It’s only 20 minutes from downtown Boulder, but this 40-acre swath of land in the foothills above Chautauqua Park is a slice of nearly untouched Colorado wilderness. And it’s clear—as you peer out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the property’s impeccably renovated 2,700-square-foot home—that the local wildlife appreciates all this open space: Herds of elk wander through in the autumn, joined by bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and the occasional moose. Wild turkeys graze in the meadows, which are dappled with wildflowers, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, mountain cedar, and old-growth blue spruce. Unobstructed views of Boulder’s Green and Bear peaks and the Sacred Cliffs make it easy to watch storms roll in and out. It’s the kind of place where a person can find some real peace, which is exactly why the homeowners—a couple who recently launched a math-education app after nearly 20 years of working in the science and tech industries—bought the property in 2015.
“Talk to anyone with a ‘co-founder’ title at a startup and you’ll find one trend: Free time is nearly nonexistent,” says architect Harvey Hine, whose Boulder firm, HMH Architecture & Interiors, transformed the couple’s 1970s-era timber cabin into a rustic-modern retreat. “They chose this home as an escape into a quieter life; [a place] to relax and recharge.” The homeowners are self-described students of nature and avid bird-watchers, and purchasing the property made it possible for them to pursue those interests right from their backyard.
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Hine and HMH interior designer Leah Civiok reimagined the choppy, honey-oak-accented, popcorn-ceilinged cabin without adding any square footage. “Our goal was to enhance the [existing] architecture, rather than erase it,” Hine says. To wit: The team preserved the V-shaped prow of the living room (reminiscent of ski lodges of the 1970s), and in the main bedroom, they kept the less-than-ideal shallow ceiling slope but added interest by incorporating a floating wall behind the bed. “We believe the architecture is the reason why the house is so uniquely attractive. It is not a design one would see built from scratch.”
Their most dramatic move was relocating the kitchen from a dark corner with a drop ceiling to the center of the house, where sky-high vaulted ceilings create an airy feel overhead. Two hardworking and handsome blackened-steel islands are now the “command center,” Hine says. An expanded outdoor bridge that leads to a patio, a minimalistic living room, and a dining room with a sit-and-linger fireplace surround the new kitchen on three sides, making the home the ultimate space for entertaining.
The exterior remodel removed the dated stained-pine siding that gave the home a generic log-cabin look; in its place is a mix of neutral-colored stucco and weathered steel, which “will continue to rust for years to come, creating a dynamic experience,” Hine says. “It is rare for a house to mature for the better over time.” A gray, standing-seam steel roof and set of new aluminum-clad windows hint at the sleek, modern interiors while offering a nod to mining-era architecture.
Overall, the remodel’s guiding design principle was to create a home in tune with its natural surroundings and that embraces wabi-sabi, the Japanese way of living that celebrates the beauty of imperfections. “With this home, we created a balance of raw, industrial materials and softer, natural materials full of texture,” Civiok says. “The finishes we highlighted were concrete, warm wood tones, and lots of rich metals.” When employing this palette, the designers worked to expose the craft behind each material: “The stone counters are leathered, the metal welding is exposed, and the wood ceiling has a dense repetitive pattern that lets you really [see the craftsmanship],” Hine says.
The result is a house that feels right at home in the Colorado wilderness. “Often, when we remodel a house, it feels like we’re making the house the way it was always meant to be,” says Hine, “like we allowed it to breathe again”—and, by extension, its homeowners, too.