A Contemporary Castle With a Twist
Photography: Emily Minton Redfield
With plans to move back to Breckenridge and build a new home, a Denver couple toured the winner of the 2015 Summit County Parade of Homes—an annual showcase for local architects and builders—in search of ideas. The home absolutely bowled them over, and plans soon changed. “We just couldn’t get it out of our heads,” the homeowner says. “We asked ourselves, ‘Why build? This is everything we want in a home…and then some.’”
The location was ideal—just a few steps from the gondola between downtown Breckenridge and the ski area. Expansive views from every room, perfect-for-entertaining spaces and an abundant use of natural materials were also great selling points. But the circular staircase clinched the deal. It was “a piece of art . . . it just took our breath away,” say the homeowner.
The owner wanted all areas of the house to be completely functional—especially the large, loft-like room on the second floor that serves as living room, dining area and kitchen. Tall windows provide expansive views and significant passive solar gain during the day.
The steel-and-wood stairway, inspired by architect Suzanne Marie Allen’s stay in a 12th-century French castle, goes to a third-floor loft with a 360-degree view. Colorado granite walls provide a cool, neutral background for the homeowners’ art collection.
After a trip to southern France during which she stayed in a 12th-century castle, architect Suzanne Marie Allen, president of Breckenridge-based Allen-Guerra Architecture, was eager to design a castle-like home with a modern twist. She envisioned an interaction of curves and right angles, of smooth surfaces and rough edges, of thick, stone walls and expansive, view-framing windows. Douglas fir beams were antiqued to mimic reclaimed timbers. Colorado granite from Gallegos Corporation was used for the exterior and some interior walls. Steel angle braces and fireplace surrounds (waxed to create a matte finish) add an industrial feel. A winding stone staircase in the French castle inspired the spiral staircase that so captivated the homeowners. “I saw it as sculptural but functional,” Allen says of the 4,000-pound, 10-foot-tall stairs (fabricated in Switzerland using plate steel rolled in a 19th-century mill in England).
The kitchen was planned for both beauty and function. Rough-edge walnut cabinets are offset by smooth zinc countertops and a zinc breakfast bar. For maximum convenience, the home has four dishwashers—two in the kitchen, one in the butler’s pantry and a fourth in the bar in the basement.
The homeowners were pleased the architecture was such a departure from the typical ski-town mountain home. And the big open space—kitchen, family room and great room—on the top level is ideal for entertaining but also perfect for intimate dinners. “We had a party for 80 people here yesterday, and today it is just the three of us for dinner and it feels just right,” says the homeowner.
Natural materials and exposed structure reflect Breckenridge’s mining history. “We wanted the house to harken back to the olden days but with more of an industrial and urban-loft feel,” says project manager Tim Sabo.
When interior designer Andrea Schumacher (of Denver-based Andrea Schumacher Interiors) saw the home, she immediately wanted to bring the outside in, using nature’s muted palette—with the occasional pop of vivid blue, the color of the Colorado sky. “A lot of my work is very colorful, but for this home we went with softer colors, more rugged, family-friendly fabrics and finishes—except for the master bedroom, which is a smoky sky color, a little richer and more moody.”
A large sideboard—real wood, painted silver—adds visual drama to the great room. opposite: “The double-height entrance draws you out to the stunning views,” says interior designer Andrea Schumacher.
Some of the homeowners’ furniture was re-covered, repurposed and reused. Other furniture was bought or designed specifically for the new spaces. “I’m never about wiping the slate clean,” says Schumacher. “I would rather see the money go toward acquiring another level of interesting things.” She gestures toward a monumental wood-and-silver sideboard and a dramatic tree-stump dining table.
A rustic ten-top dining table also has an easy-to-maintain zinc top. The sculptural chandelier was architect-designed especially for this space.
The homeowners’ eclectic contemporary art collection offsets the cool tones of stone and steel found in fixed finishes designed by the Allen-Guerra team. They like to call themselves “spontaneous collectors,” buying what they like while traveling in New York, Palm Springs and locally.
The home’s many energy-saving features are hidden—sometimes in plain sight. The long axis of the house aligns with the sun to collect heat during the day. Other energy-saving elements are concealed within the walls and beneath the floors. “We created a thicker-than-usual ceiling and wall cavity to fit in more insulation,” says designer and project manager Tim Sabo (of Allen-Guerra Architecture), who also touts the HRV (heat-recovery ventilation) system for clean-air circulation. Heating tubes set in lightweight concrete with Belgian oak flooring glued over the top provide radiant in-floor heating.
The homeowners give kudos to the architectural and design team. “We wanted our mountain home to be a bit modern...a bit industrial...a bit dramatic, but still a comfortable family home,” they say. After all, one’s home is one’s castle.
Because there are so many windows, the master bedroom could take deeper, richer colors says interior designer Andrea Schumacher.
Schumacher envisioned the master bedroom as a relaxing retreat—cool in summer and warm in winter.
A free-standing Kohler tub in the master bath looks like “marble blocks that are stacked a little askew…and that adds to the appeal,” says architect Suzanne Marie Allen.
The floor-to-ceiling windows and large glass folding doors blur the line between inside and out. Pop-of-color poufs are Colorado-sky blue.
The outdoors has a natural appeal to humans—especially in the American West where we hike, picnic, ski, snowshoe, and take every opportunity to be in nature. Here, interior designer Andrea Schumacher offers some simple ways to bring the wonder of the outdoors inside.
- Use textures and materials found in nature. Try natural fibers like cotton, wool, chenille, cashmere, wicker, hemp and jute for curtains, upholstery, floor coverings and accessories.
- Incorporate a range of colors found in the home’s surrounding landscape: sky blues, grassy greens, and yellows to create the illusion of sunshine.
- Let the outside speak for itself. Position furniture toward the windows and the views. Replace heavy draperies with sheers or, if possible, completely avoid window coverings.
- Opt for major pieces of furniture in light fabrics and neutral or muted tones. For throw pillows, blankets and accessories, use accent colors found in nature to draw the eye to the outdoors.