An Arcadian Riverside Retreat in Roaring Fork Valley
In celebration of the natural splendor of the land
Sometimes context is everything—especially when building on the banks of Colorado’s beautiful Roaring Fork River. The homeowners of this waterfront residence knew that whatever they created needed to celebrate the natural splendor of the land. Artfully nestled into its surroundings, this unique home is a tribute to indoor-outdoor living.
Two elements helped the homeowners materialize their vision: patience and collaboration. Before the couple did anything at all, they did nothing. “My wife and I spent two years visiting the property and looking at it through different seasons, at different times of the day; we’d go down there and embrace ourselves with the land,” the husband recalls.
Because he’s interested in architecture, the husband knew exactly who to connect with to ensure their new home would complement its peaceful location. He partnered with architect Cristof Eigelberger and landscape architect Mike Albert. “There was a huge amount of collaboration,” Albert says. “The homeowner was particularly drawn to both the work of Cristof and then our landscapes because of our very traditional agricultural warmth, so he allowed the project to be a big creative outlet.”
From its inception, the Roaring Fork house was envisioned as a series of horizontal expanses that wouldn’t overpower its bucolic setting. “It was very intentional to create the house as a series of pavilions that are linked together,” the husband says. “The idea is to break the house down in scale and mass; it’s a one-story house in order to not be overbearing.” This explains why the homeowners were drawn to Eigelberger, who shares, “Glass connectors are an integral part of our architecture. It lets the buildings breathe between the forms.”
The entrance encapsulates the spirit of the house. “When you approach the front door, it’s broken up in individual lights; the front door is somewhat defensive, but you get glimpses of the river,” the husband says. The big reveal is not the interior of the house—it’s the river itself. Landscape architect Albert described the sensory impact of the front door: “You can literally look through the house and see the water rushing across your view; it’s a powerful experience. The river is right at your eye level, rushing across this glass breezeway.”
Inside, the pavilions section public and private spaces. The homeowners enjoy a primary bedroom and bath, guests have their own pod, and a great room with kitchen, dining and living areas welcomes everyone (the fourth pavilion features a gym and media room). One thing is constant: the vistas. “Every room has a view or a corridor to look through the house, into the land and into the river,” remarks the husband. “The orientation of the pavilions was strategic in nature—you’re always engaging sightlines with the river.”
The entire house frames the outdoors. “The living room space is really beautiful with the views up and down the river,” says Eigelberger. Even the bath offers uninterrupted views. “The bathroom is spectacular,” he notes. “You come into an expansive vista over the courtyard with a beeline view of Mt. Sopris and out the other window toward the river—definitely a place to have a relaxing soak in the tub.”
When asked about their favorite room, the homeowners couldn’t decide. “Every room is our favorite room because every room serves its own purpose,” the husband replies. “One of our favorite things is just to watch the wildlife outside the house. Right now, there are seven goslings being raised by a pair of Canada geese. Every morning when we wake up, there they are: they’re growing, they’re nesting, they’re learning to swim and learning to fly—all right in front of us.”
Landscape architect Mike Albert of Design Workshop had one goal when designing the grounds for this riverfront home: “That you can’t tell where our work began and where Mother Nature had her hand.”
The lot came with 500 feet of riverfront, a big grassy field and three cottonwood trees. The rest of the landscaping was created using native trees and plants. “The idea was to utilize natural grasses that complement the existing site conditions,” the homeowner explains. Albert studied the vegetation to create a beautiful meadow: “We identified the grass species already present,” he says. “That helped us develop a seed mix that was put down across the site.” The mix included wheatgrasses, needle grasses and Idaho fescue.
Albert’s team planted more than 220 trees, including aspen, blue spruce and some strategically placed maples. “Aspen are powerful in numbers,” said he says. He planted them in a grid close to the house and in a more organic arrangement further out. “The maple trees were my idea,” says the husband. “I wanted to emphasize the arrival to the front door.” The trees’ intense red color and larger canopy add a sense of drama.
By using native vegetation, the landscaping keeps the ecosystem healthy. Once the trees mature, they will provide more habitat for birds and animals and added privacy for the homeowners—with the result being that everyone benefits. “The ability to balance the architecture and the landscape so they complement each other is what makes a project successful,” observes the husband.