While dining at a storied Denver restaurant, a family’s attention was captured by more than the menu. The scene was Linger, an eatery housed in a century-old building that used to be the Olinger Mortuaries (the current moniker was achieved by turning off the “O” in the neon sign that’s long stood above the building). The couple was entranced by the way the remodeled building captured the view and the eclectic decor. “It was different,” says the husband. “And we wanted something different for the home we wanted to build.” The husband asked their server if he could get the name of the architect, and the next morning he called Boss Architecture. After talking to principal Chris Davis, he laid the idea of working with anyone else to rest.
In truth, the couple was thinking more about the land than the house when they purchased a large Wash Park lot with a multi-family building on it. “We wanted a backyard where we could throw a baseball with our kids,” remembers the husband. But soon, the architecture enthusiast looked beyond games to something more. “I grew up in Chicago, and that gave me a taste for good architecture,” he says.
The most important directive became creating a home that was modern but also fit in with the historical homes in the area. Noting that their work is all about context, Davis says they were up for the challenge. “We paid a lot of attention to materiality to make it happen,” he says. “For example, the mortar lines are thinner, and the rafters are exposed—just like some of the classic bungalows you see in the neighborhood. We took these features, which were popular 70 years ago, and used them in a modern way.”
Architect Kevin Stephenson, co-founder of the firm, says that stripping such classic elements to their essence often provides a fresh take. “There’s the perception that bigger and shinier is better,” he says. “But we find that if you minimize the materiality and the composition of a home, less can be more—and that’s what we did here.”
Inside, a striking staircase connects the home’s three levels: The lower level is a dedicated children’s play zone; the middle level houses a kitchen, family room and living room; and the upper levels are bedrooms. The floating staircase is marked by its open nature, with a handsome wood screen separating it from the kitchen area. “The couple was clear about wanting to be connected with their children, who are still young, while they played downstairs,” says Stephenson. “In our projects, we strive to make things that are functional yet beautiful, and that’s the case with this staircase. It’s celebrated here as a piece of sculpture and walking up and down it is a kinetic experience.”
Artistic touches also reign in the kitchen, where a striking black-and-white marble backsplash was chosen because it reminds the husband (a doctor and an artist) of the work of one of his favorite painters, Franz Kline. “We had imagined this as being a solid Carrara marble piece, but when we saw this stone, we spotted a new opportunity,” says Stephenson. “By cutting it and matching it, it became a dramatic feature.” Designer Jessica Dornan, who worked with the couple on all of the spaces save for the living room, says the burnished- brass accents make the stone sing. “The color of the range hood, the faucet and the counter stools underline this feature as a focal point,” she says.
In the living room, furnished with the help of designer Jayna Barber, the focal point—a large, wall-spanning fireplace composed of Summit Brick in Winter Sky—is more than a pretty feature. “It not only adds a nice materiality to the room, but also privacy by screening a view of a nearby neighbor,” says Davis. “We added metal panels to the long firebox to visually extend it and make it fit with the scale of the surround.”
As the homeowners envisioned, the backyard— designed by landscape architect Ariel Gelman—has been the scene of many baseball games. “Given how many windows we have, it’s amazing we haven’t broken one,” the husband jokes. Turning serious, he notes, “The value of good design isn’t something I fully appreciated until now. It has made our life at home better and more comfortable.” Consider it a home run.