Rocky Mountain Oasis
We envision a space that welcomes simple, uncluttered living, inspired by accessible Japanese traditional design, with the stone walls and grand wooden doors of Spanish colonial houses on the exterior, and exposed beams and stone and wood (possibly bamboo) floors on the interior. Natural elements and organic textures are used throughout. The layout is open, in parts of the house the ceilings are high, windows and doors are tall, and the space welcomes in light, allowing for large plants and trees to be grown indoors. The line between interior and exterior space is easily blurred as much as is possible while still respecting the climate practicalities of Colorado, with large windows and doors, and stone or earthy tile floors that continue from inside to outside. The building emphasizes the ground floor (and there may only be one floor), and there is continuity between the ground floor and the patio so there is a feeling of groundedness in the home. We want the home to be informed and influenced by, and integrated with the natural surroundings of the building site. The home will be covered with stone from the land (gray & pinkish-brown Rocky Mountain sandstone, see picture here http://goo.gl/8YT34d to get a sense of it), and will use materials from the property where possible and aesthetically satisfying. Probably we will use cut stone around the corners of the building and doors and windows, and uncut stone between (see pictures here http://goo.gl/OPIBN3 as examples of what we mean, though not representative of the local stone. Here http://goo.gl/lRsV9r is an example of a stone wall we find hideous).
We would like enough neutrality in the feeling of the house that we can have multiple cultural styles present in the different rooms? interior decorating (Japanese, Mexican, Balinese, Ladakhi) without clashing overtly. We don't want it to look so Japanese that for example Mexican tiles would feel out of place.
We are looking for:
natural, simple, tasteful, relaxed, spacious, warm, neutral, peaceful, elegant, enduring, timeless, comfortable, calm. A sense of craft.
We are not looking for:
streamlined, sleek, shiny, ultra-modern, futuristic, hard edges.
The crown jewel of Sunshine Canyon. The historic Pastore Ranch, 40 acres of sloping, wildflower-filled meadows fed by cottonwood lined, seasonal gulleys, accessed by a long private road. Panoramic views of the distant peaks, largely unspoiled by other homes. (See pictures.)
The build site:
a relatively gently-sloping triangle framed on the back by the road, and on both sides by cottonwood-lined gulleys that enjoy seasonal water. We intend to dig a small pond where the two gulleys intersect. The build site slopes east by southeast, and the best views and solar exposure are directly southeast. The house will take best advantage of solar exposure and the views.
-- The area from which there are the best views is marked on the building site diagram:
-- See also the rough topographic sketch: http://goo.gl/Gu6x5Q
-- See link to location on Google Earth*: https://goo.gl/maps/pR1qT
Please also see the following pictures:
Building site pictures*: http://goo.gl/gMZYCo
Pictures of the lot other than the build site: http://goo.gl/rZbYGy
*Note that Google Earth topography is imperfect.
1) Fireproof ? stone exterior, fireproof insulation, slate (possibly combined with copper) roof, fireproof SIPs and/or metal framing, well-hidden fire shutters for windows and doors. We are building on the site of a home destroyed in the 2010 Four Mile Canyon fire.
2) Built to last hundreds of years (ideally forever) and require very little maintenance.
3) Very, very green?ideally able to satisfy both Living Building and LEED Platinum requirements, and therefore rely on passive solar heating and be able to integrate a 5kWh installation of solar panels in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Solar access is key. We warmly welcome all sustainability-oriented suggestions. We intend to incorporate gray water use for irrigation, an Aquatron biodigester, rain water collection, solar domestic water heating, radiant floor heating (solar), and other ideas you can offer.
4) Will take advantage of site view and solar gain by being oriented towards the southeast, and will work with site topography to be close to the ground. We don?t want a raised patio/deck. We want to be able to feel connected to the earth throughout the house. Note that direct southerly exposure is somewhat limited by topography?see Google Earth for reference.
5) The house will have good natural light throughout. Solar access is key.
6) The home will demonstrate best practices for convenience throughout.
7) The design will be cognizant of vastu and feng shui principles.
8) The home will be built such that it can be easily retrofitted to be ADA accessible (spaces for ramps and elevators where appropriate) without hurting the aesthetics.
Not including the garage structure, the home will be 3500 sqft +/- 400 sqft.
- Master bedroom, with master bathroom and medium-sized walk-in-closet. The master bathroom must be able to accommodate a large (and very heavy) stone bathtub.
- Three rooms for children.
- A yoga space for six that may double as home office
- Kitchen with large pantry
- Open living/dining area
- Laundry space
- Mudroom/coat closet area
- If possible, guest suite in basement
Budget: The construction budget is flexible within the design requirements. We would like to optimize around exceptional quality and good value.
Two phase process:
We need to build a space for basic living as quickly as possible as we want to move on to the property in early May. At present we envision building a garage with a basement guest suite that we will live in while the main structure is being built.
While we have had somewhat clear ideas for the shape of the home (see attached pictures of general shapes we have considered), we welcome ideas of how it can be done better. We welcome feedback or questions throughout your design process.
