Design Story

Introducing O2 Aspen 2.0

From supersize fries to toned thighs—a former McDonald’s becomes a serene wellness oasis.

By Katie Shapiro February 12, 2018 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2018 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Aspenites, in particular, don’t easily embrace change. But for devotees of yoga studio O2 Aspen, housed in a quaint, blue Victorian in the West End for the past 15 years, the move to a new downtown space might just cause a change of heart. Slated to open mid-February, the 4,113-square-foot tri-level sanctuary will offer the same type of yoga and Pilates classes, spa services, and retail as at O2’s previous location, but on a more efficient, brighter scale.

The locally loved business changed hands in 2015, and current owner Brittany Van Domelen, a Basalt native, has had her sights set on a fresh start ever since.

“When I purchased it, I had a lot of ideas I wanted to implement, but most of them would have been impossible in the space,” says Brittany, who started her career with O2 as an assistant buyer in 2011.

Love took her to New York City in 2013 after she met her husband, Colter Van Domelen, a fellow Aspen native who serves as her business adviser in addition to being a partner of hedge fund Tiger Global Management. The couple’s primary residence remains in Manhattan, but, says Brittany, when she received a call from then–O2 owner Carrie Bellotti saying she was ready to sell, “it was an opportunity I knew I had to take.”

On one on their frequent trips back to Aspen, the Van Domelens noticed a building in seeming need of a tenant—the 1956 building, purportedly designed by noted Aspen architect Fritz Benedict, that last accommodated McDonald’s.

Sensing the potential, the couple ended up purchasing the property as O2’s new home and, for the ensuing renovation, enlisted Brittany’s father, Bill Pollock, president and principal of Aspen’s Zone 4 Architects. “Who can you trust more than your dad to make decisions and watch over something for you?” says Brittany of the father-daughter team’s first business project together.

Notes Pollock, “I can be a lot more candid with her than I can with my regular clients. Having our relationship eliminated the need to sugarcoat the few differences that we had.” He says that working with a family member made the process easier. “We actually have a similar sense of aesthetic taste, so there were really no compromises in the design,” he adds. “The real challenge was taking a building built in 1956 into the 21st century.”

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Interior designer Kristin Dittmar, architect Bill Pollock, and O2 owner Brittany Van Domelen.

Image: Karl Wolfgang 

After breaking ground in November 2016, Brittany brought on board longtime friend Kristin Dittmar, principal of her eponymous Aspen-based design firm, who had recently redone the interior of the Van Domelens’ Tribeca flat. Together, the tight-knit team embarked on a total transformation of the former fast-food joint, which included reinforcing the roof and most of the walls, installing an elevator, and bringing the building up to code.

As construction commenced, the true extent of the remodel became clear. The main floor had to be completely removed and replaced. Exterior walls were a patchwork of brick and concrete block, with the mortar missing in places. Says Pollock, “The structural engineer said, ‘The roof as it exists is barely meeting standard. But if we get a heavy snow you may want someone to remove the snow from the roof—or add more rafters.’ We added more rafters.” Every one of them, in fact, has been doubled in strength.

In addition, workers replaced every piece of ductwork; that means no chance of any lingering Big Mac odors while practicing crow position.

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The first floor will include an activewear boutique and a grab-and-go case stocked with healthy food.

O2’s spare, sleek aesthetic was inspired by locally based photographer Kate Holstein, a close friend, whose work hangs gallery style throughout the new space. Says Brittany, “My design taste mimics hers. For a yoga studio, I’ve always imagined natural light, so I knew from the get-go that we would do a white, gray, and beige color palette.” A trained yoga instructor herself, Brittany also scoured New York’s cult-favorite fitness studios for additional ideas.

Notes Dittmar, “The goal was to keep it very clean, calm, and relaxing, while drawing on the mountain views from outside. A major part of the design was how to lighten up the historical brick inside. We ended up using a travertine finish that allows some of the original variations and textures to come through.”

The ground floor contains space for yoga clothing, including O2’s own logo-wear line and Artem, a new line Brittany is developing, as well as a reception desk and the O2-to-Go mini-store, stocked with protein bowls, juices, and other healthy snacks, thanks to an exclusive partnership with Angela Anderson, the chef behind Basalt-based delivery service The Salad Gal.

A floating staircase ascends to the second level, where picture windows overlooking Shadow Mountain and Wagner Park frame the yoga studio, which has soundproofed walls and padded floors. The studio is teched out to offer live-streamed classes, and a built-in humidifier allows for a range of environments at the touch of a button. An array of ropes along one wall were installed for Iyengar yoga, taught by popular instructor Trishka.

Also upstairs: a locker room, shower-equipped bath, and Pilates studio that includes a barre for new ballet classes.

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The spa’s relaxation lounge includes custom shelving, oxygen therapy, and cozy chairs.

The final construction hurdle involved the lowest level, now the O2 Spa. “The last treatment room in the back was originally a vault, and the lower level itself didn’t have the footprint of the building above it,” explains Pollock. Now, in addition to three treatment rooms, all with new beds and skin-care machines, a rock-wall-lined oxygen lounge serves spa-goers.

Near the end of the two-plus-year journey to create the new O2, Brittany calls the transformed space her dream studio. “There’s not a place I’ve practiced that will compare,” she says. Aspen’s active yogis, no doubt, look forward to living the dream along with her.

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