Where the plains meet the foothills of Boulder, Colorado, architect E.J. Meade designs a modern dwelling in concert with its surroundings
After interviewing several architects to help them design a new home, a couple from Boulder, Colorado, invited several members from one of the front-running firms to visit the site. As the group settled for a picnic on a patch of lawn facing the Flatirons, the homeowner remarked, “This happens to be my favorite spot on the whole property.”
“Then this is where we should not build the house,” replied architect E.J. Meade, principal of Boulder-based Arch11, Inc. Of this unexpected response, Meade explains, “I believe we should all have the restraint to preserve the best places.”
The architect’s design philosophy resonated with his prospective clients. “We felt like we really communicated,” the homeowner says. “From that point on, Arch11 worked collaboratively with us and always treated us like part of the team.”
Despite its great views and location, the lot presented numerous challenges: an irregular, triangular shape, strict height restrictions from the city of Boulder, several easements, and a wetlands buffer zone and solar shadow restrictions that had to be respected. So Meade and his team created a computer model of the available envelope, taking the physical and regulatory limitations of the site into account. With the space mapped out, they began honing the design of the house.
“The homeowners love the outdoors, and they wanted a gateway between their town life and the mountains,” Meade says. “Initially, we talked more about the rituals of their life than about specific building features, because I wanted their house to foster the way they live day to day.”
After an old, unsalvageable A-frame that sat on the site was dismantled, Boulder builder Hammerwell, Inc. began constructing the new home. “The process was technically complex,” Meade says. “The structure is a series of steel frames designed to withstand 160-mph winds. Unlike wood, you can’t shave steel down by a quarter inch if a measurement is off, so everything had to be precisely shop-fabricated and erected on the site.” The site’s proximity to the mountains added an additional challenge when the excavation crew encountered boulders “the size of a pickup truck,” according to Meade. “The project required extraordinary attention to sequencing.”
The finished 4,500-square-foot home is grounded by a spacious two-story living area with abundant windows that connect the home to its natural setting. “We wanted to weave the inside with the outside by placing windows facing the views in as many areas as possible,” Meade says. “The high-performing roof allowed us to bring the glass right up to the ceiling.”
The clean-lined kitchen—which has since won several major design awards—was configured so that the homeowners can always see the mountain ridgeline. A receding glass wall allows the room to open to—and the countertop to serve as an outdoor bar for—the adjacent open patio. “I love this corner of the house, where there’s so little distinction between inside and outside,” the homeowner says. “We have so many fine days here in Colorado, and we leave the windows and doors open every day we possibly can.”
Leading up to the bedrooms, a sculptural steel-and-glass staircase features sustainable jarrah wood treads harkening to the husband’s Australian roots, while the Texas limestone wall is a nod to the wife’s passion for rock climbing. Retractable glass walls in the master bedroom embrace the sweeping landscape.
A green roof planted with native grasses and wildflowers tops the garage, visually connecting it with the mountain meadow behind the house. And near the patio, the original grassy plain that the homeowner loved has been left untouched. “This house is so perfectly sited, we don’t even see the neighboring homes when we’re in the living spaces,” she says. “It’s amazing to live life every day with this connection to nature.”
GREEN BY DESIGN
Although Meade applied for LEED certification almost as an afterthought, the building earned the coveted Gold status. Here, he highlights the home’s cutting-edge features:
SEAL IT UP “Sustainability starts with the envelope,” says Meade, who specified renewable-based Icynene spray-foam insulation throughout the home. “It lends structural capability to walls, prevents condensation, eliminates mold and deadens sound.” The thin, high-performing roof is composed of structural insulated panels.
SEE THE LIGHT “We utilized some of the highest-performing glass coatings on the market,” Meade says of the large expanses of windows throughout the home. West-facing windows were glazed to prevent the home from overheating in summer, while south-facing windows were glazed to allow solar heat gain during winter.
