21 Nov ASPEN PEAK Magazine | PEOPLE Dynamic Duo
Ask Carrie Wolfer and Maggi Whitmer how their up-and-coming Aspen design firm, Della + Zella Interiors, got its name, and they look at each other and smile. “It was a great coincidence,” says Whitmer. “We discovered that my great-grandmother’s name was Zella Mae and Carrie’s great-great-grandmother’s was Della Mae. So… Della and Zella. It’s catchy and meaningful to us, and the story creates a connection when we share it with people.”
Connection is the operable word. Whitmer, born and reared in Aspen and with an interior design degree from The Art Institute, and Wolfer, who holds a National Council for Interior Design Qualification certificate, first met while working at Caroline-Edwards Inc. Interior Architecture & Design in the Aspen Airport Business Center. After a few years, they decided they’d “hit the ceiling” there and left to start their own business. “It was a natural next step,” says Whitmer. “We have a lot of similarities and balance each other out with our strengths and experiences.” Whitmer’s work background also includes time at Poss Interior Design in Aspen, while Wolfer worked with local interior designer Anne Grice.
In November of 2013, the pair opened a light-filled, ground-floor office on North Mill Street, down by the Roaring Fork River. “We lucked out,” says Whitmer. “It’s reasonable by Aspen standards, and not a huge, scary, flashy office with a big overhead.” Along with neighboring tenants—graphic designers, architects, landscape architects, and other creative types—an informal design circle has formed, which occasionally leads to collaboration.
For instance, Whitmer and Wolfer recently partnered with Al Beyer Design, an architectural firm in their building, to handle interiors for the Aspen home of one of his Hong Kong–based clients. Set in the upper reaches of town’s famed Starwood neighborhood, the 5,000-square-foot vacation retreat will feature design elements that reflect the natural surroundings. “It’s a very clean palette, with modern finishes such as oak flooring, sandstone fireplace mantels, and waterfall-edge details on the kitchen island,” Whitmer says.
While contact with the Hong Kong client is largely via e-mail and FedEx, consultations at their office are more the norm. There, surrounded by works-in-progress—project boards, design imagery, stacks of furniture, lighting, resource books, and bins filled with fabric and rug samples—the duo, along with assistant Mia Sadowsky, discerns individual tastes and needs. “Some clients come with ideas they’ve researched, others have furniture pieces or artwork they love and want to incorporate into a design plan, and some are simply seeking direction,” says Wolfer. “We don’t have a particular style. We work with each client to create clean, flowing spaces and an eclectic, well-collected look that reflects their needs and is more timeless than trendy. Anything too trendy will be out of style before it’s installed.”
Taking on large turnkey projects, whether new construction or remodels, is, of course, a primary goal. But smaller projects are not eschewed. “We’re young and we want to be flexible,” says Wolfer. “High-end residences are our primary focus, but it’s not just those projects we’re going after,” adds Whitmer. “We’re just happy to help.”