When two high-end art consultants approached Studio B Architecture + Interiors to design a family home in Boulder, Colorado, they sought the simplicity of an art gallery and a strong connection to the outdoors. As they travel frequently, the home also needed to be low maintenance with multipurpose spaces that could be adapted for family life, work, relaxing, and entertaining.
The result is Blur House, an elegant home set against the rugged landscape of the Boulder mountains that draws inspiration from both modernism and the idea of a Colorado mountain house.
"The integrity of the plan and detailing reflect the modernist ideas of minimalism and functionality," says Mike Piche, principal of Studio B. "We wanted to achieve an architecture that was simple, functional and beautiful. It was less about referencing a Colorado vernacular, and more about a Colorado lifestyle connection to the outdoors and sunshine—both literally and passively."
The home is located on 40 acres in the foothills above Boulder. It boasts views of distant hills and the Front Range, and it receives frequent visits from local wildlife—including wild turkeys, deer, mountain lions, and the occasional lynx. "We were excited about the opportunity to work with these aspects, but also with the challenges of a steep, remote site, numerous rock outcroppings, and access to sunlight," says Piche.
These challenges informed several key elements of the design. A long driveway, which is oriented toward the sun, follows the natural contours of the mountain while weaving its way toward the home through many existing trees. The residence itself is aligned to be parallel to a large rock outcropping across the valley.
The lower level of the home is buried in the side of the hill, taking advantage of the steep site to avoid dominating the landscape. The concrete plinth the home rests upon was inspired by the many gray granite outcroppings found throughout the site. "The idea was to have a simple black bar float above the landscape from one of these abstracted rock formations," says Piche. "The raw gray concrete was inspired by these rock outcroppings."
The entry space doubles as a gallery, with concrete walls—which provide lateral bracing for the structure—and an open stair that filters light. The stair’s timber treads and smooth metal elements contrast with the rough concrete while hinting at the more materially refined upper level.
Both the lower and upper levels have a "core" of functional spaces with circulation at the perimeter that opens up to views. The home’s restrained material palette places the focus on these views—which change drastically from season to season—or the art.
The primary living spaces for the couple and their two children are on the upper floor, while more functional spaces—such as an exercise room, media room, guest room, and storage—are located on the lower level.
Several pocket doors—which completely disappear into the walls—allow both levels to essentially operate as if there are no doors. In their closed positions, however, they provide privacy and intimacy.
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The office and master bedroom float over the pool, and operable doors offer the possibility to dive directly from the house into the water below.
The glossy metal facade reflects the surrounding landscape while providing a host of benefits—it’s durable, fire resistant, and able to withstand the harsh mountain environment. These sleek metal panels, together with the raw-formed concrete and charred wood siding, help the building to blend into the environment. In contrast, the interior is soft and inviting with an uncomplicated palette of white and washed wood floors.
"Blur, by day, is a silhouette—a dark floating bar with a metallic cloak wrapped around a bright, light-filled home," says Piche. "The exterior is a durable skin protecting the soft interiors."
"It was rewarding to work on a project that had a clear diagram and concept that was maintained throughout the process," says Piche. "The clients and builder were thoughtful and willing to take some risks to create a really great piece of architecture."
Structural Engineer: Anthem Structural Engineering
Civil Engineer: Scott Cox and Associates
Landscape Architect: JB Fieldworks
Interior Design: Studio B Architecture + Interiors
Photography: James Florio
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