It’s easy to think of “design” as the trimmings: a gussied-up wallpaper, a gilded chandelier, the perfect modern tile. But this handsome home in the town of Bow Mar, dreamed up by architects Dale Hubbard and Kim Cattau of Boulder’s Surround Architecture, proves that one cornerstone of great design is a smart, easy-to-love layout.

The architects worked with the high-energy family of five who lives here to create a foolproof floor plan that accommodates modern family life in its many forms, from social gatherings to outdoor play and the all-important down time. Indoors, a gathering wing with an open kitchen and great room connects (by way of a sliding barn door) to a kids’ common area and the home’s sleeping quarters—which means adults and kids can easily enjoy togetherness or breathing room as needed. At the center of the home’s U-shaped layout, a central outdoor courtyard offers open-air living and dining spaces where the family can relish sunny Colorado days, year-round.

Off-white cabinets from Abacus Cabinetry and concrete countertops create a warm, bright space, while steel tension rods and black window frames add the home’s signature hit of contrast. Photo Courtesy of David Lauer

“There are three distinct zones [in the courtyard]; three rooms without walls,” Cattau says. On one side, an outdoor kitchen with a built-in grill is just paces from a covered dining area. Next to that, a lounge area, lit by festive lights, “allows you to feel like you’re halfway inside and halfway outside,” she says. And just beyond, in the center of the courtyard, is a fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs—positioned so tired feet can be propped up by the low stone ledge.

The architects point to two design moves that make the home tick: First, the exterior spaces are immediately adjacent to (and visible from) the indoor gathering spaces. “People will still go out and enjoy the outdoor spaces even if it’s not perfect weather,” Hubbard says. Second, a series of large glass doors creates what Cattau calls a “psychological connection” between indoors and out. “Bi-fold openings and sliding doors allow you to physically remove a wall,” she says—unlike conventional doors that swing open and then close behind you.

Though the layout is designed to multitask, the home’s interior finishes are beautifully focused. “The couple used a great word that we love to hear as architects and designers, and that’s contrast,” Hubbard says. “This theme brings a devout simplicity to the home.” Dark doors, windows, and floors pop against crisp white walls (painted Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace). Black steel tension rods help define airy vaulted ceilings. These finishes, neither too traditional nor too stark, set the stage for the homeowners’ collection of neutral, casual furnishings (from Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, and similar sources) chosen for their ability to stand up to everyday life.

The beauty of these design decisions is that the family and their friends don’t have to think about them: Kids and adults can simply float between indoors and out, enjoying plenty of room to gather, rest, or roam. Which perfectly sums up Colorado design—and family life at a mile high.

The home’s layout forms a U around a central outdoor courtyard. Accordian glass doors connect the indoor and outdoor living spaces. Photo Courtesy of David Lauer