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Michael Roybal fell in love with midcentury-modern design when he was in architecture school. The clean lines, the natural light, the open floor plans—“It’s sensible architecture that feels good to people,” says the principal of the Roybal Corporation, a Denver-based architecture and design company. However, like the period’s gas-guzzling cars and martini-swilling bosses, authentic midcentury-modern homes haven’t entirely aged well. The houses in 1950s-era Krisana Park, one of Denver’s many mid-mod neighborhoods, for example, are small by today’s standards (approximately 1,250 square feet) and not very energy-efficient, according to Roybal.
So when it came time for Roybal and his wife to design and build their dream house, they bought a parcel in Wilder Lane, a 24-lot midcentury-modern–influenced neighborhood in Columbine Valley, west of downtown Littleton. Wilder Lane isn’t technically mid-mod; nothing built after 1965 (see season four of “Mad Men”) really is. Rather, the homes incorporate the movement’s signature design elements—including ranch-style layouts and an abundance of windows—into larger footprints (as large as 3,600 finished square feet with partially finished basements). With the exception of the Roybals’ home (which Michael designed), Bryan and Linda Gunn of Studio Gunn Architecture have designed each structure (there are nine base plans, each modified to give every home a unique aesthetic). “The overall concept for Wilder Lane was to use neighborhoods like Arapahoe Acres and Krisana Park as inspiration,” Bryan says. “To create a neighborhood inspired by midcentury-modern [design] but still responsive to today’s lifestyle.”
Although they are reproductions, Wilder Lane homes appear genuine. They have clean lines; clerestory and floor-to-ceiling windows that admit plenty of light and meld outdoor and indoor spaces; and, overall, are simple—which might be their most important trait. “It’s a busy world,” says Curt Stedron, managing partner and co-founder of New Century Modern, the project’s developer. “People want their homes to be their refuges.” Even the dwellings’ 21st-century updates adhere to mid-mod tenets: Pocket offices allow homeowners to have an in-home work space without sacrificing whole rooms.
Wilder Lane has sold 14 of its lots since launching in 2016, with 11 houses completed and five more (including two specs) in the works. The houses in the current phase of construction are priced from $1.1 million to $1.2 million—hefty sums for houses of that size, to be sure. Then again, if the Gunns’ ambitions are realized, the price might just be a bargain. “In 50 years,” Bryan says, “Wilder Lane might be held up as an example of the new modern neighborhood.”