“We wanted to build a home that had the architectural vernacular of the existing neighborhood but with a modern twist,” Gerry Engle says about the three-level home in the trendy Highlands district he shares with his wife, Aimee. Indeed, the structure’s peaked roof allows its otherwise modern geometric form to peacefully coexist with the older homes in the area.
According to architect Chad Mitchell, the narrow lot and zoning regulations also influenced the design. “The geometry of the house is a function of the site parameters, and we wanted to make the house live as large as possible,” says Mitchell, who crafted an intentionally open floor plan defined by living and dining areas on either side of a central kitchen. “The Engles wanted to have the whole upper floor as their master bedroom suite, so we put the other bedrooms in the basement level.”
Elevating the structure above the busy sidewalk creates a sense of privacy, both within the home and in the backyard. Natural grasses complement the exterior, which includes cedar, cement and particleboard siding, and galvanized metal. “Overall the house is contemporary, but it has some nice wood siding features that help it to blend into the local vernacular,” explains Mitchell.
To establish a more spacious feel on the main level, the architect added bay windows over the setbacks along the sidewalk side of the house. “They don’t actually extend over the sidewalk, so they fit within the boundaries of the property line,” says Mitchell, who went so far as to take measurements of the homeowners’ existing furnishings and drew them into the floor plan to better maximize the square footage.
To further enhance the restricted layout, rather than ceding valuable visual real estate to an enclosed staircase, the architect designed an open one made of raw steel, which leads to the master suite. For continuity, that same element repeats on the fireplace hearth and a V-shaped support that holds up an elevated section of the kitchen island designed for casual dining. The island’s manufactured stone countertop complements the high-end laminate cabinets selected by designer Caylin Engle, who just happens to be the homeowners’ daughter.
Though the Engles brought along some existing furnishings, it fell to their offspring to fill in the blanks. In the dining area, Engle kept a set of chairs covered in a polka-dot fabric—“The material is soft and little playful,” she says—and added a two-person host chair at the head of the table to better accommodate family dinners. “This house is a modern structure, but it’s not cold or stark, so it doesn’t feel like a museum,” she adds.
Knowing her clients so well also helped Engle select additional pieces she knew her parents would appreciate, such as the pair of leather occasional chairs in the living room that remind Gerry of the tuck-and-roll upholstery that vintage car buffs often install in their classic hotrods. “Cars are kind of my dad’s thing,” she explains. An oversize floor mirror and cocktail table made of salvaged wood are nods to the area’s mountain aesthetic.
Back outside, the outdoor seating area is bordered on all four sides by concrete. “It’s like an above-ground pool that we filled over with dirt,” says builder Brad Liber about the space that the homeowner likens to being in a tree house. “The outdoor fireplace allows the Engles to enjoy their patio even in cooler weather.”
As for the homeowners, they can’t say enough about the group effort that brought their urban retreat to fruition. “We all came together as a team, respected one another, listened to one another, and came up with a product that every single one of us is really pleased with,” says Aimee. Gerry agrees. “The beautiful thing about the design process is the collaboration,” he says. “That’s when the magic happens.”