AETHER Asks: Architect & Interior Designer Sarah Broughton
Sarah Broughton is the Principal, along with her husband, John Rowland, of the Colorado-based architecture and interior design firm R+B. Not only has she won countless awards for her innovative design and obsession with detail and quality, she also frequently assists the town of Aspen on land-use regulation and has served as the chair of the City of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission.
We asked Broughton, a long-time AETHER fan, how she has grown her career, what she loves about living at altitude, and how AETHER plays into her nonstop schedule.
Tell us about your company and how you built your business.
My husband, John Rowland, and I started our firm, R+B in 2003 in Aspen, Colorado. We are the Founding Principals and Managing Partners. We work on a variety of project types, from residential to hospitality to historic preservation. Our rigorous, edited design process determines each project’s unique style. We have grown gradually over the last 18 years and today, we have a team of 35 architects and designers working in two studios in Aspen and Denver.
What made you want to become an architect?
I drew floor plans from an early age. My passion for art and aptitude for math pointed me to architecture when it came time to think about college. My first design studio in 1993 at CU Boulder Environmental Design was like fireworks going off, and I have not looked back. ↓
What kind of spaces do you specialize in designing?
I am a licensed architect and interior designer which allows for full integration of all scales of design. We specialize in designing timeless spaces that provide a backdrop for living a good life and creating memories.
What do you think is key to making a space special?
Balanced natural light and good proportion. Once these elements are achieved, then it’s the art.
Can you name a few of the most impactful projects you’ve worked on?
We have been fortunate to work on amazing projects over the years. We feel especially proud of our historic- preservation work. Maintaining our built heritage is so important and helps keep us rooted in our foundation. It was an honor to work on the Hotel Jerome twice, first remodeling it in 2013 and then later preserving The Aspen Times building [as a hotel] addition. And, our R+B Aspen studio is in the old Mesa Store building on Main Street. John and I purchased the building and then preserved it to make it into our design studio. We feel privileged to be a steward of one of Aspen’s still-standing, oldest buildings—it was built in 1888. ↓
Your partner is your husband. How do you two manage to work together so well?
We feel lucky that we are both so passionate about architecture and love what we do. We are both interested in pushing limits and continually growing. And we share a lot of interests which allows for “the family that plays together to stay together.” Travel keeps us inspired and our view broadened.
What originally brought you to Aspen, and why do you love it?
We moved to Aspen in 2000 from New York City. We loved living in the city but were seeking a mountain lifestyle in a place that had great culture. Aspen has both, and we say that it keeps getting better.
Why is Aspen a great place for your business to be based?
Aspen is unique because of the people who come here. It takes a risk-taker—an outlier—to make it work in a town tucked in the mountains at almost 8,000 feet. Often this personality results in amazing clients who are interested in pushing the envelope and trying something a little different.
How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
I love the outdoors and try to get outside as much as possible. I love to ski, skin, cross-country ski, road and mountain bike, run, play golf and tennis, and hike. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, so being active outside was ingrained in me at an early age. [John and I] love to travel and often do international bike and ski trips. There is no better way to see a country or become immersed into a culture. Wherever we go, we always make sure to visit art galleries and museums. ↓
How did you discover AETHER?
I purchased my first AETHER coat—the Stormy Jacket—from a store that used to be in Aspen called The Gallerie. I took it to Europe that fall and was so happy to have it because the weather was unseasonably cold and wet. Then I was in Hayes Valley in San Francisco and became even more enamored with the brand and the store housed in a shipping container. Today, I own six AETHER coats, plus other AETHER pieces, all of which are go-tos in my wardrobe.
Do you have a favorite piece of AETHER?
I purchased my second black AETHER raincoat at the store in Soho in NYC. It looks like black rubber and has traveled the world with me. I am often stopped and asked where I got the coat. It’s stylish and functional—the perfect coat!
How do your AETHER pieces fit into your lifestyle?
I like pieces that are multifunctional and can go from day to night. Often, when I leave the house in the morning I’m also dressing for my evening activity. My AETHER pieces are stylish and can carry me through a variety of commitments while feeling confident.
Do you have a favorite place you've worn AETHER?
There are so many. I typically travel with an AETHER coat, so I would say discovering a new city with my sporty AETHER wear that is not only functional but stylish. My first AETHER coat kept me warm and dry many years ago in Copenhagen, and because of the coat, the weather did not get in our way of exploring the city by foot during the day and carried me through to awesome restaurants at night.
What is the first trip you will take post pandemic?
Italy. We usually go several times a year, and I miss it so much!
What is the biggest lesson you took away from the last year?
Patience and the power of positivity. •