Thursday, October 11, 2007
Some of the finest homes in the Yampa Valley are secluded from public view, so the evolution that is taking place here isn't always easy to discern. But more homes in Steamboat Springs and its surroundings are being designed with modern lines instead of the familiar timbered gables that evoke the lodges of the national parks system.
A prime example is the striking home at 3X Lucky Ranch, built on 80 acres in the South Valley. It was designed collaboratively by Katherine Kiefer of West Elevation Architects and Robyn Morgenstern Rosenblatt of Morningstar Architecture & Development. The general contractor was Steamboat's Joe Gillaspie of Gillaspie Construction.
The home is the subject of an eight-page feature in this month's issue of Architectural Digest, an honor that almost any architect would list as a defining career moment.
With its simple, unfettered geometric shapes, the structure was designed to actively engage its outdoor surroundings, Kiefer said.
"You get a flow from the inside to the outside," Kiefer said. "There are very large sliding doors on the south wall" that can be opened to extend the home to its outside living spaces.
"There are a diversity of outdoor spaces, so people have choices as to how they experience the outdoors depending upon the weather and season. The outdoor covered dining area on the east side is protected from the midday sun. The (rectangular) hot tub offers commanding views."
The home was two years in the planning and design stages and took another two years to construct.
"It's great to have clients who are willing to take the time to do it all right," Kiefer said. "We were thrilled to be selected to work with these folks, and we were thrilled to work with Robyn Morgenstern Rosenblatt. It was rewarding in many ways."
Kiefer has pledged to protect the privacy of the owners. But she quickly points out that Morgenstern Rosenblatt is their daughter and has a sister who also is an architect.
"They had seen our work, and they began talking to us about becoming the architect of record," Kiefer said.
Kiefer and her partner in West Elevation Architecture, Scott Myller, recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their firm. Kiefer has been an architect for 25 years.
Ultimately, Kiefer spent a period of weeks at the Midwest home of the owners, working through design goals for the home. She said a good portion of the rewards that came with completion of the project were derived from the level of trust the clients showed in bringing her into their lives and discussing their personal aspirations for 3X Lucky Ranch.
Kiefer said she also enjoyed the experience of being on the jobsite with the local craftspeople contracted to work on the home. She particularly emphasized the efforts of Gillaspie Construction supervisors Ed DeGroff and Monty Rhoades.
Gillaspie said he valued the opportunity to work on a home that was different from anything else his company had ever built.
"For me, it was really fun working with building products we've never used before," he said.
The satisfaction and a measure of frustration all come from the challenges the building presented, Gillaspie said. He credited his subcontractors with helping him overcome the challenges.
"In Steamboat, we generally have very high-quality subcontractors," he said.
"Sometimes the challenges come from the minimalism" of a home designed in a modern style, Gillaspie said. For example, the clients wanted sinks with all the plumbing hidden in the walls of the home.
The walls themselves, where they were paneled in dark walnut, called for none of the traditional "case and base trim at the junction between walls, ceilings and floors." That meant the paneling had to be finished to the level of fine cabinetry, Gillaspie said.
Kiefer and Myller have championed modern architecture as a way of reinterpreting the Western architectural vernacular since opening their shop a decade ago. And within the home at 3X Lucky Ranch, one can observe a Western ranch house tradition. Kiefer and Morgenstern Rosenblatt designed the equivalent of a modern day bunkhouse, with three custom bunk beds, each set into its own private alcove. The beds are matched with custom cabinetry and secluded by velvet curtains.
"This home had to function well for the family and for extended family," Kiefer said.