Asher’s House

How this Denver Family Turned a 130-year-old House into a Modern Home

As the owner of RiNo’s Rifugio Modern, Brian Pignanelli spends a lot of his day looking at modern design and furniture — and he’s clearly a lover of the style. So when you first walk up to his Victorian Farmhouse home in the historic district of LoHi, you may be surprised. After all, a 130-year-old fixer-upper — the third oldest house in the Highlands — isn’t exactly what you would expect a lover of modern architecture, design and style to gravitate towards. But four years ago when Pignanelli and his wife purchased the home for their family of three — five if you count the pets (one dog and one free-range bunny) — it wasn’t just about the style of the house.

And the house has truly been a labor of love for Pignanelli and his family. 

“There’s nothing in this house that I didn’t work on in some way shape or form. I’m constantly still building something or adding something,” says Pignanelli. 

And Pignanelli has put his own spin on the historic house with modern touches of furniture, like the couch from Zanotta (available at Refugio Modern, of course), and small renovations to give the house a more modern feeling interior. Such as opening up the ground floor so that the floor plan flows from living to dining, into the kitchen, and finally into the outdoor patio (which Pignanelli says might just be his favorite part of the house).

Pignanelli hasn’t held back in making the space perfect for his young son, Asher. From the lego nook in Asher’s bedroom (Pignanelli grew up loving Legos and passed the toy pieces onto to his son, “It’s a blend [of mine and his]. He’s got every Star Wars set imaginable, and they all get taken apart and built into this [city]. He’s constantly building.”), to the suspended tree house hanging between two giant trees outside by the garage, Pignanelli has made sure that the home is the perfect space for his son’s childhood.

“The driver, from day one, first and foremost, was to build a childhood home for Asher to grow up in,” Pignanelli says.

But the focus on the house as “Asher’s House” hasn’t taken away from the presence of Pignanelli and his wife, Ana Henry. Around the house are pieces of art representing Henry’s history and heritage in Barcelona, furniture that showcases Pignanelli’s love for modern design, and Pignanelli’s love of reusing different materials. Case in point: the Colorado coffee table in the main living room. Without knowing the backstory, the piece fits seamlessly into the home, looking as professional and polished as any piece of furniture from a retailer. But the table was built from the crate that the sofa came in when Pignanelli needed a coffee table quickly.

Throughout the house there are pieces like this, furniture that is now used every day, repurposed for an entirely new life — even the tree house was once wood from the original home.

“You can see that I will recycle anything — I hate to throw out good wood or good brick…”  Pignanelli says. “Those hundred-thirty-year-old boards sat in a pile before I built a table and I built a door for the wine cellar in the basement. And then I started the tree house, and I knew it had to be built from it.”

But for all of the hints and representations of the adults in the house, it’s clear through the space that the home was built with a very special 9-year-old in mind.

“I’ve called it Asher’s House from day one,” he says. “The whole build was about giving him that childhood home and getting it close to school. It was all about creating a house he could grow up in.”

And Cherry Creekers keep your eyes out: Rifugio Modern II will be coming to a storefront near you with expansive furniture and closet systems offerings.

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