Andersen: Overheard at an Aspen restaurant

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

I’m sipping a glass of chlorinated Aspen tap water (abrasive nose!) and letting my thoughts wander. My mental peregrinations are high-jacked to a nearby table by an indiscreet conversation between a woman and two men.

“With homes over 10,000 square feet, we have protocols to deal with any issues that might come up,” assures one of the men. “I’m a project manager, so my engineering mind is well suited to these kinds of challenges.”

“How do I know if 10,000 square feet is enough?” asks the woman.

“That all depends on your expectations for fulfillment,” serves up the PM.

“And how am I supposed to determine fulfillment?” she volleys back.

“We assign three different levels of fulfillment to a project, depending on size. It’s up to you to choose an investment ceiling and square footage based on your needs,” informs the PM.

The other man nods knowingly. He appears to be the architect for the prestigious Aspen firm that’s bidding for this woman’s dream home. His nod verifies the PM’s approach and assuages the woman’s need for affirmation from two alpha men.

“And what are the levels of fulfillment?” asks the woman.

The PM folds his hands together, interlocking his fingers, elbows on the table. He speaks at his combined fists as if they form a microphone so the whole restaurant can hear: “We start with 7,000 square feet. But, mind you, this modest size represents only a modicum of fulfillment for any discerning client.”

“Well … I’m entitled to more fulfillment than less,” intones the woman, “so 7,000 square feet might not be enough.”

“Ah, very discerning of you,” congratulates the PM.

“So, where do we go from here?”

“We can go with extreme elegance in a compact space,” says the PM, “or, we jump up to 10,000 square feet. The very mass of a structure this size,” he says, gesturing with facile hands that form a massive, amorphous shape in the air above the table, “is imposing and therefore more fulfilling.”

Seeing his cue, the architect intervenes: “And we can make it as imposing as you like, with stone facades and ramparts, a gated entry and, depending on how regal you feel, a castellated tower that says, ‘My home is my castle.’”

The architect leans forward, palms pressed on the table. He fixates on the woman’s wide eyes. “But if you really want the level of fulfillment that you, your friends and your business associates will respect … we jump to 15,000 square feet of pure indulgence.”

The woman glances back and forth at the two men. A faint smile parts her lavishly lipsticked mouth. “And that raises the cost by how much?”

“No need to worry about details like that at this stage,” waves off the PM. “Let’s explore the best options for designing and building the rich, opulent and fully appointed venue you deserve. Costs come later.”

The woman sips her cocktail thoughtfully. “Fifteen thousand square feet … I’ll need to think on that …”

The architect pipes in. “So, how much time do you expect to spend at this incredibly fashionable domicile? Will it be your primary household or a special place to celebrate the big holidays? It’s important to our design criteria if you’ll actually be living here.”

“Oh, heavens, no!” says the woman. “We don’t actually live anywhere … just jet off to our homes here and there … wherever we decide it would be fun to stay for a while.”

“Got it!” says the architect, scribbling in a notebook and muttering to himself, “Entitled itinerant vagabond homeless jet-setter.”

“What’s that you’re saying?” begs the woman, eyebrows raised.

“Nothing,” says the architect. “Just getting clear.”

“So, back to concepts,” imposes the PM. “Will you bring in your own staff or hire locals?”

“We don’t go anywhere without our own private chef,” she states. “The house staff we’ll hire locally.” The woman taps her painted fingernails on the cocktail glass. “Can we trust the locals to serve us in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed?”

“Fear not,” assures the PM. “In Aspen, you’ll be treated like royalty.”

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at