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Homeowner Christopher McKee kicks up his feet in an Eames lounger while Chapin cozies up with their oldest son on a sofa from Younger Furniture. Photo Courtesy of Raul Garcia

On the Bright Side

What do you get when you combine a tiny lot, creative architects, and a family's dreams for a modern home with a boho vibe? Design magic.

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Good design is, at its core, good problem-solving. And the problems that stacked up before architects E.J. Meade and Cary D’Alo Place of Arch 11 as they designed this house were notable: Boulder residents Christopher McKee and Violeta Chapin wanted a functional family home that captured the essence of indoor-outdoor living, and they wanted it built on a small (.17-acre), tree-dotted, sloping lot that retained water. They needed more living space than their previous home had offered, and McKee, a South Florida native, also wanted livable outdoor spaces like those he had grown up with on the coast. Plus, Boulder’s height restrictions meant that vertical building space was limited. “So we kept asking ourselves, ‘How do we do all that in a small footprint?’” D’Alo Place says.

The long kitchen island provides hidden storage for wine and other beverages while serving as gathering place for guests when the homeowners entertain. The Neolith countertop and cool-hued backsplash of back-painted glass add color and sleek texture to the neutral palette. Photo Courtesy of Raul Garcia

The answer: geometry. By taking advantage of the slope of the lot and setting the first floor below street level in the front, the architects created 2,300 square feet of living space on two levels without exceeding Boulder’s maximum height allowance of 30 feet—all while leaving space for two outdoor rooms. “If you think of the house as a two-story box, we carved out an enclosed space for an exterior deck facing the street,” D’Alo Place explains. “Then we created an outdoor living room that extends out from the back of the house.”

“We designed the screen on the front of the house to accomplish two things: to mitigate strong western sun exposure, and to function with the required deck handrail as a single, integrated design element,” D’Alo Place says. Photo Courtesy of Raul Garcia

Twelve-foot-wide sliding glass panels blur the boundary between the dining room and the adjacent outdoor courtyard and fire pit. “Even when the doors are shut, you get a sense of this huge, elongated space,” McKee says. The smart use of square footage makes it possible for the owners, who love to entertain, to host a sit-down dinner for 25 people by bringing in two additional 6-foot-long tables. “It doesn’t feel cramped or awkward at all,” McKee says. “It’s 70 degrees outside, and the doors are all open. It’s wonderful.”

The home’s materials and color palette honor the family’s desire for a minimalist-modern aesthetic. White walls are simple counterpoints to raw materials—a concrete slab floor, a ceiling of structural insulated panels (SIPs) that resembles exposed plywood, and a two-story raw steel bookshelf—that bring drama and texture to the bright, airy space. “We knew they had a colorful art collection and wanted fun furniture, so many of the fixtures are neutral to allow their belongings to pop,” D’Alo Place says.
Inspired by their new space—and by California artist James Turrell’s famed skyspace installations—McKee asked the Arch 11 team to design a new piece of “art” for their collection: an outdoor space in which the sky could be viewed through a frame. The result was the home’s unusual front porch. “At night, during meteor showers, the kids will be out here and we’ll all bundle up on the couch and watch the night sky through this frame,” McKee says. Design magic, delivered.

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