Harmonious homes

Steamboat takes notice of architect's outside-the-box home designs

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You don't need a lot of money to have a great house.

You don't need granite countertops, huge timbers or ample square footage. You don't even need typical construction elements generally thought of as necessary.

One Steamboat Springs architect proves it, and his outside-the-box designs have people noticing.

They are beyond energy-efficient. They use natural energies to promote well-being and harmony for their residents and visitors, no matter the clients' budget. They are almost completely self-sustainable and synergetic.

They are Steve Eggleston's designs, and his mission is to promote awareness and lead by example.

Sometimes he uses highly efficient straw bales for insulation or uses solar heat with directional window placement. He has designed homes that collect rainwater for bathing, which then waters a greenhouse, which produces and filters the air its residents breathe.

Sustainability and environmental consciousness are a big part of Eggleston's design criteria. With these, he incorporates the Chinese philosophy feng shui.

Feng shui is the art of placement that looks for the best possible positions for people in rooms, for rooms in houses and for houses in landscapes, says Johndennis Govert, author of "Feng Shui: Art of Harmony and Place."

"It is the art of bringing balance to your life," Eggleston said.

According to feng shui, a building and its decor are vessels that radiate an energy field, known as chi, the basic life force that connects all existence. People also radiate their own chi, and when a building and its decor have been built and arranged so that its chi can flow harmoniously with its inhabitants, feng shui has been applied.

Though feng shui draws from scientific fact, to Westerners, it may sound superstitious or supernatural or just plain "kooky," Eggleston said.

Norbert Turek, a real estate agent in Steamboat, was a skeptic.

"When Steve starts talking about that feng shui stuff, I just start laughing," Turek said. "I don't really care about it. I don't care how they get to the end product. If I like it, I like it. It's like what Duke Ellington said: 'If it sounds good, it is good.'"

Turek said that while looking for an architect to design his house, he noticed a very attractive one under construction, and learned the architect was Eggleston. The two began collaborating to bring Turek's ideas to life.

"You have to work with the client and understand their lifestyle, what they need and what they want," Eggleston said. "You can take (feng shui) as far as you want."

Turek thought Eggleston's eventual design was "cool."

Recently, however, Turek realized there was more to it.

A friend of his, engineer Jimmy Capra, couldn't make up his mind whether to leave or settle in Steamboat.

"My house is one of the reasons he stayed in Steamboat," Turek said. "So on a certain level, I guess this is feng shui working. I admit it. We actually see people stopping by our house all the time." Capra decided he wanted to build a home in the architectural style of Turek's, too. He knew nothing of feng shui.

"It just happens to fit in our vision of what we like," Capra said while standing in the under-construction living room of his Eggleston-designed house at Park Place in Old Town Steamboat.

Not all Westerners are ignorant to the concept of feng shui. Author Henry David Thoreau -- after years of living on his own with little or no communication or materials from the modern world -- wrote that to be happy, it is important to "dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows."

Though it is most commonly known as a Chinese custom, many cultures from around the world, including American Indians, have used their own interpretations of feng shui.

Feng shui translates in Chinese to "wind, water." This is why "flow" is used so much when describing feng shui and chi energy. The vibrations from wind and water continually are circulating around the world, and the art of feng shui attempts to harness those vibrations.

"We are about 80 percent water, so we pick up vibrations," Eggleston said. "Our activities have vibrations. Music has vibrations. All these affect our attitude, outlook and perception."

If a home transmits these energies, Eggleston says it is important to dream and have fun with designs. He often uses the word "fun" when describing his work.

"Fun comes up much more often for Steve," Turek said. "He wants everything to be fun and playful."

"Fun" was implemented in Capra's home with a rock-climbing wall and several unfinished peeled timbers, but the level of playfulness is no comparison to Eggleston's own home, off Twentymile Road.

Eggleston has multilevel floors on its two levels, and he can climb a ladder in his bedroom to a room with hanging rings for childlike exercise.

Visitors are greeted by a colorful tile mosaic of the cosmos and custom ironwork at the entrance. Other mosaics, sculptures and carefully placed rocks await as one walks in. A huge greenhouse is the focal point, and Eggleston is in the process of using a system similar to one he has used in other designs -- recycling rainwater for bathwater and then for plant water.

Water elements are favorable in feng shui, Govert wrote.

Eggleston built sofas and shelves into the walls, and they are strategically placed for optimal chi flow.

On the exterior he used plaster and wood over hay bale insulation.

A dowser came to Eggleston's home to find the perfect location on his land. A dowser uses two rods to find water underground. The rods naturally cross when they find water.

He positioned the house for optimal heating of the thermal mass of hay in the walls and so the sun would wake him in the morning.

Eggleston says a home should be a true haven for its residents. It should have the cleanest water, be open to air and sun and it should promote positive energy flow.

He says using natural, sustainable and healthy materials helps promote that.

"It is a direct relationship," Eggleston said. "Feng shui is the practice of healthy existence on every level, from mental to spiritual and physical. Physical problems could be attributed to unhealthy building materials, so it's all in the same vein."

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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