By Linda Hayes | May 22, 2015 | Home & Real Estate
Aspen architects are designing low-maintenance, sustainable properties to be passed down through the generations.
One with the land: To give it staying power, Poss Architects blended the Wheeler residence into its 860 acres of Old Snowmass ranchland while recalling the historical lodges and compounds of the area with throwback architecture.
Charles Cunniffe understands the value of firsthand experience. When approached by clients looking to build valley homes that can not only accommodate extended families but also be passed on to future generations, he often takes them to visit his own. “You could say I walk the talk,” says the amiable architect, who over the years has refashioned his Red Mountain home both to reflect an evolving family lifestyle and to incorporate natural, sustainable elements like sunlight and water. “It helps [clients] understand a concept when they can see it for themselves.”
One of Aspen’s most prolific and respected architects, Cunniffe has been plying his trade in the valley with his eponymous firm (970-925-5590) since 1981. While the idea of multigenerational homes, commonly known as legacy homes, has grown in popularity all over, it’s deeply rooted in the area’s past. “Through the ages, pioneers here built homes as shelter that would [withstand] the elements,” he says. “As they prospered and the families grew, larger homes, and eventually compounds, evolved.”
The Wheeler residence’s bedrooms capitalize on the sweeping views of the Elk Mountains to the southwest.
These days, Cunniffe says clients thinking long term are weighing cost versus value, and put serious thought and abundant resources into building homes that are as energy-neutral and maintenance free as possible. A residence he designed off the 18th fairway at Aspen Glen Golf Course, in Carbondale, is the perfect example. At 10,000 square feet, with seven bedrooms across multiple levels, the home offers plenty of space to accommodate an extended family over time. “They all have their own zones, from the master and junior master suites and a bunk room that sleeps nine to communal gathering places,” says Cunniffe. Outside, the house blends into its natural surroundings—the play, lawn, and garden areas bleed into the adjacent flatlands north of Mount Sopris.
When it came to building materials, Cunniffe analyzed every choice available, always keeping sustainability and site-appropriateness in mind. The exterior features a custom-blended stone veneer, indigenous Douglas fir columns, cedar shingles, and recycled copper detailing. In the living room, two-story folded-corner glass windows frame panoramic views of the mountains to the east and south. They also invite sunlight to shine on a stone fireplace wall, which in turn functions as a passive solar heat sink that warms the room.
Hagman Architects outfitted the Berman residence with abundant windows to utilize solar heat and open up its incredible valley views.
Tim Hagman of Hagman Architects in Basalt (970-927-3822) is also experienced with legacy homes. With his project architect, Kurt Carruth, Hagman designed a cutting-edge, hillside home on McSkimming Road for a Denverbased couple and their two out-of-state sons. “The owners wanted the home to be minimalist and warm but with a lot of glass to take in the views,” he says. “There were age-related aspects as well, like putting their master suite on the same level as the open-plan kitchen and living and dining areas, and placing guest rooms and rec rooms on the lower level.”
The family prioritized sustainability and energy efficiency. A 20-inch-thick, energy efficient rammed earth wall from Sirewall, which runs along one of the house’s sides, became a key element inside and out. Durable, low-maintenance materials, such as ipe planking, plate steel, and matte-black anodized aluminum cladding added to the integrity of the design while helping blend the house into the site.
John Cottle, of Basalt-based CCY Architects (970-927-4925), shares the details of a Snowmass home he designed for a couple with eight kids and upwards of 20 grandkids, who wanted to be able to house the whole family under one roof. “The home was very carefully located and was permitted to span a preserved wetlands creek that became part of the design,” he explains. “[It is] smallish in size, at about 5,000 square feet, which reduces its impact on the site.”
Its durable, noncombustible, and thermally efficient 20-inch rammed-earth wall is made of natural raw materials.
To further connect the home with its natural surroundings, Telluride Gold stone columns anchor a floating, winged roof. The location of primary living spaces within a glass-walled pavilion that invites passive solar energy, the use of recyclable structural and decorative steel, and sourcing reclaimed wood from Guinness vats for flooring were all design decisions implemented with sustainability in mind. And, in testament to its original objective, the home has been the site of three separate family weddings, the latest taking place just recently.
Bill Poss and Chris Ridings of Poss Architecture + Planning in Aspen (970-925-4755) were enlisted to build an extended family home in Old Snowmass utilizing the natural elements of earth, fire, and water. “The site was on an 860-acre parcel that had belonged to [the owner’s] dad,” Poss recalls. “The architecture is a canopy, supported by tapered wood columns and brackets, which allows the house to flow underneath. Like the historic ranch compounds in the region, it’s organized around a central courtyard and responds to the views.”
Reclaimed wood and specially sourced local stone help integrate the home into the site, and the insulation, door systems, and appliances comply with local energy codes. Furthermore, features like fire pits, an indoor-outdoor pool, and an equestrian compound ensure entertainment options—not only now, but for generations to come.
photography by DaviD o. Marlow; DaVID o. MarLoW (WhEELEr rESIDENCE); DErEk SkaLko (bErMaN rESIDENCE)