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Comfort Zone
Charlotte Moss warms up her cozy Aspen chalet for winter.
By Nancy A. Ruhling

A 19th-century French table in the dining room changes its winter wardrobe – linens, china, centerpiece and flowers – for every event.

The blue-and-white color scheme of the living room is punctuated by dark greens to give a crisp, clean look. Moss adds soft throws, fluffy pillows and darker lampshades to winterize the scene.
With a newly fallen coat of snow wrapped around its dove-gray shingles like a knitted shawl, Charlotte Moss's Aspen home beckons her and her family – as it does every skiing season – for a welcome as warm as a cup of hot-mulled cider.

In what has become a rite of winter, interior designer Moss and her husband, investment banker Barry Friedberg – with their cute Cavalier spaniels Oscar and Darby in tow – trade their elegant Manhattan townhouse for their tranquil, chalet-style mountain home so they can kick off their big-city cares and strap on their skis.

“What makes this house so special is that I can do anything I want in Aspen,” says Moss, whose new book, Winter House (Clarkson Potter, $50), gives a glimpse of the special place the city and the house hold in her heart. “I can be as social as I want – I can go skiing, snowshoeing and hiking, or go to parties – or I can hang out by the fire and have lunch all by myself.”

For Moss, whose clients have included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ronald Spogli, U.S. ambassador to Italy, it's all about relaxing. While Friedberg hits the slopes 14/7, breaking only for lunches and the occasional game of chess at the club, Moss relishes the idea of staying closer to home. “While I enjoy being outside, the ultimate luxury for me is simply to have time to sit in bed with the dogs at my feet, with some magazines, books and a cup of coffee. Or sit by the fire and needlepoint, or soak in a bubble bath,” she says.

The décor of the winter home is cocoon-cozy in Moss's signature style of traditional with a modern slant: Stucco walls, slate-stone floors and a mix of international furnishings – including an Irish cupboard and Italian painted pieces – are as inviting as the flickering fire. “The winter look is about taking things out of the cupboard, adding and subtracting things to make you feel comfortable so you don't get cabin fever,” she says.

Putting her Aspen home in a winter frame of mind is all about “changing the little things,” Moss says. “I like to think of it as a layered look; it's just like changing into your winter wardrobe.” The warm woods upholstered in dark velvets and suedes take on a glow when Moss adds her seasonal touches: baby-soft throws on the chairs, plush pillows lavishly decorated with tassels and trims, darker shades on lamps and ever-aromatic evergreens. Winter blows into the living room with blues, snow-whites and greens. “The blue-and-white paisley upholstery brings out the blue and white in the Delft and faience,” she says. “And the dark greens give warmth to the room. A sisal rug, which most people associate with summer, gives texture and lightness.”

In the dining room, it is the linens, china, centerpiece and flowers that set the winter mood at the long 19th-century French table that seats 14. “I change them for every occasion,” Moss says. “This gives a personal touch to each meal.”

Perhaps the coziest room of the house is the master bedroom, where a French-style canopy bed – with a soothing, stucco-color, French floral fabric punctuated by elaborate, antique tiebacks – “has arms that wrap around you,” Moss says. A sisal carpet, overlaid by a needlepoint rug, is easy on bare feet.

Moss says the house is made for family and friends. When the holidays arrive, Friedberg's two grown sons bring their significant others, and Moss's siblings and their children settle in. Sometimes they pop corn and watch TV; sometimes they head to the kitchen, where they chat as Moss prepares simple fare like piping-hot chili and crusty, mouthwatering bread served with a bottle of wine. Other times, they congregate in the game room to try their hand at billiards, cards, chess or Scrabble.

But the house has been known to come out of hibernation for long periods. Moss says the season wouldn't be complete without her annual all-girl pajama party, and Friedberg and his sons often use the house as a weekend retreat.

Moss loves to add little winter touches to make all of her guests feel at home. She fills the guest rooms with bouquets of fresh-cut flowers and evergreens, and lights candles in spicy scents like fig or pine. “A winter house is a state of mind,” she says. “You don't need a separate house to get the feel. You just have to think about your house in a fresh way, even if that means just rearranging the furniture. It all boils down to hospitality.”

Hospitality in Moss's winter house includes making each guest room special. “First of all, I decide whom to put in each room,” she says. “I may put my nieces in the room with the twin beds so they can gab. Then I go through each room and place books individually selected from the library that I feel each guest will want to read.”

But for guests to really feel at home, so must the host – and Moss loves her Aspen house right down to its strap-hinged shutters and antique porch pillars. Playing the hostess is as spontaneous as the season's first snowfall.

Regardless of where she and Friedberg are or what they are doing, Moss says that the most important thing – in winter, summer or in between – is “that we're all together.”
Nancy A. Ruhling, a freelance writer based in New York City, writes frequently about art, antiques and interior design.
Nancy A. Ruhling, a freelance writer based in New York City, frequently writes about art, antiques and interior design.
Photo credit:
Images: Winter House, Jason Dewey
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