By: Brittany Bevis
Upon entrance to the main dining hall, visitors are greeted by a high arched interior flooded with light, supported by massive wood beams that give the feeling of a grand equestrian estate. As if there were any doubts as to the inspiration behind the design of this property, the vintage saddles, velvet hunt caps, and horse show ribbons that adorn the living spaces confirm a decidedly equestrian vibe.
The newest Balfour Senior Living center in Littleton, Colorado, is the brainchild of AQHA and APHA breeder and amateur exhibitor, Susan Juroe, and her husband, Michael. The planning for this new location began four years ago and is their ninth project to date. Susan and Michael are the co-founders of Balfour Senior Living, a luxury senior housing company they built from the ground up. They strive to provide an experience that cultivates a better quality of life than a traditional retirement home. “We’re passionate about each project we do at Balfour and design it as if we were going to move in ourselves,” Susan says. “We don’t believe that aging means you like plastic furniture covers or bad architecture.”
Certainly not. Balfour’s newest center at Littleton features stunning interiors that have been impeccably designed with thoughtful equestrian details at every turn. The journey begins with an enormous spur sculpture that greets visitors out front. Susan explains how this larger than life replica came to fruition.
“While riding in the back seat of the truck with my trainers, Tim and Shannon Gillespie, in Gainesville, Texas, I asked them if they knew of any place where I could get a giant sculpture of an everyday object, like a pitchfork. They didn’t, but literally a second later I looked up and saw a giant pair of rusted western spurs in front of Rod Teuscher’s studio. I went there the next day and commissioned a pair of gigantic, English spurs, which I sort of had to talk him into since it’s not a core business line of his. Each time I returned to Texas, I visited to see his progress. He drove the finished work up to Colorado in his truck, and we had to hire a specialty company who used a crane to install it. His craftsmanship is amazing, and he’s an incredible artist and human being.”
Once visitors pass by the spur sculpture and step inside the Littleton facility, they are greeted by fox hunting prints, horse racing memorabilia, and framed horse show ribbons that adorn the common areas. Susan explains that the process for sourcing and collecting these objects took considerable time and effort. “Collecting objects for Balfour at Littleton involved visiting museums, tack shops, and antique stores, as well as engaging friends and family in my quest to assemble an interesting collection of equestrian art, found objects, books, and tack.”
After visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Susan discovered some of Jackie Kennedy’s horse show and fox hunting historical items that included ribbons, photos, clothing, and letters. She was able to purchase the rights to use some of the images throughout the center. She also visit the Middleburg Sporting Life Museum in Middleburg, Virginia and Paul Mellon’s Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, which have two of the best collections of equine art in the world. The museums allowed Susan to buy licenses to the artwork or acquire reproduction rights for display.
Susan even enlisted the help of family and friends to collect interesting equestrian memorabilia. “Watts Humphreys, whose mother bred Kentucky Derby winner, Genuine Risk, has a large Thoroughbred breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky. His family owns a furniture company that Balfour collaborates with. He donated six of his family’s racing silks that have been worn at Churchill Downs, Saratoga, and Keeneland race courses,” Susan says. “Shannon Gillespie went out of her way, for over a year, to collect every ribbon left behind at horse shows by her customers, which resulted in over 80 framed displays of interesting awards from horse shows spanning New England to Arizona. She also gave me over 30 bits from her personal collection that were arranged in resin and now hang behind the concierge desk.”
Susan discovered a company in Texas that manufactures wrought aluminum, traditional jockey statues and will custom paint them with colored silks. “We selected our five, favorite Triple Crown winners, some with a Colorado angle, and they are located in a winner’s circle outside the dining room.”
In fact, the names of the rooms even relate to the equestrian theme. “We named our major rooms as a means of way finding and continuing the theme of the architecture,” Susan says. “Our dining room is the ‘Triple Crown.’ Memory Care is the ‘Turf Club,’ and the theatre is the ‘Back Stretch.’ Also, in every property, we have ‘Madeline’s Salon,’ which is in honor of Michael’s mother who was the inspiration for Balfour.”
Susan also compiled a collection of whimsical Hermes scarves, created by the French saddle maker that was founded in 1837, that were then framed and hung on the walls. “We collected scores of English saddles and velvet hunt caps from various sources, including Hearts and Horses, a therapeutic riding center in Loveland, Colorado, and the Middleburg, Virginia Humane Society in Middleburg, Virginia, as well as my barn. Local artists hand forged an iron profile of a person that serves as the base for the 80 hunt caps that are arranged in the barn rafters in the memory care area. I found a vintage, burgundy cap from the 1950s that screams for attention amongst all the black ones.”
With Susan’s background in the horse industry, it comes as no surprise that the equestrian theme of the newest Balfour facility is near and dear to her heart. However, the design decision was more than a personal one.
“Balfour’s development philosophy is to respect the local history of a community, so designing a ‘historic’ barn was the logical choice,” she says. “Litttleton, Colorado has a long history as Denver’s equestrian center with fox hunting, Centennial Downs (1950-1983), breeding farms, polo, and Hunter/Jumper barns. I had a very specific idea of the style of the barn idea and reached out to an architectural firm, DTJ, that worked with Balfour on a ski lodge themed project. Their team has experience in over the top, international, themed amusement parks and had performed some creative work for Universal Studios. Together, we imagined ways to make the Balfour project look old, unique, and to tell a story. We wanted visitors to experience a sense of discovery and to feel transported to a simpler place and time.”
Beyond the luxury design of the facility, Balfour at Littleton comes with all the practical conveniences necessary for a senior living center as well. There are 86 total units, divided into 56 assisted living units and 28 memory care units. There is 24/7 nursing care, seven day a week chauffeured transportation, and a very enthusiastic culinary and life enrichment staff. Susan explains that the facility is 50% leased. There are no buy in fees, so they must earn the trust and respect of their customers on a daily basis.
“Our customers are those that may need some assistance with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and taking medications, or are experiencing some memory loss. Caring for a loved one can be draining on a family, so we wanted to have a place where the family can spend time together in a beautiful setting and get the support they need.”
Now that the Littleton project is complete, Susan has set her sights on the next Balfour center, Lavender Farm, which is another collaboration with DTJ Architects and is scheduled to open in the spring. Susan admits that she would love to have an onsite equestrian therapy program on a future Balfour property and hopes she can find land to accommodate such a plan.
Click here to read an Equine Chronicle profile on Susan in the August/September 2017 edition of the magazine.
Scroll below for an inside look at the Balfour Center at Littleton.