Most people living in the burgeoning city of Boulder, Colorado, would be surprised to learn about the existence of a 6-acre property located in the middle of a popular residential neighborhood. In addition to the unusually large size of the lot, architect Dale Hubbard says its residential-agricultural zoning status drew a lot of attention when it appeared on the real estate market. “Although developers were looking at it with an eye to adding multiple homes,” he explains, “when the eventual buyers–my clients–purchased the place, their goal was to make it a family home in a park-like setting.”
Considering that the original ranch-style house (owned by the previous family since 1956) was outdated and the site was overgrown and unhealthy, it was quickly decided the existing residence should be torn down to make way for a new structure. Almost anyone would be daunted, and the new owners were no exception. “At first, we were overwhelmed, but we realized this was an opportunity to do something special,” says the wife who, along with her husband, had long admired the work of Hubbard’s firm. “We wanted this to be a magnet for our five grown children and their current and future families, and we wanted to do something respectful of the history.”
Hubbard had a similar vision, drawing inspiration from the original structure to create a new home with the same approachable aspects of the midcentury ranchers, including a strong connection to the outdoors and an emphasis on casual gathering. The resulting house is grander, but as Hubbard says, “There’s not a lot of embellishment to the forms.” The just-right placement of the original dwelling wasn’t lost on the architect and his team, which included project architect Chad Willis and project designer Anna Slowey. “The siting of the old house was dead on, so the new great room is set almost identically to the 1950s living room,” says Hubbard.
The indoor-outdoor nature makes the home permeable (the living room features a 40-foot-wide sliding glass door), and the architect felt anchoring elements were needed. “The stone is a textural grounding design mechanism,” says Hubbard, who topped key areas–such as the great room–with powerful timber-and-steel roof forms that, despite their weight and mass, seem to hover gently above a ribbon of clerestory windows.
Such moves require a lot of engineering, as builder Tim Harrington, who oversaw some of the home’s most challenging details, will attest. He coordinated with Canadian-based Spearhead to manufacture and install those metal-and-wood truss systems. “They would make the entire structure, disassemble it and ship it to us and we would put it all back together,” he explains.
With the structure and architectural details in place, the homeowners turned to designer Jenn Mendelson to outfit the interiors, and she incorporated furniture that was dynamic, but not showy. “The homeowners are very down-to-earth and didn’t want a residence that felt like a showhouse,” she says referencing the soft curves and shapes of many of the pieces she selected, such as a cascading group of John Pomp blown-glass pendants in the entry. “When someone comes in the house, I want them to understand that organic forms are the key factor.” That idea is reinforced in the great room, where the fluid yin and yang of the serpentine sofas soften the linear nature of the space and quiet blue and purple shades blend seamlessly with the landscape.
This concept continues throughout, in places like the dining room where the subtle curve of the Gallatin chairs ties back to the sofas, and the master bedroom where the use of plush velvet, sheepskin and alpaca fabrics imbue the space with a sense of luxury. Of the latter space the designer adds, “Two hand-blown crystal pendants on either side of the bed became the earrings in the room.”
Since the land was what drew the couple to the project, landscape architect Luke Sanzone played a crucial role. Sanzone worked to preserve the enviable views of the Flatirons and some beautiful old trees while mitigating less desirable features. “There was noise from a busy street that we had to reduce and views to nearby houses and power lines that required effective screening,” he says. Sanzone installed a gabion-stone wall as a sound barrier and began an aggressive planting program that included 65 crabapple trees to disguise the less-than-perfect aspects.
Also critical to the overall site plan was assessing the role of water. “Boulder has a wonderful history of lots being irrigated by ditch and well water. We wanted to take that notion and amplify it,” says Hubbard who, in concert with Sanzone, reshaped and expanded an existing pond and introduced a stream bed that meanders through the lawn area. Today, these are the irrigation water sources for all of the plantings on the property.
For the homeowners, the house delivers on all levels. “The lighting in the entry is like having stars indoors, and the furniture softens the strong frame,” says the wife. “The Hawthorne trees provide a safe haven for small birds and, come spring, the blossoms from those crabapple trees come right inside. We just want to be here all the time.”