We added a fire pit to maintain the authenticity of the American Indian theme as much as possible, says Lohr. Hanging above the yellow elk hide sofa from Crystal Farm are a bow and arrow set and a fringed North African Taureg bag. "We have our dream house on thirty acres," he continues, "but we'd always talked about adding on." He and his wife had also talked about putting something unusual by the pond. "I wanted a completely different environment from the house," he says, "something primitive but plush, a cheerful, masculine "clubhouse" for music, television, reading, letter writing and meditation." Or, as his wife says, a place to smoke his cigar.

Cassandra Lohr's skill in rustic chic decor brought her the project, but she was also spiritually correct. "I've always been inspired by the Indian culture," she says. At a party two days after the husband approached her, she met John Eagle Day, an administrator for development programs for Native American youth leadership. His experience with tepees reflects the traditional values and ideals of his Bannock ancestry. And he had sources for making an authentic tepee. "My biggest challenge was personal," he says. "A tepee for me is like a wild animal, not to be harnessed by modernization. The simplicity of a tepee and its aesthetic beauty are relevant to what life should be. Visually you see where you have been, where you are, where you are going. The tepee is timeless. A house with geometric angles represents another kind of life."

Needless to say, the demands that life and the environment placed on the tepees of the Plains Indians diverge wildly from those of this suburban creation. The plains Indians were nomads who followed the buffalo herds; their tepees had to be lightweight with few furnishings. Location involved proper water drainage and proximity to trees - too close meant danger from lightning and falling branches, as well as, dripping rain after a storm. In this case, pure aesthetics prevailed. "I knew exactly where the tepee should go," says the husband. "In the prettiest spot with the best views of the pond." But in keeping with tradition, the door faces east. "East expresses the beginning of creation with the sun." explains Eagle Day. "And the sun feeds the life force into the home."

Getting a building permit in Aspen requires stamina since the process there could charitably be called byzantine. The application was granted for an "accessory structure," no higher than twenty-five feet. Although the tepee is only a three minute walk from the house, the lack of plumbing is daunting when you consider the bear tracks on the path, the mountain lion sighted above a nearby tennis court, the abundance of roaming coyotes, deer and elk, and the chill of both summer and winter nights.

Eagle Day arranged for the tepee basics including handpicked, hand-peeled, thirty-six foot lodgepoles for the frame, tied together at twenty-four feet. It sits on a wood platform that makes a fine summer deck. Traditional buffalo skin or canvas coverings lost out to a flame-retardant, weather-resistant acrylic. A cotton army duck liner goes around the entire inside of the tepee, an eight foot high curtain that ensures insulation and privacy (and hides the stereo speakers). Without it shadows are visible at night when the tepee glows like a large lantern. An ozan, a retractable awning of sorts, shields the bed from rain and snow coming in the opening at the top.
WhiteBuffaloLodges A tepee isn't a tepee without a fire pit; the customary warming and cooking unit. (This tepee also has three electric heaters). That catch is successfully operating the smoke flaps, movable parts of the outside covering that let the smoke out. The client learned to use them when a bird was caught inside. "My primary concern was accommodating the need for a bedroom, desk, entertainment center and sofa all in one room that's not square with straight walls but circular, almost an oval, with the four foot round fire pit right in the middle," says Lohr. "Every time I'd ask John a question like, 'Will it be dangerous to have electricity in a tepee?' or 'What about damage from rain and snow to the expensive interiors?' he'd just laugh and say, 'Cassandra, you're trying to cage a wild animal."

The tepee walls slope inward so furniture with square contours has to be moved away from the perimeter; taking up precious space. Two of the major pieces were designed with a curved shape for a snug fit: the Adirondack style cabinet that contains a refrigerator, a stereo and a hidden television and the hand-carved pine desk with a wood frieze of Indians chasing buffalos. "I've pulled together textiles and accessories from such diverse places as Mexico, the Middle East, Africa and France and the ensemble conveys the feel of the Old West," Lohr explains. Most of the furniture was made according to Lohr's detailed ideas by craftsmen she ferreted out while working on other projects.

Lohr met one of the most spiritual artists while traveling through Wyoming. Shanandoa considers himself an artist and a medicine man, and until he was ten he lived in a tepee after each winter on Montana's Blackfeet reservation. His proposal for making some of the pieces began by inviting the spirit into the process: "The earth is sacred; all things from her are sacred, let us spread the word, let us share the dignity." He also expressed his concern about respect for the space. "Part of the journey is to make a voice with creation that doesn't disturb the balance of the actual space." His journey includes spending at least four days in the mountains, collecting the appropriate wood, through never from a living tree. For the tepee, he designed a low cedar and burl fir bed "for comfort and fantasy," he says. "Romance is enhanced the closer you are to the earth's energy." It took him almost two months to clean the wood with his pocket knife because he didn't want to destroy the intrinsic markings. "If I treat the wood the spiritual accord," says Shanandoa, "other people will feel it."

To achieve the client's desire for "a plush and primitive feeling," Lohr used regional Navajo rugs, accessories like nineteenth-century Sioux moccasins and Chippewa snowshoes, and a combination of rich fabrics in rustic frames. "I like things overstuff and upholstered so they feel old," she explains, citing the yellow elk-hide sofa where the holes and tears are focal points, not hidden imperfections. "I want a down filling lose enough to have that baggy look of having been sat in four years." The finished tepee has magic. It is a place for friends to come for a drink in summer or to have hot cider and light candles after cross-country skiing by moonlight. "When you see it lit up against a starry night, it's like going into a different era," says the wife.

The Indians had an etiquette for tepee living. Rules governing how one entered and where one sat. These dwellers have their own decorum. "I don't want any unkind word or thought expressed here," says the husband. Both feel the shape has meaning. "There's something about a circle that soothes the spirit," he reflects. "When I'm down there for a while, it's difficult to pull away and go anywhere else." Shanandoa explains the power of the circle most elegantly. "A circle is the round energy the Creator extended, with which all of life will flourish. The human role is to shape it correctly. Whatever emotions or deeds one contributes into the circle's center return mostly stronger. All things are included on its powerful flow."
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