Lots of time spent outdoors—year-round!—is a hallmark of the Colorado lifestyle, whether you’re grilling al fresco, kicking back while taking in a picturesque sunset, or huddling around a fire pit with family and friends. No wonder, then, that around here, stylish outdoor spaces are always in demand. We’ve tracked down five of them—from a stone patio with sweeping views of rolling hills to a secluded urban oasis—to inspire your patio upgrades this spring.
Tucked at the bottom of Morrison’s hogback, this outdoor space (pictured above) presented design challenges from the get-go. “It’s an interesting site, topographically,” says landscape architect Chris Turner, principal of Elevate By Design, referring to the steep slope on the east side of the lot. Instead of fighting against the natural grade, Turner and a collaborative team of engineers and contractors embraced it in order to design an outdoor area that blends with its natural surroundings and complements the home’s modern architecture.
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Now, a stream cascades down the hillside, meandering around strategically placed boulders before feeding into a heated pool that resembles a natural pond, thanks to its sinuous shape and black interior finish. A sleek fountain wall with a trio of spouts is fed by a spa tub perched on a terrace above. “We ended up using the movement of water to soften the hard angles [of the home],” Turner says of the aquatic features.
To tie it all together, the lounge area—anchored by a swanky Nisho firepit—is bordered by large concrete pavers with a sandy finish that complements the home’s exterior stucco walls.
After about four years of living in this 1980s-era house just south of Boulder’s Wonderland Lake, the owners decided to make it their forever home—but first, they needed to invest in some serious upgrades. “Primarily, the work was about, ‘How do we connect the indoor spaces to the outdoor spaces?’” says architect Steve Perce, principal of Boulder-based Bldg Collective. Though the homeowners loved that the set of trifold doors along the rear wall of the house opened onto a concrete patio, the home’s disjointed layout prevented easy access to the outdoor space. The solution: “By reconfiguring the fireplace, moving the kitchen, and formalizing the living room,” Perce says, they created a more natural flow from interior to exterior.
The team also replaced the windows, doors, siding, and roof; replaced and updated the metal railing on the upstairs patio; and patched and repainted the stucco walls around the trifold doors. The end result is a breezy, modern dwelling that invites its inhabitants to move freely through its living areas when dining, relaxing, or entertaining. Best of all, as Perce says, “you can’t even see where the old and new come together.”
Out of Sight
On the outskirts of Aspen, there’s an 8,500-square-foot dwelling that’s invisible to those traveling along the main access road—save for a tantalizing sliver of architecture that hints at the modern marvel hidden from view. A closer look at the property reveals that this unobtrusive quality extends to its sculpted landscaping, which unites the modern architecture with the softer, wilder feel of its surroundings. “It’s a very naturalistic landscape that creeps into the [modern living] spaces,” says landscape architect Gyles Thornely, owner of Aspen’s Connect One Design.
The key feature of Thornely’s design is a grassy berm that wraps around the living space, acting as “this hugging arm that separates the wild from the human activities,” Thornely says.
In the private sitting area, simple hardscaping provides an understated backdrop for an avocado-shaped fire pit—a custom design 10 feet in diameter, created by California stone sculptor Roger Hopkins—and a mirrored sculpture by Danish artist Jeppe Hein. “[The art] is fun and whimsical,” Thornely says, “and complements the rectilinear geometry of the house.” Yin, meet yang.
What this patio lacks in space, it makes up for with Mediterranean allure. Located across the street from Denver’s Washington Park, the lot is tight, with minimal privacy. “Our goal was to make an outdoor living space that was a continuation of the house,” says Scott Parker of Nest Architectural Design, the Denver firm tapped to dream up the entire 5,000-square-foot home, which takes its cues from Spanish styles of architecture. Led by project manager Laura Parsons, the Nest team designed two rustic wooden pergolas—one off the front of the house, the other off the back—to create secluded yet airy outdoor “rooms.” To tie them together, Parker explains, “we ran two timber beams through the house from front to back, from pergola to pergola.”
On the back patio, thoughtfully chosen design elements help maintain the intimate feel. A stone fireplace adds a cozy touch while providing a degree of privacy for the seating areas, and creeping greenery climbs up (and, eventually, across) the pergola for a romantic vineyard-esque feel—a slice of European charm in the city.
Views for Days
Tasked with remodeling a South Boulder home after it was ravaged by floods, the team at Mosaic Architects & Interiors quickly realized that water damage wasn’t its only flaw. “Nothing was responding to the views and context of the home,” says Mosaic’s senior architect Rachel Lee—and that included the outdoor space. “Everything was positioned the wrong way; it didn’t take advantage of what was there.” In other words, Lee says, “the house wanted to realign itself to the view.”
That meant adding about 350 square feet to the footprint, tilting the orientation of the home on its axis to face northwest, and angling the patio—the edges of which curve gently in harmony with the surrounding hills—to capture views of the Flatirons. In keeping with the client’s Buddhist sensibilities and Zen approach to space, a natural buff sandstone sculpture provides an eye-catching endpoint to a sightline that begins at the front door and extends through the living room and outside to the patio. “It’s an unusual feature that draws you through the house, [invites you to] pause, then draws you out to the wilds beyond,” Lee says.