If it’s possible for the term teamwork to have an even more collaborative meaning than its usual definition, architect Michael Rubin and landscape architect David Kamp are rewriting the books. For this expansive retreat on 200 acres northwest of Steamboat Springs, the two New York-based design professionals worked together so closely on the architecture and landscape that the contours of the house and the lay of the land are one and the same.
“We placed the house along the edge of a plateau that steps down into a valley,” says Kamp. “And we stepped the great-room down exactly as the land steps so the house is intimately integrated with the site,” adds Rubin, who had previously worked with the homeowners in the Big Apple.
The team carefully calibrated every space to celebrate a particular view and set the scene for California-based designer Susan Carey to infuse the interiors with a neutral palette of furnishings; one sitting area has its windows tightly aimed at a single spruce tree for example, while another captures the wide-open wonders of Rocky Peak. Most interestingly, perhaps, is that the kitchen aligns with an abandoned campsite that Rubin and Kamp discovered when they hiked the property. “The clients wanted a place in nature where they could gather their family and enjoy the outdoors, so that campsite became a metaphor for the project,” says Rubin. “A campsite with great amenities,” chuckles Kamp.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” confirms owner Jim Mann, a place where our children and grandchildren could enjoy each other’s company along with the surrounding wilderness. Jim and his wife, Lorraine, sought the warm comfort of a log cabin, except minus the logs since their tastes lean toward contemporary design. “We didn’t want anything cold or clinical,” Lorraine adds.
Rubin’s response balances such criteria in a decidedly modern home featuring an organic flavor that seems to grow right out of the earth. With the help of Jamie Meunier and Olaf Coerper from his firm, he designed the home around a massive meridian wall of dry-stacked Colorado granite jutting out of the plateau. By pushing out of the ridge rather than running parallel, the architect could create a floor plan focused on many different views. The strategy, carried out by a team of local craftsmen and Dave Brotherton, who helmed the build, also let Kamp save many mature trees. Rubin embraced this wall with skylights and glass, allowing light to penetrate into the house and bathing the stone in sunshine. The natural light warms the meridian wall by day and, at night, the stone radiates the warmth into the adjacent spaces.
Strung along either side are the home’s dramatic major volumes. A soaring great-room clings to the east side. There, the dining area and kitchen are focused on a vista-capturing terrace. A few steps below, the saloon—a cozy seating spot and built-in bar—huddles around a cavernous fireplace. Down three more steps, the observatory aims at the up-valley views. Above all of this soars a sky-high roof paneled in kiln-dried cherry and supported by column trusses made from reclaimed highway bridge steel. Along the other side of the wall lie Jim’s library of 5,800 books, a billiard room and the seating area near that single spruce. “The house is a fusion of spaces, some intimate and some grand,” comments Kamp. “Sort of like a campsite with light filtering through the trees above,” says Rubin.
How do you furnish a campsite? “Keep it comfortable and welcoming,” says Carey, who met the owners through mutual friends. Carey used large-scale upholstered pieces in colors she harvested from the sur- rounding mountains and meadows. “Asian and African accessories provide an aged, sculptural quality that balances the contemporary lines of the architecture,” she says.
“With a layout aligned to views, materials bringing the outdoors in and a consciousness of helping the planet,” says Rubin, “this house is a celebration of Colorado itself.”