When a designer and builder find themselves working with a homeowner that not only knows what he wants but is also savvy in the world of new construction, it is a recipe for a successful project. This was the case for Parker, Colo.-based Invision Homes and Centennial, Colo.-based Phoenix Design Group with a homeowner who was also an employee for Invision Homes.
“In some cases you can design a home without a lot of client input, but because the homeowner is associated with the building industry, his exposure to design was a plus,” says Steven Cole, president, Phoenix Design Group. “Because of their specific requirements, it was imperative that I work with them closely to make sure the concepts they were trying to achieve were in the plan for the house.”
The house features both European and Old World styles. “It has a European flair with Colorado style,” says Michael New, president, Invision Homes. European elements were added to a Colorado style to make it mesh with the neighborhood in which it resides.
Cole explains the two reasons why this house fits so well in its neighborhood. “There are other Old World-style homes in the neighborhood. And secondly, the Old World style is inherently associated with rural living. In this case, rural living is a description of the environment where this house sits,” he says.
The lot the house is located on created a challenge because of how narrow it is. It also includes a large-grade differential that challenged both Invision and Phoenix. “It has a 16-ft. grade differential from front to back. We had to design the house to fit on the property with not too steep of a driveway,” New says.
The house originally was intended for other property. A few modifications were required to make the house work on this lot. “We turned the house 90 degrees from how it would have been on a different site. Originally it was designed with a full basement, and we changed it to a walk-out so it doesn’t feel like a basement,” New adds.
A Homeowner with Expertise
The homeowners are closely involved in the new construction world and therefore requested specific characteristics be included in their home’s design. They wanted a circular front entry, a staircase that offers landings with additional living areas, and room for a five-car garage.
“The clients went through many homes before they started this project and they took the best ideas from those other homes,” New says.
One of the home’s two staircases is in the front entry area. “It’s a curved, circular staircase and it comes out at you as you walk in the front door. We took exterior stone and incorporated it in the staircase area. We brought the outside in,” New says.
The second stairway will be used most often because it’s most centrally located in the house, New adds. “It is three stories and floating with landings in between. The landings have been incorporated into the living areas yet are part of the stairways,” he says.
One landing is a library and the other is a wine tasting area. “There is a transitional passageway that goes from the dining room and living room back to the family areas. This is where the split-level up and split-level down [stairway] occurs. It’s not just a hallway but rather a dynamic space that is not only usable but also unique,” Cole says.
“The owners had a desire for design elements that presented certain challenges in the floor plan like the split-level wine tasting room and split-level library that is not necessarily the norm in residential design. It actually enhances the architecture and livability of the space,” he adds.
Ceiling treatments throughout the house are unique. The front entryway has a double circle coffer with faux finishes and different colored lighting. The ceilings in the rest of the house have different heights, vaults and coffers for added appeal. “This gives each space a unique character of its own as well as a sense of space and openness,” Cole says.
Building materials are consistent throughout the house to maintain its Old World appeal. “We use all alder for interior trim, and the same stone and stucco [outside and inside]. We tried to stay with a common theme throughout the interior and exterior of the house — it has appeal inside and outside,” New says. All stone in this project was manufactured due to the high cost of natural stone in this area, New says.
The homeowners wanted a home that was deeper than it is wider in terms of front-to-back dimensions, Cole adds. “That style of home fit the character of the lot itself and also enabled us to do things such as a motor court,” he says. Motor courts are popular in this area of Colorado because of the ability to hide garages from the street.
The homeowners wanted to house five cars, so the motor court helped mitigate the design challenge of creating a front elevation that is nothing but garage doors. “You drive through a porte-cochere into an area that is actually screened by the garages themselves so what you see from the street looks like the main body of the house rather than a garage,” Cole says.
The porte-cochere adds to the ambiance of the home’s exterior. “Because with the porte-cochere you don’t see garage doors, it looks very peaceful and inviting,” New says. “In the front of the house there is a fountain that frames the front door as you come up to the house. It’s tranquil. It’s also very peaceful in its surroundings.”
The lot’s grade differential offered landscaping opportunities. “The site has a lot of terrain and fall to it, and that gave the homeowners a marvelous opportunity to exploit the terrain and develop a fountain and garden path-type entry. There was a lot of character to work with,” Cole says.
Tranquility is as much a part of the back of the house as it is the front. “The rear of the house becomes the outdoor counterpart to indoor living space. We went to great pains to open up the home as much as possible for free-flowing movement and allowing the outdoor climate to penetrate the house,” Cole adds. “They [the homeowners] have an outdoor fire pit that is a congregating place as weather begins to cool off.
It’s one feature that is very appealing. It’s much a part of Colorado thinking.”
The style is carried throughout the house consistently; however, the front turret is one area with the strongest Old World and European appeal. “First impressions are important. The entry turret establishes the style of the house and the feeling of the home outside as well as inside,” Cole says. He adds that the homeowner did a great job of selecting home furnishings that carry the theme established by the architecture.
Recipe for Success
Designer and builder worked very closely with the home-owner from beginning to end. Invision Homes has a four-page checklist of design requirements that need to be on the plan before building the house. “We make sure the client’s vision and our vision are aligned. This helps us address problems before they arise,” New says. “The homeowner made all the selections but we guided them along the way. We are available to our clients 24/7, and if there’s something that doesn’t look right to them, we address it right away.”
Not only is New proud of this project but is also proud of the fact it won a Colorado Bar Award. “The Bar Award in Colorado home building is just like getting an Oscar,” he adds. “And it’s judged by our peers.”
Cole is proud because the homeowners love their home, enjoy living in it and it suits their needs. “Architects shouldn’t be designing monuments to themselves but rather designing homes that meet the needs of the client as well as contributing something from a design aesthetic,” Cole says.
New and Cole agree the reason for this project’s success is the clients. “The success of the project was due in large part to the homeowners being able to verbalize what they were trying to achieve in terms of appearance as well as floor plan. They were both very articulate about their desires and that is a tremendous help,” Cole says.
New adds that having a good team is also an ingredient for success. “The success was having good clients who knew and focused on what they wanted. It was also having a good design/build team, our trade partners and everybody that worked on the project,” New says. “It is having a good schedule in place — being hands-on is what we do.”