A Cohesive Home Built From a Pair of Old Cabins
For husband-and-wife architects Bruce and Jodie Wright, owners of the firm One Architects in Telluride, Colorado, work is never far from their minds—figuratively and literally. “What we do is an integral part of the fabric of our lives,” Jodie says. “Our days are filled with inspiration and discussion.”
So when the Wrights heard about a pair of old cabins for sale on two long, narrow adjoining lots in downtown Telluride, they were intrigued. The buildings—both built in the early 1900s—were outdated, but in a great location on Pacific Street. The couple soon purchased the buildings and began to tackle the process of converting them to office and studio space for One Architects.
Despite the fact that both cabins were riddled with antiquated systems and structural challenges (“We found a wall that was built with just one stud,” Bruce says) city planners required that the Wrights keep the historic elements and exterior dimensions intact. “We were able to change some doors and windows in less visible sections of the building, and we added some skylights that provided much-needed light,” Jodie says.
The Wrights worked in the cabin studios for five years. “During that time we really got to know the site, the light patterns and the inherent characteristics of the neighborhood,” Bruce recalls. He and Jodie also began discussing the idea of building an additional pair of houses—one to sell, and one that would be their home—behind the cabins, on the alley side of the property.
“It felt totally natural to consider having our office and home together,” Jodie says. “We think it’s important for those two elements of our life to be cohesive. If we wake up inspired, we want to get to it right away. At the same time, because this was the first house we had designed for ourselves, we wanted to put our money where our mouth was, so to speak, by incorporating elements in the design that we’d often encouraged our clients to consider.”
The Wrights returned to the town’s building department. This time city planners stipulated that the new homes couldn’t be visible behind the historic cabins from across the street—not an easy directive given the narrow circumference of the lot. The Wrights also wanted the new buildings to be LEED certified—a first at that time for a Western Slope property—which introduced additional design considerations that had to be planned and approved.
Despite the myriad challenges, the Wrights built two nearly identical houses behind the cabins. Because of the tight construction schedule, only the house they eventually sold received LEED certification. “We’re okay with that,” Bruce says. “Even though we didn’t get the official certification for both houses, we know that all of the sustainable elements are there.”
The 2,800-square-foot home the Wrights designed for themselves has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and an abundance of open living space. “We spent a lot of time designing the home to be proportional and in keeping with a scale that would fit with the existing buildings,” Bruce says. He describes the home’s sustainable FSC-approved Cambará wood exterior offset with dark brick as “a new interpretation of Victorian design.”
A central staircase grounds the home, rising four levels to skylights above that flood the stairwell with abundant light; the Wrights even installed floor windows on each level to capture additional light. “The narrow lot meant that we had limited opportunities to draw in natural light, so we had to develop creative solutions,” Bruce explains. The stairwell also creates a chimney effect to facilitate ventilation, drawing in fresh air when the skylights are open.
On the main level, the kitchen, living and dining spaces all share one large open area, with a wall of windows on the east side adjacent to an indoor/outdoor fireplace on the south wall that provides heat in cooler months. “Because of the open design, it’s a terrific space for entertaining,” Jodie says. Engineered lumber ceiling joists inset with industrial sheet steel were left exposed to show the true structure of the building.
The couple kept furnishings simple and flexible, much like the arrangement at the One Architects office. “Our work space is very open and studio-esque, and that same feeling is reflected in our home,” Bruce says.
“We can create boundaries if we need to,” Jodie adds, “and we can create very different looks depending on how things are arranged. We’re constantly changing it around, and it’s fun to experiment.”
This spontaneity reflects the couple’s lighthearted approach to life, whether at work or home. “It’s really important to us to have a good time,” Bruce says. “We both take fun very seriously.”
A wall of windows illuminates the open living area on the main floor. Eco-friendly industrial flooring throughout the house is made from recycled end-grain white oak—a byproduct of window manufacturing. The fireplace wall and ceiling panels are made from sheet steel that was waxed to preserve the natural mill scale finish.
"Requirement No. 1 was that we each had our own vanity," Bruce says of the master bathroom, which features a deep soaking tub. "The footed cabinets create a more open space than traditional floor-based cabinetry."
Telluride Woodworks crafted the custom kitchen cabinets from plywood fabricated with rift-sawn white oak; countertops are honed Uba Tuba granite.
The risers of the structural steel staircase are 3-inch planks of frosted cast acrylic that catch and reflect the light.
Bookshelves on wheels allow for flexibility in the One Architects office. "I think practically everything could potentially have wheels," Bruce quips. "We love being able to move things around."
Careful planning ensured that only the historic cabin would be visible from the street.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN Bruce and Jodie Wright, One Architects, Inc., Telluride, CO, 970-728-8877, onearchitects.com BUILDER Peter DeLuca, DeLuca Construction, Telluride, CO, 970-729-0251, delucatelluride.com STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Mike Thele, Mike Thele PE Structural Engineering, Carbondale, CO, 888-845-3911 LIGHTING DESIGN Dru Wallon, Enlighten Design, Telluride, CO, 970-728-0500, enlightencolorado.com DINING ROOM TABLE Design Within Reach, dwr.com BATHROOM BATHTUB Wetstyle, wetstyle.ca PLUMBING FIXTURES & FITTINGS Kohler, us.kohler.com/index.jsp KITCHEN APPLIANCES Grohe, grohe.com; Sub-Zero/Wolf, subzero-wolf.com