While traveling in Sweden, Wendy and David, the owners of this Old Town Steamboat Springs property became enamored of the Swedish style of farmhouse and intended it to inspire their new home. For them we had just one major question: “What typifies a Swedish farmhouse and how does it relate to the local Old Town vernacular?” Through our collaborative process, we understood their excitement and vision for the main components of this style: clean lines, a mixture of painted and natural materials (very light on the natural materials), as well as specific colors and finishes inherent to the history of farmhouse structures in Sweden.
To stay true to traditional Swedish Architecture we worked with a color palette developed hundreds of years ago that became an accepted standard. For our project we had to decide how those colors would translate into something that would also feel at home in Old Town Steamboat. We chose to incorporate the traditional Swedish red, yellow and blue and frame it with trim, all very historic and well utilized in their native country. Also important to traditional Swedish architecture, we employed simple but intentional exterior trim detailing to break up vertical massing and highlight traditional forms. This theme also repeats inside where casual painted plank wood wainscot creates intimate scale and mirrors the casual simplicity of the people themselves.
Because we were working within restrictive height limitations - 20 foot maximum height - dictated by the covenants of the neighborhood, as well as two front set-backs as the lot was on a corner, the site informed our ideas on how to create traditional home massing and roof forms in a very compressed building envelope. Our vision? Create an overall free-form flat roof configuration anchored with steep pitched traditional shaped volumes. The result is a small collection of buildings, like a village, where there are clean separate pieces that define primary building masses such as the front entry mass, the back exterior porch mass, the garage mass and the great room mass. Each area is celebrated in its own unique way using the same language. The free flowing spaces between them creates the organizing framework through which the whimsically colored blocks can be featured. Although the property exists within the framework of a tightly sited neighborhood, we found a number of opportunities for private view experiences to outside spaces relating to both the land and the long views of the ski mountain. On the upper level the main outside covered space protects from the intense summer sun while creating intimate seating for views of the valley below and ski mountain beyond. Downstairs where there are secondary bedrooms and secondary living spaces we found another great opportunity for outdoor enjoyment by turning the main outdoor space into a four season greenhouse. As Wendy is a proficient gardener, this provides the perfect full glass exposure for starter plants and nurturing crops like tomatoes, difficult to bring to harvest in our compressed growing season. Once established, she transplants them against the multi-colored Montana stone clad walls of the lower level. Further connecting the inside and outside spaces, a mountain stream flows next to a stone stairway from upper exterior spaces to the lower ones and ends in a refreshing pool outside the greenhouse patio.
The result is a home that evokes the whimsy and simple aesthetic sensibilities of the Swedish farmhouse style without needing to be a direct replica. For example, the front porch is pretty typical of what you would find in Sweden with an arched opening and barrel vaulted ceiling but its connection and featured role is decidedly unique. This same barrel vaulted detail was carried throughout the house as a theme and appears at the entryway, the great room, the rear outside covered space and the stair tower. In the great room there is a light cove that provides accent lighting for this vault, washing the ceiling with warm ambient lighting while providing softened and intimate volume for both dining and living.
The stairs of the home feature painted risers with natural wood treads and a hand done waxed finish by Wendy herself. She utilized this same technique on much of the cabinetry working hand rubbed wax into flat colorful paint typical of tones and colors found in Swedish interiors. Through the process of refining the floor plan and interior volumes, the stairs themselves became an interesting design element and not just a space to circulate. We had been looking for a place to create a sanctuary or getaway, which we originally thought would be over the entryway. The owners’ vision was more intimate, intending a smaller entry space with the stairs off of the main circulation path. As we shifted the stair element, Wendy suggested creating a space a half level above the stairs, still within our height restriction but allowing this away space for private reflection. This was brilliant utilizing a volume already part of the program but with multiple purposes! With great lighting and bookshelves, this area has become a favorite hangout spot. It also allowed for another get-away halfway between the main and lower levels where and extended landing provides space for a daybed.
Inspired by Wendy and David’s passion for the Swedish farmhouse style, together we created a fresh reinterpretation with simple and whimsical detailing and a comfortable cottage feel. While making reference to the simple gable forms of Steamboat’s past, the neighborhood has embraced it as a colorful addition to their tight-knit traditional neighborhood.