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With names like Protocol, Espresso, and Trousseau, Pamela Ray and Dale Cantwell’s alpacas—raised for their award-winning special fleece—seem to enjoy the carefree ranch life in Frederick —Photography by Kimberly Gavin

Where the Wild Things Are

The search for a place two humans and 55 alpacas could call home inspires a country-elegant farmhouse on the prairie.

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Plenty of homes are designed around gorgeous views, chic entertaining spaces, or even beloved art collections. But this Frederick farmhouse’s style has a far quirkier muse: 55 alpacas. Owners Pamela Ray and Dale Cantwell’s herd was the impetus for the couple’s move from Denver to an expanse of blustery praireland 30 miles north of the city. There, they built a home—and a life—around the work of raising the gentle camel cousins, whose luxurious fiber is used for making knitted and woven items. “I grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and always loved animals,” Pamela says. “Years later, I had a very busy law practice, which I enjoyed, but I always wanted to bring animals back into my life in a way I could build into a second career that was fun and relaxing.”

The path to that next chapter began 23 years ago, when Pamela went to an auction with a friend and left with an alpaca. From there, the couple’s love for the animals grew along with the size of their herd, and after 16 years of commuting from their Denver home to a Platteville farm to tend the wooly beasts, Pamela and Dale purchased farmland for their Xanadu Farm. In Frederick, they could nurture the animals and eventually build a homestead of their own. The pair selected the two-acre site on which to build the house­—analyzing sun angles and prevailing winds—and then began envisioning how they wanted the home to feel.

“I had this idea of a real ranch house,” Pamela says, “that would be simple with lots of stone and natural woods.” Their dreams of exposed beams, light-filled rooms, and rustic finishes took form with help from Lafayette contractor Brady Van Matre and Denver architectural designer Kristin Park, who “managed to transform our very vague ideas into something absolutely perfect for the way we live,” Pamela says. Although Western ranch houses tend to sprawl, Park employed an efficient H-shaped floor plan within 2,900 square feet. The public spaces are in the middle of the H, while one of the long sides is occupied by Pamela’s office (which has views of the pasture and barns), a mudroom, the laundry area, a sunroom, and the garage and the other comprises Dale’s office, a guest bedroom, and the master suite.

“The layout establishes a formal entry courtyard that is a mediator between the house and the wild,” Park says. “It’s a place to pause.” Inside, an elongated great room features vaulted whitewashed ceilings and a peaceful, prairie-inspired color palette. Hand-hewn reclaimed beams provide a rustic texture, and recycled hickory flooring adds to the modern ranch-house feel.

Flourishes from designer Laura Abramson of Camellia Interior Design lend the final layer of style and serenity. “It’s a place of coming home, just warm and easy,” she says. The evidence is everywhere: In the kitchen, a striped linen banquette feels classic and fresh, especially when paired with a custom table by local woodworker David Kremer. A pair of armchairs, upholstered in a floral-and-diamond pattern, make the sunroom a cozy spot to watch the grazing alpacas. And the master bedroom’s antique German rug finds its counterpoint in large-scale embroidered drapes. “The homeowners are practical,” Abramson says, “and this home is about what’s practical and also beautiful”—a perfect combo for alpacas and humans alike.

For information on purchasing raw alpaca fiber or alpaca breeding stock from Pamela and Dale’s farm, visit xanadualpacas.com.


Buyer’s Guide

Architectural Designer: Kristin Park Design, 720-232-5436, kristinparkdesign.com.

Interior Designer: Laura Abramson-Pritchard, Camellia Interior Design, 303-367-3079, camelliainteriordesign.com.

Contractor: Brady Van Matre, Van Matre Construction, 303-668-2222, bouldercontractors.com.

Landscape Design: Preston Whitfield, A Natural Bliss, 966 Pasque Drive, Longmont, 720-652-9251, anaturalbliss.com.

Kitchen: Hickory wood floors (throughout home), Reclaimed DesignWorks, 601 S. Broadway, 720-709-2323, reclaimeddesignworks.com; Architectonics handmade tile, Waterworks, 601 S. Broadway, 303-282-6800, waterworks.com; custom cabinets, Van Matre Construction; cabinet glazing, Sarah Ashford Studio, 303-807-8678, sarahashford.wordpress.com; custom kitchenette table, David Kremer, 720-421-7846, david-kremer.com; Romo banquette fabric, Town, Denver Design District, 601 S. Broadway, 303-282-8696, townstudio.com.

Living Room: Hancock & Moore sofa, loveseat, and Mood chair, all Hoff Miller, Denver Design District, 595 S. Broadway, 303-698-0800, hoffmiller.com; Stephen Gerould red lamp, Town; silk rug, Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries, 601 S. Broadway, 303-777-8010, mattcamron.com.

Master Bathroom: Rubelli window-covering fabric, John Brooks, 601 S. Broadway, 303-698-9977, johnbrooksinc.com; custom vanity, Van Matre Construction; towels and furnishings, the Brass Bed, 3113 E. Third Ave., 303-322-1712, brassbedfinelinens.com.

Master Bedroom: Bedding, the Brass Bed; curtain fabric, Kravet/Lee Jofa, Denver Design District, 595 S. Broadway, 303-773-1891, kravet.com; side tables, Scandinavian Antiques, 1760 S. Broadway, 303-722-2541, scanantiques.com; silk and wool rug, Matt Camron Rugs & Tapestries.

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