Architectural time capsules are nearly impossible to find. So when developers Lori Nothwang, founder of Last Stile Design, and her husband, sustainability consultant Josh Nothwang, first spotted this perfectly preserved 1968 ranch with views of Boulder’s iconic Flatirons, it called to them like a bullhorn. “We’re always on the lookout for homes that need love,” Lori says. “[This one] was meticulously cared for and it just brought me back to this really cool era.”
And then? They lost it. “We didn’t put in an offer right away and it went under contract immediately,” Lori says. But fate smiled upon them: The house needed new retaining walls, which sent the first bidders scurrying. Home purchased, the Nothwangs enlisted Chris Gray, co-founder of Boulder-based architecture firm Bldg Collective, to revamp it. The couple had two main goals, Gray recalls: “Breathe new life into the house and give it a better connection to the outdoor spaces and to the views of the Flatirons.”
To address both goals simultaneously, Gray and his team tweaked some of the rooflines, a move that, in the master bedroom, created space for sliding glass doors that lead out to the terrace, and vaulted ceilings that echo the living room’s existing 14-foot-high ceiling. In addition to ushering in more natural light, that architectural trick also made the master bedroom feel much larger, even though the room’s footprint didn’t expand an inch. On the south end of the home, Gray’s team added a new streamlined kitchen that faces the Flatirons, and designed the main living spaces around an existing double-sided brick fireplace, which warms the dining and living rooms. As an added bonus, they made the home “at least two or three times more efficient than it was,” Gray says, by air-sealing, reinsulating, and installing solar panels on the roof.
On the exterior, simplicity reigns—an aesthetic that will help preserve the throwback architecture for future generations. “There was existing brick on the house and we wanted to change the color, but ended up staining it—which allows the brick to behave a little bit more like brick, by breathing and allowing moisture through,” Gray says. In lieu of a wood entry door, the team selected a custom, oil-finished steel version made locally by steel fabricator JP Boylan. “Steel has a unique character with a lot more visual depth than just a painted wood door,” Gray explains.
When it came time to select the interior color palette and finishes, a refined look was essential for Lori, who chose black, white, and creamy neutrals—along with blond glulam ceiling beams in Douglas fir and white-oak floors—to warm up the rooms. “I’m about clean spaces and simplicity, and then you can bring in a lot of pops with your furniture and accessories,” she says. “I want you to walk in after 10 years and still think everything is in style,” she says. “Not like when you walk into a house that was done in the ’90s and see speckled gold granite!”
For Gray, a big part of this project’s beauty lies in what wasn’t changed. “We didn’t, for instance, add a second story or anything to really change the character of the house,” he says. “That was a big driver: to modernize it while not losing the midcentury character—the proportions, size, roof style, and those sorts of things.” The team didn’t have to look far for a muse: They found an original cardboard model of the home in the master bedroom closet, left by the previous owners who built the house in 1968—and who likely never imagined just how well their design would stand the test of time.