Ranch House Reinvigorated

A dramatic makeover transforms a dreary mid-20th-century Aspen home into a bright and open setting for relaxed, sustainable living

Speak of a home with a sustainable or "green" sensibility, and what likely comes to mind is new construction using state-of-the-art materials and techniques. Sometimes, however, the greenest strategy of all can be doing less instead of more.

That was certainly the case for the remodel of a vintage 1960s, 3,000-square-foot ranch-style house in an established neighborhood of Aspen, Colorado. When their client bought the property, "he could have ripped down the house and built a large new one," says architect Sarah Broughton, a partner (with her husband, architect John Rowland) in the Aspen- and Denver-based firm Rowland + Broughton Architecture and Urban Design. But the owner prized the home's parklike grounds punctuated by mature fir and aspen trees, so rather than disturbing the surroundings he decided to fit the  existing house to his lifestyle-one that includes a commitment to environmental responsibility.

That decision meant coming up with a plan for reinvigorating what Broughton describes as a "drab, uninspired, expected" dwelling while maintaining about 60 percent of its original walls and ceilings. "Remodeling in and of itself," observes Broughton, "is one of the most sustainable and green things you can do."   

A bit of new construction, which added 600 square feet to the original interior living space, specifically addressed the way the owner wanted to live in his home. Ceilings were raised 41/2 feet above their original 8-foot height, and sunlight was pulled in through new clerestory windows and skylights that make the interiors feel airy and expansive. The once-separate kitchen, living room and dining rooms became one expansive great room that extends into outdoor entertaining areas through a wall of sliding windows. The master suite expanded with a sitting area, walk-in closet and more spacious bath. A structurally reinforced rooftop deck complete with spa and entertainment center made the home better suited for relaxed, gracious entertaining.   

Dramatic though those changes may be, says Broughton, "we respected and kept the house's original lines." Indeed, the architectural changes, including a limestone wall that runs from the exterior entrance through the interiors and out the back of the home, serve to highlight the eloquent simplicity of the original ranch style.

Throughout the house, surfaces and finishes—selected in concert with interior designer John Bossard of Charlotte, North Carolina-based John Bossard Design—also enhance that contemporary reinterpretation of mid-century style. From beautifully grained floors and doors of sustainably farmed lyptus wood to indigenous marble from the nearby town of Marble, Colorado, to preweathered siding of durable Galvalume sheet steel, every material underscores the remodeled home's spare elegance.

A few select surfaces also reinforce the home's new emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. While the most prominent example is the dramatic wall of limestone-a material repeated on the kitchen backsplash-the connection is also made with the repeated use of striking black zinc on the chimney flue and the kitchen range hood.

"What we've achieved is a total reuse that makes the house function for modern living," sums up Broughton. "We respected and kept the home's original lines, but freshened up the period piece to make it timeless."


Remodeling Tips from the Experts

Too often, homeowners embark on a home-remodeling project without adequate planning. Before you begin your own remodel, consider these tips from architect Sarah Broughton and interior designer John Bossard:

Work with the pros "Hiring an architect and an interior designer will give you the guidance you need for a well-spent dollar," says Bossard. "You'll feel more confident and comfortable making decisions, and you'll avoid problems that could be expensive."

Know the local rules Broughton emphasizes the importance of checking with your municipality or homeowners' association on rules, codes and zoning regulations concerning such issues as setbacks, heights, square footage and style requirements. "Do the due diligence, or have your architect do it for you," she says.

Have a budget and a plan "Know what you want to spend and work with your architect and designer to arrive at a plan," Broughton says. "Don't do it piecemeal," adds Bossard. "Creating a road map to follow will give you a clear perspective on what your finished project is going to be."


Remodeling with a Green Agenda

Architect Sarah Broughton shares her best advice for remodeling a home with sustainability in mind:

Don't do a tear-down. Take a good look at the existing space and determine what parts can be saved and built upon.   

Save the landscaping. To maximize beauty, shelter, shade and cost savings, plan new construction around existing mature trees. "You pay a tremendous amount of money to chop down trees," Broughton says.   

Improve insulation efficiency. Install new double-pane windows for "a big leap in efficiency that immediately impacts energy costs," Broughton says. To boost the efficiency of this Aspen home, she also specified a super-insulated roof from which virtually no heat escapes, and replaced an existing furnace that was only 70 percent energy-efficient with a new boiler/radiant-heat system rated 92 percent efficient.   

Let the sunshine in. Maximize natural daylight illumination-in this case, new skylights, clerestory windows and sliding-glass doors let the light in-and you'll minimize the need for artificial lighting and, in turn, the money spent on energy bills.

Use durable, nonreflective roofing and siding. This Aspen home showcases metal siding and roofing material, an option that's highly durable and requires little maintenance. The metal's finish has low reflectivity, reducing heating and cooling costs, in the case of the roof, by as much as 40 percent.


ARCHITECTURE: Rowland + Broughton Architecture and Urban Design INTERIOR DESIGN: John Bossard Design 

Categories: Architects, Contemporary Homes