Glass Act

For a Midwestern architect’s initiation into the world of mountain home design, the first time proves to be a charm

The early blueprints for a contemporary mountain retreat in Avon, Colorado, lingered in architect Fred Wilson’s desk drawer for a few years, waiting for the economy to bounce back. Luckily for the family who had commissioned the home—brownstone-dwelling New Yorkers with a couple of spunky millennials under their roof—the mountains weren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. When it came time for Wilson to dust off the plans in the fall of 2009, those mountain peaks took precedence in the finished design, even more so than they had before—a gesture of gratitude, if you will, for their unwavering strength during a decidedly unsteady time.

Such an homage would require vast amounts of glass to wrap the eastern face of the home; enough to emphasize the majestic summits rather than merely frame them. For someone who had never attempted mountain architecture in his life, Wilson’s instincts to diverge from the traditional log-cabin designs seen around these parts were brazen—and spot on.

“This home is really about materiality,” says Wilson, whose firm, Morgante-Wilson Architects, is based in Evanston, Illinois, where sprawling plains are the defining topographical feature. “It’s not heavy-handed; it’s all very pure and simple.” Compared to the homeowners’ brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, where Wilson worked to preserve and enhance as much of the historical detail as possible, the family’s Colorado getaway is, as the architect proudly says, “devoid of embellishment.

”That’s not to say the home is without roots of any kind. Its strong views are emphasized by a simple palette of materials, chosen for their time-honored presence in the region and proven fortitude against the harsh winter elements: beige stucco, cedar (in small amounts, for window- and door-trim purposes only) and Colorado moss rock, deftly arranged by Vail-based Avignon Stone.

Inside, rustic materials ground the modern architecture in the natural environment. Floors of quarter-sawn oak and walls of moss rock add warmth and texture, respectively. New York City interior designer Eric Cohler embraced this dedication to nature, choosing a neutral color palette accented with touches of blue (a cornflower hue for the sofas in the great room; a paler shade on the linen-velvet headboard in the master suite) to reference the sky. Rough-hewn tables, beefy leather club chairs and sculptural bronze pendant lights resembling planetary orbits all keep the décor, well, down to earth.

In some respects, the same could be said for the way the architecture is situated on the site. “We actually slid the house down the hill,” Wilson explains. The back of the house drops eight feet below street level, allowing for a semi-subterranean basement story that opens directly onto a vast open space, a backyard as far as the eye can see. 

The beauty of the architecture is the tension it strikes between the magnificence of its surroundings and its purpose as a cozy family home. “The spaces are very human in scale,” Wilson says. While the rooms have standard ceiling heights—a comfortable nine feet—their perceived grandness comes in part from the full-height windows and the views that accompany them. In the foyer, however, illusion is hardly part of the equation. From the home’s humble street façade, the owners enter a space where the ceilings soar 18 feet to showcase the mountains in their full glory. “Just imagine coming from New York City to this,” Wilson says. “Colorado might as well be on the opposite side of the world. The architecture doesn’t hinder the experience, it only makes it better.”

illusion is hardly part of the equation. From the home’s humble street façade, the owners enter a space where the ceilings soar 18 feet to showcase the mountains in their full glory. “Just imagine coming from New York City to this,” Wilson says. “Colorado might as well be on the opposite side of the world. The architecture doesn’t hinder the experience, it only makes it better.”  ! 

SUN SMART 
Solar panels are a great option for energy savings, especially in places like Colorado, where the sun shines an average of six hours a day, 300 days a year. Jason Perez, CEO of Colorado-based Conundrum Technologies—the company that installed 18 modules on the roof of this home—gives a few pointers for harnessing the sun’s power. 

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE
If you’ve got south-facing roof space, your house can benefit from solar panels. A 38-degree roof pitch is ideal for catching rays year round. “Panels also add extra life to the roof by protecting it from the sun and elements,” Perez says. 

SAVING FOR A RAINY DAY  
You can bank the energy you produce through a system called “net metering”—a plus for vacation homes that aren’t always occupied. Not ready to take the plunge? Perez suggests installing a conduit just in case. “As technologies advance, having a conduit to pull any type of cable is beneficial.” 

SOLAR STYLE  
Concerned about ruining your home’s good looks? Consider thin-film solar cells, which come in the form of laminate or shingles to minimize the architectural impact, but take heed: Thin-film is expensive and not nearly as effective as standard silicon solar cells (seen on this home).

 

ARCHITECT Morgante-Wilson Architects, Ltd., 847-332-2399, morgantewilson.coGENERAL CONTRACTOR Labine Builders, Inc., Todd Labine, 970-977-6609 INTERIOR DESIGN Eric Cohler Design, 212-737-8600, ericcohler.com INTERIOR TRIM Sawhorse Construction, Scott Schroeder, 970-471-4772 MASONRY Avignon Stone and Outdoor Living, Christian Avignon, 970-331-3261, avignonstone.com TILE Lambert Tile & Stone, Inc., Dan Lambert, 970-328-4411, lambert-tile.com CABINETRY Genesis Innovations, Steve Taggart, 970-215-2932, genesis-innovations.com FOYER MEDUSA LARGE PENDANT Nuevo Living, 630-968-8731, nuevoliving.com KITCHEN PIERCE MINI PENDANT LIGHTS George Kovacs, Lightology, 312-944-1000, lightology.com EXTERIOR LUNA RECTANGULAR SCONCES, Hinkley Lighting, Lightology, 312-944-1000, lightology.com BATHROOM LINK SCONCES, Neidhardt, Lightology, 312-944-1000, lightology.com BEDROOM OLIVIA SWING ARM SCONCES, Kozo Lighting, 253-884-1718, kozolighting.com UPSTAIRS HALLWAY METAL BANDED PENDANT Visual Comfort, 713-686-5999, visualcomfort.com DINING AREA TROFARELLO PENDANT Uttermost, 800-678-5486, uttermost.com

  orbits all keep the décor, well, down to earth.     decidedly unsteady time.

Categories: Contemporary Homes, Featured Homes