Green Is… Conscientious

The challenge: Grant a homeowner’s wish for a small carbon footprint without skimping on square footage or style

Sally Sakin is the first to admit that she and her husband Craig had very different ideas about what their home in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley should look like.

“He wanted something more dark and rustic, but I wanted bright, open, airy spaces that frame the spectacular views of Mt. Sopris on one side and the stunning red rock vistas on the other,” she says.

There were, however, two key goals about which the transplanted New Yorkers were in total accord: their residence would be environmentally conscious and thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of Arden, their 17-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy.

“Because it’s a large house, the Sakins insisted on doing everything possible to offset their carbon footprint,” says architect Kyle Webb of Vail-based K.H. Webb Architects, who incorporated solar panels to heat the domestic hot water, a gray-water-reclamation system, and a rainwater-reclamation system that channels storm water from the roof to use for irrigating the landscape.

The couple’s resolve is apparent throughout their mountain-contemporary home. After agreeing that the palette would consist of rustic materials with clean lines, they selected reclaimed spruce siding, standing-dead timbers, zinc paneling, concrete and Colorado sandstone, all assembled under an ultra-durable zinc roof. To control the amount of heat lost and gained through the home’s floor-to-ceiling windows, Webb specified double-glazed, low-E windows that are treated with a special sun-modulating coating. “The walls are super-insulated with cellulose, and there’s extensive cross-ventilation for natural cooling,” he says. The design is so efficient, in fact, that the home’s supplemental air-conditioning system has never been used.

The same care was taken outdoors. Located on 35 acres, the five-acre building envelope that surrounds the house is sculpted to ensure privacy, and the planted landscape features drought-tolerant junipers, blue fescue and other grasses. “I knew I had to pick plants that would work with the wind, dry air and altitude,” says Sally, a serious gardener who tends to the plantings herself. The ranch abuts Bureau of Land Management open space, affording the family easy access to horseback riding trails. “Equine therapy is important for Arden, but we all love to ride,” she says. The family’s horses are stabled in barns powered by a photovoltaic array and designed to mimic the architecture of the main house.

Webb and the homeowners embraced issues of accessibility with equal intensity. “We wanted anyone with a disability to be able to access every part of the house, including the patio and gardens,” Webb says. To achieve this, all the main living areas are contained on one level and door jambs were painstakingly eliminated, making it easy for wheelchair and cane users to go from inside to out. “We had Arden test everything,” Webb adds.

New York-based interior designer Shari Michael also weighed sustainability and accessibility when choosing the home’s furnishings, which incorporate all-natural materials including silk, wool and cotton. Pieces had to be easy to move, and each rug had to have a tight bind so a wheelchair could roll over it with ease.

To marry Sally’s desire for clean lines with Craig’s rustic sensibility, Michael added nail heads—a Western touch—to the straight-lined chenille living room sofa and finished the walnut bed frame in the master bedroom with leather and nail heads for “a bit of cowboy style.” She also incorporated the homeowners’ collection of Native American pottery to offset the more “metropolitan” furnishings. 

When it came to color, the designer used a measured hand, adding touches of burgundy and blue in the great room—colors that recall the local red rocks and cerulean sky—and bolder pops of red and tangerine in the master bedroom. “If everything inside was neutral, it would match the arid landscape and there would be nothing to set off the natural beauty of the surroundings,” Michael says. “And this house is all about the views.”


Accessibility For All

Sally and Craig Sakin wanted a house that would meet the needs of their disabled daughter, but many of the design decisions they made have practical applications for anyone who requires the use of a cane, crutches, walker or wheelchair. According to Sally, who founded Access Vail Valley, an organization dedicated to making resort areas like Vail more accessible, creating easy transitions is critical. “Having smooth concrete and wood floors inside makes it easy for anyone to get around without fear of tripping,” she says. For outdoor living spaces, Sally recommends using anti-slip textured concrete, a good choice for keeping everyone, including small children, safe.

In the Sakins’ kitchen, a low countertop with a chair is positioned at the center of a typical work triangle. “It looks like a desk, but it’s a food-preparation area,” Sally explains. “The person working there has the refrigerator to the right, refrigerator drawers to the left, and it’s just a few steps to the oven and sink.” The sensible setup also works for people who like to cook but can’t be on their feet for long periods of time.


INTERIOR DESIGN Shari B. Michaels, Shari B. Michaels Interior Design, Bedford, NY, 914-234-6710, ARCHITECTURE K.H. Webb Architects P.C., Vail, CO, 970-477-2990, KITCHEN DESIGN Mikal Otten, Exquisite Kitchen Design, Denver, (303) 282-0383, CONSTRUCTION George Shaeffer Construction Company, Vail, CO, 970-845-5656, ARTWORK “Belili 2007” / Bronze Fountain by Julie Speidel and Theadore Waddell, Vashon Island, WA, 206-463-9275; “Horizon Horse #2” by Theodore Waddell, Valley Fine Arts, Aspen, CO,; “Yellowstone” by Charles Ringer, Charles Ringer Studio and Gallery, Joliet, MT, 406-962-3705,; pear painting in kitchen (no name) by Tom Seghi, Hollywood, FL, 305-962-5517, CUSTOM CHANDELIERS Lotus Chandeliers, custom design by homeowners, fabricated by Myers & Co., LIVING ROOM SOFA Custom Berkshire Sofa by David Sutherland,; upholstered in fabric by Coraggio Textiles, UPHOLSTERED ARMCHAIRS Dapha Berkley Chairs by Baker,, upholstered in fabric by Rodolph, LOUNGE CHAIRS Hourglass Lounge Chairs by Berman Rosetti,; upholstered in fabric by Bergamo, RUG Custom Tibetan rug by Odegard, COFFEE TABLE Morbana Table in Walnut and Nickel by Jiun Ho, SIDE TABLE JD2 Side Table by Wendell Castle Collection, DINING ROOM TABLE Custom Helios Table in Walnut with Slate by Berman Rosetti, SIDE CHAIRS Einstein Side Chair by Artistic Frame,; upholstered in fabric by Arc-Com Fabrics, END CHAIRS Puff Arm Chair and leather by Dakota Jackson, LIGHT FIXTURE Gear by McEwen Lighting, available through Dennis Miller, RUG Custom Tibetan rug by Michaelian & Kohlberg, DINING CONSOLE Custom design made of Afromosia wood by Dakota Jackson, KITCHEN BAR STOOL Bright Chair Company,; upholstered in Garrett Leather, BACKSPLASH Bamboo tiles from Globus Cork, COUNTERS Poured concrete with leaf inlays by Accents Con Agua, CABINET PULLS Fusion Natural Pewter with Zebra Cork by Spectra Décor, SINK FAUCET Parma Single Handle Deck Mount by Danze, STOVETOP HOOD Trapeze from Cheng Collection by Zephyr, POWDER ROOM VANITY Custom built with recycled java wood SINK Round amber and black vessel, FAUCET Water Bridge by Sonoma Forge, LIGHT FIXTURE 24-Karat Balu Pendant by Ingo Maurer, BEDROOM Custom bed frame, backboard upholstered in Barcelona by Innovations, BENCHES Maya Bench by Jae Omar Design,; upholstered in Bella Fleur fabric by Rodolph, THROW PILLOW Sacho and Rubelli by Bergamo,; pillow trims and nail heads by D'Kei,

Categories: Contemporary Homes