Grace and Ralph Strangis home
Sheraton Steamboat Golf Course neighborhood
When Grace and Ralph Strangis visit their Steamboat Springs home, they love to invite friends and neighbors for impromptu parties and take advantage of a surefire ice-breaker.
The Strangis' home is perched above Fish Creek, where the music of water crashing against boulders always sets a mood.
But the star of most alfresco dinner parties at the Strangis home is a large outdoor pizza oven. Ralph keeps a box of small tree limbs stocked adjacent to the stone oven.
The host and hostess dazzle guests with home-baked pizzas served under a large, green canvas umbrella at a softly faded wooden dining table large enough to comfortably seat 12.
Arriving at the Strangis home, guests pass through a low metal gate and proceed down a flagstone path to the patio. Native wildflower and bulb gardens bracket the path, which evokes a sense of walking through a forest. On Memorial Day, the delicate blossoms of several "bleeding heart" shrubs dangled from their stems.
The large patio at the rear of the home centers on a massive fir tree surrounded by a brick wall. It's ideal for sitting and conversing.
A small water feature flows just behind the dining table before plunging down a steep bank toward Fish Creek.
A little picnic table set across the stream in a woodland clearing makes a nice place to sit down and sketch wildflowers, listen to the songbirds or read a magazine.
Vince and Dotsy Gigliotti home
Fish Creek Falls neighborhood
When Vince and Dotsy Gigliotti set out to create more livable space in their wooded lot, they had one important requirement - they didn't want to create more work for themselves.
The Gigliottis, longtime residents of Steamboat Springs, actually live just outside the city limits on Fish Creek Falls Road.
They have the luxury of owning two lots shrouded in mature aspen groves and native shrubs. A seasonal stream flows 30 feet from their home in spring and early summer. In 2007, low-elevation snowmelt was complete by the end of May, and the little streambed already had run dry. A small timber bridge built by Vince evoked running water nonetheless.
With the help of Andy Benjamin of Mountain West Environments, the Gigliottis realized an outdoor living space was both compact and multifaceted. Multi-colored brick pavers in irregular patterns are the key.
Guests arriving in the driveway climb a small set of stairs onto a rectangular pathway that quickly leads to a small bump-out devoted to a pair of wooden chairs and a portable metal fireplace that gets used much of the year.
Dotsy proudly points to a hops vine already thriving and 8 feet tall.
The intent of the design was to gradually reveal new visual delights at every turn in the medium-sized patio. An unusually large native serviceberry bush overhangs the path framing the first view of a circular patio, where heavy patio furniture made of eucalyptus wood creates a natural grouping for conversation.
Mr. and Mrs. Nyle Maxwell home
There's nothing quite like watching a full moon rise over Storm Peak, and Mr. and Mrs. Nyle Maxwell have the perfect aerie in Dakota Ridge for enjoying moonrises, alpenglow and the lights at the base of Mount Werner blinking at the end of a summer evening.
But the views aren't the most dramatic feature of the outdoor living space at their Steamboat home.
The steep slope of their backyard, descending from a grove of gambel oak, is ideal for a waterfall that splashes over well-placed rocks. Those rocks, in turn, create several smaller falls before descending into a tiny pool and then a larger pool.
A modest stone patio affords a dining area with a view of the waterfall. And on a lower level, two chaise lounges are strategically placed to catch the morning sun.
Perhaps the best view from the yard can be obtained from a rugged picnic table perched on a promontory where the horizon line drops off several miles across the valley to the Heavenly Daze ski trail.
From this dramatic outdoor living space, a person with a good pair of field glasses could easily watch skiers tracking the morning snow on See Me and generate a personal powder report.