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Open House: A peek inside shop owners' homes

El Salon owner opens up his Victorian to light, plants, friends

Published July 18, 2008 at 3 p.m.

A spiral staircase reclaimed from a salvage yard breaks up the space between the living room and the kitchen in Trujillo's historic home.

A spiral staircase reclaimed from a salvage yard breaks up the space between the living room and the kitchen in Trujillo's historic home.

The owner of one of Denver's top salons spends his work hours making sure his clients are picture-perfect. Every strand of hair must be flawless for the bride awaiting her big day, or the 40-something businessman heading to his 25th class reunion, or the model who will soon be splashed on the pages of a magazine.

But Steven Trujillo, owner of El Salon, prefers to avoid the camera himself, thank you very much.

"Video I don't mind so much," says Trujillo, nervously brushing lint off his shirt. "I'm in motion. I'm doing what I'd normally do - not posing. And that's honest."

"Honest" seems an apt description of Trujillo's 1896 home in the Baker neighborhood.

From the living room to the addition in the back, the remodeled Victorian is filled with artwork, furniture and accessories that reveal the essence of its owner.

Modern mingles with antique in this 2,000-square-foot home. Glance at the exterior, a classic Victorian gem, and you'd hardly expect to walk into a space that looks more LoDo loft than creaky old house.

"We didn't do much to the exterior," says Trujillo, who bought the home six years ago.

"One of my friends said, 'Don't paint it. That will work better than any burglar alarm,' " he adds with a broad grin, pointing to paint peeling on the trim.

The inside of the home was another matter. Working with an interior designer, Trujillo decided to knock out walls and create an open floor plan.

"I don't know why houses built at that time all have tiny, choppy rooms," says Trujillo, 47. "I was looking for a flowing space that will invite people to move throughout."

Mission accomplished. Living room flows into dining room, which flows into a long, narrow kitchen, leading to the home's addition, a glassed-in, sunny space with a stunning view of an expansive garden.

Larry, Trujillo's bichon frise - undoubtedly the best-groomed dog in Denver - faithfully follows his human companion as he moves around the house.

"One of the first things we did was rip out several layers of carpet and put down the oak floor," Trujillo says. An oak spiral staircase between the living room and the kitchen leads up to two bedrooms and a bathroom. "It came from a salvage yard; I knew it would look perfect in here," Trujillo says.

Exposed brick walls and glass-block windows hint at the home's age in a dining room where a modern metallic "mobile" lighting fixture hangs over a table. Fiber-optic lights dotting the ceiling change from blue to green to pink.

"I've had dinner parties where the entree was one color, the dessert another," Trujillo says, walking into the living room, where a Dunbar sofa from the '60s is covered with modern fabric by Dutch designer Tord Boontje.

Examine the artwork in Trujillo's home, and you'll learn more about the Denver native than you could from a written biography.

A photograph by Barbara Morgan taken in the 1940s of Martha Graham reveals this: The athletic-looking man was once a modern dancer. And he has a deep appreciation for women.

"Morgan was doing this in a time when only men were photographers," he says, gesturing toward the riveting black-and- white photo. "Look how she captured that moment. No man could do that."

Religious paintings and sculptures reflect Trujillo's beliefs.

"I grew up Catholic, so for me, these represent love and spiritualism," Trujillo says. "And honesty. You'll see some of the artwork is dark, because that's the reality of life. I love flowers that are dying, because that's what they will do. That's part of the cycle."

In a guest bedroom, a life-size Barbie - a collectible - is used to hang fabric and clothing upstairs. She is proof that Trujillo once worked as a fashion designer - and that he has a sense of humor. Artful furnishings and lighting fixtures hint that he has dabbled in interior design.

More than anything, wander through the house and garden with Trujillo, and you'll discover that he's rarely alone. His friends and family, he will tell you, are woven tightly into his life.

He's owned the house next door for 18 years, and now rents it out to one of his dearest friends, artist, teacher and fellow hairdresser Natascha Seideneck.

"I call the kitchen 'the hallway,' because I never cook," Trujillo says, pausing to scratch Larry's head. "But Natascha does, so it's really her space. And that vegetable garden out there? That's for her."

When he needed help remodeling his home, he turned to his good friend Roger Bailey, of Design Co. PnL.

"It was a pretty easy project because Steve gave me complete trust," Bailey says. "There was a straight stair in there originally, and I was there one night and said, 'There should be a circular staircase there.' Steve went out the next day and found one."

His friend Chuck Graham, a professional florist, helps him plant and care for his gardens, and is on hand at a moment's notice to create awe-inspiring floral arrangements for gatherings.

The sunny addition to the back of the home is a popular spot for those gatherings.

"I call it the 'man's room' because of the trophies on the wall and the artwork of bugs and the big-screen TV," Trujillo says with a grin. "Though really, I'm not into all that. It's just fun."

Glance outside the sunny room to see another popular gathering spot. In a large backyard, Trujillo has fine-tuned his gardening skills over the years. Winding pathways lead from one garden area to another. Windows in the kitchen, reclaimed from a barn in France, offer a view of a side patio draped with vines and dotted with pots filled with bougainvillea and other colorful plants.

Among the garden areas: a circular "white" garden filled with white roses and hydrangeas, and a rectangular plot sporting herbs, tomatoes, eggplant, cabbage, artichokes and other vegetables. A red stone pathway Trujillo calls his "River Nile" passes a lily pond and several antique statues and stops at an outdoor dining area suitable for large gatherings.

The table, Trujillo explains, is framed by an old balcony railing, which supports a blue Plexiglas top. Angel's trumpet and grape vines crawl up a trellis, creating two walls and a ceiling for the "room" - a long mirror makes up another wall.

Trujillo was infected with the gardening bug shortly after his grandmother died.

"We were very close, and I felt the need to run away and heal," he says, looking out on his lush garden.

"I found a marble angel in Puerto Rico and had it shipped back. I put it outside and decided to plant some flowers around the angel, in memory of her. From there the garden grew. And grew."

And this garden is where Trujillo spends time in the mornings, he says, pointing out the antique sculptures and architectural treasures dotting the landscape.

"This is my peaceful spot. Once I spend some time out here, I can handle the chaos of the rest of the day."

The shop:

* What: El Salon, a full-service salon where you can get your hair styled, your nails and makeup done, or even a facial. El Salon recently moved from its longtime location in Cherry Creek.

"It's a very home-like environment," says owner Steven Trujillo. "We do our color on a dining-room table. It's a 1920s building that was originally a grocery store, so it's an ideal working/living space for us."

* Where: 777 E. Virginia Ave., 303-399-7175

The home:

* What: 1896 Victoria home in the Baker neighborhood

* Space: Two-bedroom, two-bath home with open living room, dining room, office and kitchen; glassed-in room added to the back of the home.

* Square feet: 2,000

* Purchase price: $200,000 in 2002

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