A Barn-Style Boulder Ranch With Midcentury Modern Finishes

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Ask Kristi Smith how she likes living in a contemporary home and she is quick to retort: “I don’t see it as contemporary; I think of it as rustic meets industrial. I view it as a modern barn.” It was the latter reference that inspired architect Dale R. Hubbard to play on the additive nature of agricultural architecture for the design of the Boulder residence. “I thought about the house as a series of buildings that grew together over time,” says Hubbard, who, while answering Kristi and her husband Stratton’s request for a casual, kid-friendly home, also embraced the clean lines associated with modern design. “People don’t necessarily equate contemporary with children, but the combination of simple forms with warm and durable materials just lends itself to active family life.”

That thinking translated into a sustainable exterior palette that includes cedar siding, a standing-seam steel roof and Kansas limestone walls distinguished by what builder Dan Drury calls “slightly messy” grout lines. “I had the mason practice three or four times to get the look just right,” says Drury; he was intent on having the stonework look as if it might have been laid up by farmhands in another century. Concrete, local beetle-kill pine, reclaimed Wyoming wood fencing and the same limestone that was used on the exterior form the walls and floors of the interiors, where the heavy-duty materials handily stand up to the steady onslaught of three growing kids.

Responding to Kristi’s declared love of “single-story houses that ramble and keep you guessing about what’s around the corner,” the architect fashioned a meandering ranch with some two-story volumes. At the core, a sunken living room is flanked by the kitchen and dining room on one side and a small conversation space and fireplace on the other. “Instead of a large fireplace as a centerpiece, the room within a room harkens back to the intimacy of a hearth room,” says Hubbard, who used size and volume to delineate public from private spaces. “Larger living areas are vaulted with exposed beams and rafters while the sleeping quarters have lower ceilings and are smaller in scale.”

Predominantly white walls serve as the backdrop for Kristi’s imaginative decorating touches, implemented with Hubbard’s help. A self-proclaimed scavenger who loves a good estate sale, Kristi ensured that her eclectic taste is visible everywhere, from the 1950s-style living room sofa to the midcentury modern dining room chairs with seat cushions upholstered in rug remnants. The hallway lighting—composed of pipes from a local hardware store topped with light bulbs—was designed by Kristi and Stratton. “We share a passion for creating,” she says.

A sun-drenched gallery connects the open living room, dining room and kitchen to the children’s bedrooms and play area and the master suite beyond. There’s also an art studio for Kristi and a home office for Stratton. But carrying equal weight are the series of outdoor living spaces that connect the architecture to the lush landscape. “There were 100-plus trees on the property, and we preserved as many as possible,” says Hubbard, who took down an ailing ranch house to make way for the current structure. “We identified where the driveway, courtyards and pool house would go first and then built the house around them.”

The new landscape is an intentional study in simplicity. “The homeowners didn’t want anything to take away from the house by having things get too busy; they just wanted everything to be green,” says landscape designer Rod Bowman. “So we responded with lots of grass and flower beds.” Expansive ipe decks, including two off the pool house, provide additional connective tissue between the landscape and home. “When I’m inside, I like how I can see through to other parts of the house,” says Kristi. “But mostly I love how you can open everything up and move from inside to the outdoors with ease.”

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