Our vision at present is a 4-car garage built in to the hillside, with access from the rear (northwest). The garage can hold two full size vehicles (including full-size pickup truck, and is high enough for a high van, at least in one spot) and two compact cars, as well as additional space for bikes, etc. Possibly the inside of the garage will be covered with stone (as well as the outside). On the rear side the garage is at ground level, probably taking advantage of the flat area of the previous house (see topographic sketch, blue rectangle marks garage with southeast orientation). The grade drops towards the front of the garage. The garage stands on a semi-buried basement. On the southeast corner roof, the garage has a square ?turret? for a home office, possibly accessed by spiral staircase. There is also a small adjoining outdoor space/balcony for the home office. The basement has good windows on three sides, and French doors that open into a small patio (possibly somewhat sunken, as allowed by the grade).
The basement guest suite will accommodate two bedrooms, a 3/4 bathroom, and a kitchen/living room that we will convert to a workshop once we are no longer living in it.
To the degree possible we prefer the garage to be visually unobtrusive either for us driving up to the home from the north, or for guests coming to the front door of the home from the guest parking area (marked on build site diagram). We intend to use nice wooden carriage doors for the garage.
We imagine a T-shaped or L-shaped main structure that connects to the garage at the base of the T or the top of the L. See our photographs here http://goo.gl/I1fRoU of possible layouts we have imagined?though we are very open to other ideas (note that only the garage is to scale in those pictures). The key is that the house receives a lot of natural light and embraces the adjacent landscape, possibly by forming courtyard areas to both the northeast and southwest. The northeast side has a seasonal gulley and beautiful cottonwoods and will be shady. The southwest side will be sunny, can hopefully integrate the rock outcropping we have marked on the map, and perhaps can provide a warmer microclimate for a few more sensitive trees. Based on the grade of the slope, the southwest space may need to be excavated somewhat in order to be flattened. The basement of the garage must still have good solar access. Also, we would like to be able to throw open windows and large doors to permit cross-ventilation of the home. It would be nice to be able to connect the exterior spaces of the northeast and southwest sides of the home by throwing open French or sliding (perhaps Japanese?) doors.
Assuming a passageway that connects the garage to the main structure, one arrangement we have imagined is this space is a mudroom. We have also considered making part of this entrance hallway a sunroom-type space in order to lengthen it. Another idea has been to build a bridge between the garage and a second floor on the main structure, allowing a breezeway underneath. The bridge could potentially house bedrooms (Note that if there were a second floor on the main structure it should be only on the north side of the main structure so as to not obscure the view from the turret office on the garage, and to still permit full solar access to the garage basement).
The garage will probably connect to the passageway or main structure by downward stairs and the garage basement by upward stairs, in order to work with the topography. It is likely that the main structure will be bi-level, with the front of the main structure being 3-4? lower in order to work with the topography and maintain the grounded feel.
This bi-level arrangement is a convenient opportunity to allow high ceilings and windows on the front portion of the main structure. (We imagine arched windows but are open to doing non-arched windows to further support the traditional Japanese aesthetic.) The optimal glazing-to-floor area ratio in Colorado is 15% for direct south-facing windows. Between the southeast orientation of the home, seasonally optimized overhangs, the high thermal mass of the construction materials we will be using, and home control system control of window blinds to modulate solar gain throughout the day, we hope to increase that ratio without significantly compromising efficiency.
We want fairly open concept living with a kitchen that is openly related with the dining area and living room. We want a large pantry. Other features: an appropriate space for yoga for up to six people, that can double as a home office. A fireplace in the main room. Ideally a masonry stove-type fireplace (also called Russian fireplace), with a back door that opens to the outside to shovel out ashes. The fireplace must use outside air for combustion.
We are open to the idea of having a second floor with bedrooms, and possibly another home office, if it is impractical to fit the entire home on a single floor. We want three bedrooms in addition to the master bedroom.
The main structure may have a partial basement. Given the grade of the land, the basement will probably open on the northeast side (towards the gulley on the north side), to allow a few windows and an outside door. The basement will have space for a mechanical room (though possibly housed in garage basement already), the laundry room, provide some storage space, provide room for an Aquatron biodigester, and also have space for a small guest suite with bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette. We?d enjoy somehow incorporating a root cellar. If there is a practical way to work in a safe room (fire, break-in, fallout) that would also be a plus.
There will be two chutes for laundry conveniently placed on the ground floor to the laundry room. In general, we like best practices for home design, especially those that enhance convenience. For example we would like European style showers with no edge to facilitate cleaning. Also, we are both around 6? tall, and would prefer that countertops are a few inches higher than the standard 36?. We would like built-in shelves in the walls where sensible and aesthetically pleasing.
Nearby the house to the northeast (marked on building site diagram) we intend to build an approximately 1000 sq. ft. passive solar greenhouse able to house tropical plants. The challenge of designing a truly beautiful passive solar greenhouse capable of housing tropical plants is a separate challenge (to our knowledge never successfully accomplished before) that we are posting on Arcbazar as well. We want visual consistency between the greenhouse and the house, though we believe a truly outstanding greenhouse design will integrate with the house design even if the aesthetic is different. We encourage architects on this project to submit proposals for the greenhouse as well.
Other things we love:
Stone accent walls
Round corner alcoves