A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado

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By Dwell and Sarah Amandolare / Published by Dwell
Seeking simplicity and open space, a Boulder-area couple settled on a wooded hilltop with views of the mountains and the city.

On a wooded hilltop near Boulder, Colorado, architect Stephen Dynia played to the landscape, lining a 2,500-square-foot home with glass to maximize views for a family of three. A high band of windows on the home's east side lets morning light stream through, while tall glass panels along the west side offer glimpses of the city, the Flatiron peaks, and Arapahoe glacier. Smart design elements limit energy consumption, add space, and contribute to the serene, cabin-like feel. A sequence of eight, 12-foot bays leads from the bedrooms to the airy kitchen and living area, creating an orderly yet open vibe for scientist Aaron Elliot Hirsh, his wife Veronica Volny, who leads Meadow Lark Farm Dinners, and their young son. Dynia used only concrete (for the floors), oxidized steel cladding, and wood (for the structure and ceilings). In-wall shelving provides extra storage, wood overhangs shade the west side and terrace, and a wood-fired boiler makes use of the 35-acre property's excess kindling and heats the home. "I think the most important decision was simply not making the house huge," says Hirsh. "That reduced the ecological footprint of construction, and continues to pay dividends in terms of energy consumption." He and Volny also took advantage of nearby and repurposed materials: bed frames feature used pipes and scaffolding, and local cottonwood, while the hefty dining room table—a riff on a classic George Nakashima design—is made from local maple.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 1 of 10 - A linear sequence of eight, 12-foot bays extends the length of the home from rear bedrooms and an office to the open kitchen and living room space. The modest form, a reflection of the owners' desire for simplicity, required few materials: wood, concrete, and steel.<br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

A linear sequence of eight, 12-foot bays extends the length of the home from rear bedrooms and an office to the open kitchen and living room space. The modest form, a reflection of the owners' desire for simplicity, required few materials: wood, concrete, and steel.

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 2 of 10 - Beyond the terrace, the backs of the Flatiron Peaks reveal themselves. Revegetation of the 35-acre property began immediately following construction of the home—a 2,500-square-foot structure that blends into its woodsy surroundings. <br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

Beyond the terrace, the backs of the Flatiron Peaks reveal themselves. Revegetation of the 35-acre property began immediately following construction of the home—a 2,500-square-foot structure that blends into its woodsy surroundings.

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 3 of 10 - A high band of windows on the east side of the home lets light in, while a simple wood overhang shades an outdoor dining area on the terrace with mountain views. "On clear days, it feels like you can see across the high plains to Kansas," says Hirsh. <br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

A high band of windows on the east side of the home lets light in, while a simple wood overhang shades an outdoor dining area on the terrace with mountain views. "On clear days, it feels like you can see across the high plains to Kansas," says Hirsh.

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 4 of 10 - Tall, sliding glass panels extend along the west side of the house, including into the living area, which has views across the terrace and 35-acre wooded property. Built-in bookshelves, part of Dynia's thick-wall strategy, keep with the orderly design. <br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

Tall, sliding glass panels extend along the west side of the house, including into the living area, which has views across the terrace and 35-acre wooded property. Built-in bookshelves, part of Dynia's thick-wall strategy, keep with the orderly design.

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 5 of 10 - Concrete floors, wood ceilings, and unadorned walls are intentionally monastic. Boulder culture centers around a concern for the environment, which the owners—with their desire to limit material waste—adopted.  Local company TCWoods made the bench from a piece of walnut. <br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

Concrete floors, wood ceilings, and unadorned walls are intentionally monastic. Boulder culture centers around a concern for the environment, which the owners—with their desire to limit material waste—adopted. Local company TCWoods made the bench from a piece of walnut.

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 6 of 10 - A pizza oven and built-in storage spaces line a hallway, saving space. "6,000-square-foot houses for single families don't make sense ecologically—or in my opinion, functionally," says Hirsh. "The house is a nice size for our life—plenty large, but not unwieldy."<br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

A pizza oven and built-in storage spaces line a hallway, saving space. "6,000-square-foot houses for single families don't make sense ecologically—or in my opinion, functionally," says Hirsh. "The house is a nice size for our life—plenty large, but not unwieldy."

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 7 of 10 - For the dining room table, Hirsh and Volny collaborated with local company TCWoods, an urban sawmill that makes custom furniture and art from downed trees. Based on a classic George Nakashima design, the table is made from a maple tree that had been in front of Boulder High School.

For the dining room table, Hirsh and Volny collaborated with local company TCWoods, an urban sawmill that makes custom furniture and art from downed trees. Based on a classic George Nakashima design, the table is made from a maple tree that had been in front of Boulder High School.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 8 of 10 - Sunlight streams through tall glass panels into the kitchen and living area, while on the opposite wall, a high band of windows top built-in storage, a window seat, and a pizza oven. <br><br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

Sunlight streams through tall glass panels into the kitchen and living area, while on the opposite wall, a high band of windows top built-in storage, a window seat, and a pizza oven.

Photo by Ron Johnson.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 9 of 10 - Hirsh and Volny created a bed frame out of a rusted well pipe and scaffolding fittings.

Hirsh and Volny created a bed frame out of a rusted well pipe and scaffolding fittings.

A Serene, Sustainable Home in Colorado - Photo 10 of 10 - Set amongst the trees, with its simple form and earthy adherence to wood, the home fits in well. "Veronica and I walked the land for many months before we decided where to put the house," says Hirsh. "We had picnics there. We sat looking east. We sat looking west. We sat looking south. The site felt wonderful."<br>Photo by Ron Johnson.

Set amongst the trees, with its simple form and earthy adherence to wood, the home fits in well. "Veronica and I walked the land for many months before we decided where to put the house," says Hirsh. "We had picnics there. We sat looking east. We sat looking west. We sat looking south. The site felt wonderful."
Photo by Ron Johnson.