This hilltop house in the Colorado mountains was designed to nestle into the landscape. The materials and color palette also complement the natural setting.
Story by Colleen Hawkes
Photography by Tim Maloney
The spectacular mountain location isn’t just a picturesque backdrop for this new Colorado house - it’s a defining element of the architecture, both inside and out.
Think mountain hideaway and you are most likely to conjure up an image of a rustic chalet with rough-hewn timbers, heavy stone and a dark, moody interior.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Steve and Mary Stingley, the owners of this new house in the Colorado mountain foothills chose to move right away from the predictable architectural response. Rather, they wanted just the opposite, says architect Sears Barrett. "Simplicity was essential. They wanted a very contemporary, clean-lined house that would be a backdrop for their art. Architectural detailing needed to be kept to a minimum."
To provide shelter from the sun, the great room is positioned beneath an extended roof overhang. The tomahawk shape of the roof ensures more shade is provided in the west.
"In a visual sense, the house needed to fit comfortably into the hill, not dominate it. To this end, the house comprises a set of simple forms – a large gable, barrel-roof tower, and distinctive chimney. These elements are quite readable and low in scale so they don't protrude on the landscape."
"Even though the main floor is virtually just one large room, the house appears as an accumulation of forms that step up the hillside," says Barrett.
The architecture was also influenced by the need for sun protection. The curved windows in the great room are shaded by the angled overhang of the rectangular-shaped roof. And on the western elevation, a deep sheer wall provides a sheltered, recessed entrance.
A large terrace wraps around the front of the house and incorporates an outdoor kitchen and dining area. There is also an outdoor fireplace – the chimney is local buff sandstone.
"The entry is designed to keep the view behind as you climb the stairs and move into the protected entrance," says Barrett. "The view is then opened up through the large windows in the great room."
The materials and color palette were chosen to blend in with the surroundings. Colorado buff sandstone features extensively, both inside and out, ensuring continuity and providing a direct visual link to the landscape.
Interior designer Mary Wilson says restricting the palette to the colors of the landforms and nature – through the different seasons – was a way to ensure the house looks as though it belongs in its environment. The warm neutral tones also enhance the clean-lined look.
"The interior needed to be unfussy. The owners didn't want the heavy patterns and materials that are typical in many mountain houses, and they certainly didn't want antler chandeliers.
"This palette is an ideal backdrop for their eclectic art collection – it allows them to personalize the space."
Wilson says the much of the furniture was customized to play off the architecture. For example, the curved sofas and sofa table were designed to reinforce the radius of the great room.
A bank of curved windows in the great room captures the extensive views. The rhythm of small panes along the top is repeated elsewhere in the house, providing views of the tree canopy and sky. The Colorado buff sandstone chimney incorporates a slatted wood screen that conceals audiovisual equipment.
A contemporary kitchen was specified, with materials also chosen to complement the setting. Wilson says the kitchen's clean lines and the warm tones of the ash cabinetry ensure it is not too sleek or ultra-modern for a home in the mountains.
The balustrades were also custom designed. Architecturally, the tower enclosing the stairwell is a distinctive design element – both on the exterior and interior – and Wilson says the owners wanted the staircase to make a statement.
"Their desire for a sculptural piece influenced the design of the balustrading, which was inspired by the bare patterns of the trees in winter."
Despite its size, the house was designed to provide intimate areas as well as larger spaces for entertaining. Consequently, there is a cozy den on the main level, and a seating area within the master suite on the top floor. Other bedrooms and recreation areas are positioned on the lower level.
The stairwell features custom-designed balustrading inspired by the shape of the trees in winter.
Sculptural elements define the entry, which has a stone and stainless steel water feature.
The contemporary kitchen has Silestone countertops and ash cabinets.
The semi-cantilevered ash cabinets in the master bathroom were designed to exaggerate the higher-than-standard height of the vanity tops.
Located near the great room on the main floor, the den provides an intimate space for reading or television viewing.
The powder room continues the warm neutral color scheme, with contrasting textures adding visual interest. The mirror wall features bamboo reed panels, simple millwork and Ann Sacks tiles. A clear cube handbasin is another conversation piece.