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Like many big-city transplants drawn to the open spaces surrounding Boulder, the family of five who call this place home wanted plenty of room to roam. On these four acres on the city’s northern edge, the former Chicagoans found just that: “We were drawn to the property’s proximity to open space, views of the foothills, and the varied landscape—we have prairie, marsh, and a seasonal waterway running right through our land,” the homeowner says. “Being closer to nature, and to the mountains in particular, was a big reason for our move here, and we wanted to feel we were part of it no matter where we were in our house.”
But their 7,600-square-foot home seemed somewhat indifferent to those environs—in particular to a view of Boulder’s five famous Flatirons. The structure’s long, west-facing living room wall offered only a standard sliding glass door and single window through which to take in the panorama.
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Replacing that wall with a 30-foot-wide set of glass folding doors was the first of several improvements the homeowners tasked their longtime friends, husband-and-wife architects Huili Feng and Ross Barney, with making to strengthen the house’s connection to its surroundings. Not only did this move flood the living room and adjacent kitchen with light, “it provided a seamless transition between interior and exterior,” Feng says. “Now, when the doors are open, you may be sitting inside, but there’s really no boundary.”
Lest the family feel too exposed, the architects emphasized the sense of coziness already created by the living room’s paneled and beamed ceiling—“which reminded the homeowners of a ski chalet,” Feng says—by adding custom white-oak millwork throughout the house. From art- and plant-display shelves alongside the staircase to a kitchen banquette that hosts family meals, game nights, and homework sessions, “all of it has rounded edges that are very kid-friendly and calming,” Feng explains.
The same is true of the furnishings selected for each room—soft yet streamlined designs that challenged this family to embrace a new aesthetic. “Our last home and furnishings were more traditional, and the move to a modern look has been so refreshing,” the homeowner says of pieces that range from Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair to B&B Italia’s modular Tufty-Time sofa, which can be reconfigured to face the living room’s fireplace or foothills view.
When choosing upholstery fabrics, the design team gravitated toward organic materials in nature-inspired hues: soft leathers for the living room’s settee and contoured armchairs; plush alpaca fiber for the main bedroom’s custom rug; and felt for the entryway’s petite sofa, the living room’s pebblelike floor poufs, and the armrests of the media room’s custom seating platform.
That platform—which doubles as a long bar counter—was one of several designs the architects engineered to maximize functionality and style. It allowed them to forego conventional home theater seating in favor of two tiers of classic modern sofas and chairs and a row of sleek stools—“proving that comfort does not need to look bulky and ugly,” Feng says.
Just down the hall, outside the children’s bedrooms, another ingenious design solves the problem of wasted space beneath the stairs. Taking cues from Finnish designer Eero Aarnio’s iconic Ball chair, Feng and Barney carved three spherical seats—two of which are connected by a slide—into a high-density foam structure that was fitted into the recess beneath the steps, reinforced with fireproof fiberglass, and finished with a coat of lime plaster. “This was one of the most challenging parts of the entire project to execute because the structure is a three-dimensional curve,” Feng says, “but it has become the kids’ favorite place in the house. They read, play, and even nap in there.”
The scope of Feng and Barney’s work ranged from such engineering feats to the procurement of custom art inspired by the home’s surroundings. For the tall stone wall alongside the living room fireplace, they commissioned an abstract painting that incorporates sky blues and autumnal ochres. In the dining room, translucent branches and leaves rendered in acrylic paint depict a treetop the homeowners photographed while snowshoeing on their property. And over the primary suite’s platform bed, a woven wall hanging mirrors the silhouette of the foothills visible through the opposite window—a reminder that this is, at last, a house that’s all about the view.