Steamboat Springs The renaissance taking place in downtown Steamboat Springs has sparked a new design sensibility - one that resides somewhere between the banks of Butcherknife Creek and the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Four dramatic mixed residential/commercial projects currently approaching completion are offering the kind of urban loft-style living that Ski Town USA previously has lacked. Until now, exposed heating ducts were unheard of in Steamboat's luxury homes.
Developer Jim Cook can't resist a play on words. He calls it "dine-in, dine-out" living, a tongue-in-cheek jab at the relative desirability of ski-in/ski-out condominiums three miles away at the base of Mount Werner.
Cook and his associates at Greencourte Partners are the principals in two of the four projects: Howelsen Place and Alpenglow. A third, The Victoria, is being developed at Lincoln Avenue and 10th Street by a Steamboat Springs couple, Steve and Denise Peterson. Paul Franklin, whose last project was Elkins Meadows residential subdivision, is developing the fourth, the Olympian.
All four projects are transforming corner lots at key intersections in downtown Steamboat. The first three are redevelopment projects, which have replaced marginally functional buildings with handsome new brick edifices. The Olympian, the only one of the four not on Steamboat's main street, occupies a previously vacant lot at Yampa and Fifth streets kitty-corner from the Fifth Street Bridge over the Yampa River and the entrance to historic Howelsen Hill.
In all cases, the street level of the new buildings is devoted to commercial spaces and the upper floors are devoted to luxuriously appointed condominiums.
Franklin said his design team has strived to keep a Western feel while evoking the classic urban loft.
The Olympian will offer tenants and residents direct access to two of Steamboat's best-loved attributes: the river and the competitive skiing facilities at Howelsen.
Franklin said the condominiums, which range in price from $650,000 to $2 million, would bring that advantage into focus.
"We have high loft ceilings in the great rooms and tall windows - 9 feet tall and 12 feet tall on the fourth floor," Franklin said.
A single designer, Traci Clark of Finial Design, has the distinction of presiding over Alpenglow, Howelsen Place and The Victoria. She has succeeded in giving each property a unique look.
Alpenglow reflects the most contemporary influence, and The Victoria is the most traditional. However, The Victoria's interior design is far from the mountain lodge look that has become the common denominator in many ski resort projects.
Traditional with room to grow
"The Victoria could give some people the wrong impression by virtue of its name," Clark said.
"We don't want it to be Victorian in style," Clark said. "There's not a huge market for that. Gingerbread - it's not that at all. It's 19th-century Manhattan. The interiors have a look more of a brownstone in New York City - very classic."
Pam Duckworth, chairwoman of Steamboat's Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, praised the exterior architecture of The Victoria for complementing the historic structures that surround it.
"It's an important new building," Duckworth said. "It's close to the (historic) Pilot (newspaper) Building, the U.S. Forest Service building and the Lorenz Building."
The faithfulness of the new building's display to the historic architecture is reflected in the new interiors.
Pam Vanatta of Prudential Steamboat Realty has the listing on The Victoria. She said her colleagues are telling her the property reflects a timeless design reminiscent of the suites at the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan.
Developer Denise Peterson said her goal was to create elegant interiors that were traditional and flexible.
"My tastes are very traditional, but we tried to use details to define that look so that if someone came in with different tastes, the homes would accommodate a more contemporary look, as well."
The interiors at The Victoria have dark hardwood floors, cherry wainscoting, coffered ceilings and brushed gold and bronze accents.
The homes adhere to tradition with a formal dining room large enough to seat 10 or 12.
The fixtures in the spacious master bathroom are of classic white marble.
Clark and her staff were given a great deal of latitude by the Petersons, and no detail has been overlooked, right down to classic-cut glass doorknobs.
"It's a new look for Steamboat," she said.
Still, there's room for homeowners to say, "Our hearts belong to the Rocky Mountains."
A Remington bronze of a cowboy on horseback would look just right on the fireplace mantle at The Victoria.
Blending urban and Western
Alpenglow and Howelsen Place are filing different homestead claims from that of The Victoria.
Alpenglow, at Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Street where the Nite's Rest Motel formerly stood, is the most contemporary of the new downtown buildings.
You can see it in a short section of exposed ductwork in the master bedroom and the rail lighting that winds through the kitchen.
Clark calls the design aesthetic of Alpenglow, "Western transitional."
No design element encompasses that transition quite like the fireplaces at Alpenglow.
Clark sourced some dramatic 12-by-24-inch tiles for the face of the fireplace that create the illusion of industrial-gauge steel sheets with a heavy, almost corroded patina. In a metal tray surrounding the hearth, she has brought Steamboat's outdoor environment into the home. The tray is filled with loose river rocks.
It's a brilliant blend of urban and mountain style.
"Jim Cook wanted a more urban feel - something more lively, more youthful, more hip. But I knew I had to soften it. You wouldn't see the same thing in downtown Denver," she said. "We're achieving a balance."
The clear maple flooring and cabinetry make the rooms bright, and the mosaic kitchen backsplash of Oceanside Glasstile add color and a touch of whimsy to the main living space.
Clark cleverly brought the contemporary bathrooms with their revealed plumbing back to Western design space with chocolate brown stitched-leather accessories including toilet paper holders and towel bars by Turnstyle Designs.
"It's subtle, but I knew I wanted to bring leather in," she said.
The combination of contrasting stitching and steel rivets on the fixtures evoke the harness leather used by ranchers on teams of draft horses in the Yampa Valley.
A less subtle touch of rusticity can be found in the hand-scraped oak flooring.
When the model home at Howelsen Place opens to the public this summer, Clark promised, it will find its own niche, just a little more traditional than that of Howelsen Place.
Steamboat's historic downtown commercial district is changing outwardly this summer. And beneath the new facades, a platform for a new design aesthetic in mountain vacation homes is quietly asserting itself.