Home of ‘South Park’ creators blends East and West
Design features Japanese teahouse, Western styles
November 10, 2009
Steamboat Springs — A tour of the local house owned by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone turns up not a single Emmy, Eric Cartman doll or half-drawn cartoon panel.
There are no messes. No signs of Hollywood, parties or all-night production crunches.
Instead, the timber-frame home on nearly 2 acres near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area is filled with a Zen-like calm and a love of nature. Those feelings are portrayed through elegant wood finishes in the five bedrooms and bathrooms, high ceilings supported by Douglas fir timbers reclaimed from a railroad trestle that once spanned the Great Salt Lake and simple furnishings such as broad couches and a bathtub surrounded by sand.
There are views of the ski area from the front porch; a curved, granite kitchen counter with a leathered finish in shades of evergreen; and a mid-19th-century Japanese tansu, or antique chest of drawers, that faces a 110-inch projection screen. A Western dining room with sweeping views across the south valley is balanced by an Eastern dining room with low chairs and windows that look onto an aspen grove. In the rear of the property, at the end of a winding stone walkway, is a Japanese tea house that appears as authentic as one found in a Tokyo garden, with sliding screens as walls and tatami mats on the floor.
Hard to believe the house is the property of people who made a fortune on fart jokes, puppet sex and social satire grounded in lowbrow humor.
"They're multifaceted people," home designer and builder Michael Rath said about Parker and Stone, noting Parker's talent as a pianist and the duo's work on an upcoming Broadway musical. "They can come here and get their dose of nature."
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But the house, Rath explained, is far more than a simple nature retreat. Rath is a managing partner of Trilogy Partners, a Breckenridge-based design and building firm that specializes in projects using sustainable building techniques. He also has built a home for Parker and Stone in Kauai, Hawaii. Rath said the Steamboat home features exterior siding and interior flooring of reclaimed wood, recycled carpeting, high-efficiency boiler systems, energy-efficient insulation and in-floor, radiant heating that can be shut off in unoccupied zones. The home's blend of rustic mountain and Japanese styles will be showcased in an upcoming edition of Architectural Digest, he said.
That blend was challenging at first, Rath noted.
"The more we got into it, the more we realized it would be the perfect marriage," Rath said.
Rath said the unusual blend was Parker and Stone's brainchild. The duo grew up in the Denver area, attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and hit the big time shortly after the "South Park" cartoon series began on Comedy Central in 1997. Parker and Stone have each won several Emmy Awards and expanded their creativity into numerous genres. They use the Steamboat home primarily as a place for family and friends, Rath said, to relax and entertain in a place they visited as children and that reconnects them with home.
"I think what this house means to Matt and Trey is Colorado roots," Rath said. "This house is an affirmation of their love for the state of Colorado."
It is also an affirmation of Parker's love for the art and culture of Japan, Rath said. The tea house, especially, is an homage to tranquility, simplicity and respect for the world outdoors.
Rath said Parker and Stone declined to participate in this story, citing privacy reasons.
Neshama Abraham is a partner in Abraham & Paiss Associates, a Boulder firm that provides marketing and public relations for companies working with an ethic of sustainability. Abraham acknowledged that sustainable construction practices can sometimes be cost-prohibitive but said the more people who make the effort — such as Parker and Stone — the greater and more accessible the market becomes.
"It takes time to turn a big ship," she said about bringing change to the construction industry.
Routt County is increasingly a hotbed of sustainable construction, as many homeowners and builders are going green by using solar panels, hay bale walls and more.
Rath noted Parker and Stone's willingness to take steps for sustainability.
"I think more and more today, people are willing to make a statement about the Earth and how they want to protect it," Rath said. "For high-end homes in this valley, this is entirely consistent with what they cost."
According to the Routt County Assessor's Office, the land was purchased in 2002 for about $1.4 million. The main residence, tea house and land improvements have raised the property's total value, for assessment purposes, to just less than $5 million.
Several local workers and firms had a hand in the construction, which was completed at the main residence in late 2007 and at the tea house about a year ago, Rath said.
Examples include Steamboat architect Laura Frey, who Rath said worked on the tea house; Steamboat's Storm Mountain Metal, which fabricated custom railings designed by Parker; and Steamboat Woodworks, which contributed a front door.
"I know that everybody knows that they have a house here," Rath said. "I want Steamboat to feel some pride in that (Parker and Stone) see this house as a place for friends and family. … They could have had this place anywhere."
Rath noted that Parker and Stone decided against "jetting into Aspen" or building in Vail, preferring instead to build the home in the relative solitude of Steamboat Springs.
"I think that's how they keep a perspective," Rath said. "And I think that's why this house is here."
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