weather’s warm. You can usually find me there on Sunday mornings reading the newspaper or playing the ukulele. I just started taking lessons.”
“We have sort of a minimalist style, so the things in each room are precious to us. In the living room, there’s a big painting of a boy asleep by a haystack. It’s by Frank Sampson, a Colorado artist. It reinforces the agricultural feel and balances out the modernism.”
The Clerestory Windows
“A lot of the rooms have a row of windows below the roofline, much like you’d find on a barn, except these have little electric motors and they open. They let in the sun and the scent of evergreens.”
The Floor Plan
“This house is great for entertaining. I always felt anxious throwing parties in other houses we owned because the lighting wouldn’t be right or the flow didn’t work. Part of our goal with this house was to design a space that flowed beautifully and felt comfortable.”
“The building materials—limestone, wood, and steel—are reminiscent of the farmhouses near where I grew up in northwest Illinois. What gives the house its zest is the way the architects put these common materials into a very contemporary expression.”
“Our home is far removed from the town, traffic, and neighbors. It’s a quiet, pastoral sanctuary.”