DIG DEEP A ground-loop heat-exchange system with seven 300-foot wells taps into the constant temperature of the earth for heating, cooling and hot water. A solar photovoltaic roof system drives the pump and generates electricity.
BREATHE IN Because this is such an airtight house, an energy recovery ventilator with multiple zones exchanges indoor air with fresh outdoor air.
GET SMART A smart house-control system ties everything together, allowing the homeowners to program and manage the home’s systems via computer—even remotely, if necessary.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN E.J. Meade, AIA, Arch11, Boulder, CO, 303-546-6868, arch11.com CONTRACTOR Rich Sands, Hammerwell, Inc., Boulder, CO, 303-443-3930, hammerwell.com CUSTOM CABINETRY Michael Brotherton Woodwork, Boulder, CO, 303-443-1384 STONE FLOORING Marblelife, Denver, CO, 303-629-0363, marblelife.com WOODWORK ICS, Boulder, CO 303-442-4166, icsboulder.com WINDOWS & DOORS Hope’s Windows & Doors, Jamestown, NY, 716-665-5124, hopeswindows.com ARTWORK Resting stones(living room) and totem (in yard), Jerry Wingren, Wingren Studios, Boulder, CO, 303-545-5233, wingrensculpture.com; “Blue Duo” (in dining room) by Quim Bove, Walker Fine Art, Denver, CO, 303-355-8955, walkerfineart.com; “Trestle” Trestle (photograph above fireplace) by Paul Gallasch, Citizens Studio, Denver, CO (1993) FURNISHINGS SOFA Hamilton Sofa by Minotti, Los Angeles, CA, 310-278-6851, minotti.com LC3 CHAIRS by Cassina, Los Angeles, CA 310-278-3292, cassina.com IVORY RUG by Antrium, Idol Splendor, Go Green Flooring, Boulder, CO, 303-440-4429, gogreenflooring.com WOMB CHAIR & OTTOMAN by Knoll, knoll.com OUTDOOR DINING SET Mistral Dining Table & Chairs, JANUS et Cie, Denver, CO, 303-618-0810, janusetcie.com OUTDOOR SOFA Slimline Couch & Ottoman by Dedon, JANUS et Cie, Denver, CO, 303-618-0810, janusetcie.com BLUESTONE FLOORING by Meshoppen Stone Inc., Meshoppen, PA, 570-833-2767 REFRIGERATION Sub-Zero, Mountain High Appliance, Louisville, CO, 303-665-6850, mountainhighappliance.com RANGE Wolf, Mountain High Appliance, Louisville, CO, 303-665-6850, mountainhighappliance.com DISHWASHERS, SPEED OVEN & COFFEEMAKER Miele, Mountain High Appliance, Louisville, CO, 303-665-6850, mountainhighappliance.com COUNTERTOPS Pietra De Cardosa by Percoco Marble, Denver,303-733-3013, percocomarble.com; Calacatta Extra Countertop by Percoco Marble, Stone Source, New York City, stonesource.com; Soapstone Countertop by Percoco, Dorado Soapstone, Denver, 303-429-1387, doradosoapstone.com GLASS WALL TILE Walker Zanger Roku Rain, Hutter+EuroBath, Denver, 303-298-8453, huttereurobath.com CARRARA WALL TILE Alfredo Salvatori Bamboo Collection by Carrara Bianco, Capco Tile & Stone, Boulder, 303-545-5295, capcotile.com CARRARA FLOOR TILE Arizona Tile, Brekhus Tile & Stone, Denver, 303-494-9255, brekhustile.com BATHTUB Agape Deep, Ambiente Design Center, Boulder, 303-444-7088 FAUCETRY Dornbracht Mem & Tara Classic, McGuckin Design Center, Boulder, 303-449-3779, mcguckin.com TOILETS Duravit Stark 2 & Toto Aquia, McGuckin Design Center, Boulder, 303-449-3779, mcguckin.com