This soulful landscape and home resonate with world stories and a life well lived
By Lisa Marshall | photos by www.weinrauchphotography.com
It all started with a dusty wrought-iron chandelier hanging from a market stall in Bangalore, India. Boli Medappa, then a precocious 16-year-old from the rural district of Coorg, spotted it and, as she remembers it, “found it pleasing to the eye.”
She pulled 50 rupees from her pocket and took it home. It was her first antique.
“I’ve always been drawn to history and old things and art,” recalls Medappa, seated at her Boulder dining-room table decades later, a staggering view of the Flatirons outside the window, the antique lamp hanging overhead.
On every wall and floor surrounding her and across the lovingly landscaped front yard are reflections of an adventurous life that has since taken Medappa—a global telecom consultant, social activist and philanthropist—to the far corners of the world. Today, she splits her time between a three-bedroom flat 8,000 miles away in the Indian tech capital of Bangalore and an eclectic mountain bungalow filled with artifacts from her travels that have helped her create a second, soulful home in Boulder.
“I can tell you a story about just about everything here,” she says, as she shows a visitor around the modest 2,500-square-foot space. “I have lived away from home since I was 21. These are the things that remind me on a daily basis of who I am and where I have been.”
Medappa landed in Colorado in 1981 to get a master’s degree at the University of Denver, but quickly fell in love with Boulder’s forward thinking and wide-open spaces. They reminded her of the lush coffee-plantation region where she was born, and her grandparents’ home, where she spent much of her youth.
“I always said I would live in Boulder one day,” she recalls.
Instead, her career as a global telecom consultant took her to England, South Africa and all across Asia. In her free time, she traveled to exotic locales, gathering memories—from valuable antiques and rare artworks to gifts treasured purely for their sentiment. “You are either a collector, who buys things because they please you, or an investor, who buys things because you think they will appreciate someday,” she says. “I have always been a collector.”
On one wall hang a monk’s horn, a woven hat worn in the rice fields and a 300-year-old tapestry from a trip to Bhutan in 1992. On another, a grass-cutting sword, emblazoned with a snake’s head, from Cambodia. In the dining room sits a collection of antique aquatint prints of Indian landscapes by William and Thomas Daniell from the early 1800s, photographs of 1850s-era India taken by British photographer Samuel Bourne, and an assortment of shiny Indian tiffin boxes.
Much of Medappa’s collection sat in storage for years as she lived and worked in London and searched for just the right home in Colorado. She insisted on three things: a view of the Flatirons, a corner lot, and a single-level house on the west side of town. By the time she found the place in 2002, she had amassed decades’ worth of treasures.
But she did not, as many in Boulder have done, pop the top.
“I don’t believe in big houses,” she says, noting that she only needed enough room for herself, her mate Will Schaleben, and their beloved black Lab, Zara.
Instead, she made subtle adjustments with big impacts.
She knocked down a few interior walls to make rooms bigger for her antique Asian and Indian furniture collection, which includes a 300-year-old Tibetan chest and a traditional lamp from south India. She replaced old carpet with sleek wood flooring and adorned it with colorful Persian rugs to remind her of home. She extended the living room slightly toward the west and raised the ceiling just a few feet to make room for larger windows and a sun-bathed sitting area with a stellar Flatirons view.
In the kitchen, she left the traditional brick fireplace, but painted the walls whimsical colors and adorned them with memorabilia, including a custom piece by Denver artist Dede LaRue, which features a life-sized green VW door with a joyful sculpture of Medappa’s late black Lab, Hobbs, hanging her head out the window. In her bedroom, photos of family members are everywhere.
Front & Center
Her brother, Prem Chengappa, a noted landscape architect, came from India to help her infuse the front yard—previously a bit of an afterthought—with grace.
“I never understood the American tradition of emphasizing the backyard,” she says, noting that in Indian traditions, a well-thought-out entrance is key to imbuing a home with good energy. “I wanted my front entrance to be as welcoming as possible.”
And it is.
Inspired by the English gardens of Hestercombe in Somerset, England, where she and her brother traveled together, the front yard combines the neat linear structure of European design and the xeriscape plants required in Colorado’s semiarid climate with Medappa’s whimsical international treasures. A life-size Chinese piggy bank looks on from one edge of the yard near a Shakespearean mask—a gift from a friend she met in London. An aquamarine door from Rajasthan stands alone next to a blooming rosebush. “It’s like a magical door to nowhere,” she says.
Her family has always loved to entertain. “At my grandmother’s, the houses were so far apart that when someone came to see you, you always put food on the table and you always asked them to stay the night.”
Today, her own friends and family members frequently gather in the front yard, beholding the view, taking shade beneath the towering locust tree in a corner, and making new memories.
“I didn’t just want a house; that’s what developers build,” Medappa says. “I wanted to create something with a lot of soul. I wanted to create a home. That’s what I have done here, and it feels really good.”