When a couple approached Colorado–based Cottle Carr Yaw (CCY) Architects for a modern mountain retreat, they brought with them images of what would be the founding inspiration behind the new design—a simple and rugged cabin in Norway where the husband and his relatives had been gathering since the 1950s. Much like this ancestral Norwegian cabin, the new getaway is designed with the same rustic charms and deference to the landscape, as well as an inviting environment for friends and family to gather for generations to come.
"They specifically didn’t want large bedrooms for the guest wing to encourage their family and guests to congregate in the home’s public spaces," Todd Kennedy, principal architect at CCY, explains. He also adds that because the couple also planned to spend time in the retreat alone, the guest bedrooms, accessible via a bridge, can be closed off from the main living spaces when not in use so that the home could function as a one-bedroom cabin, comfortably scaled for two.
A connection to the outdoors was paramount to the design both in form—the low-lying building is topped with a roof angled to follow the sloped terrain—and accessibility. Large windows pull mountain views indoors while the house, carefully positioned to minimize site impact, feels immersed in its landscape of aspen groves, scrub oaks, sage, and spruce. The architects even worked closely with an arborist to ensure the long-term health of the mature spruce trees, and balanced all cut and fill on site.
"In addition to the spruce trees, the client wanted to preserve as much of the existing vegetation around the house to help the house appear as though it was set within its natural environment," Kennedy notes. "To achieve this, we worked with the general contractor to define very tight limits of construction just beyond the building’s footprint."
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Careful consideration of the environment also carried over to the energy-efficient design of the house, oriented for optimal passive solar performance. Thanks to an airtight building envelope and triple-glazed windows, the interior requires no supplemental heat or cooling other than radiant heat.
Daylight, landscape views, and a predominantly timber-and-concrete palette define the modern interiors. White oak, in particular, is used in abundance to create a tranquil, monochromatic palette meant to lend a sense of intimacy to the interior.
"It allows the focus of the room to be the views rather than one’s focus being drawn to the interior architecture," Kennedy says. "We used two different grades of plain-sawn white oak. The minor differences in the grades of oak, in combination with how it was finished and the way we laid it up, created subtle amounts of contrast through the interior palette which helped create a level of sophistication within the home."
Sentimental reminders of the husband’s Norwegian childhood also decorate the space, from the framed wildflowers he pressed as a child to the stacked walls of chopped wood and collections of hatches and axes.
"Norwegian blood," says Kennedy, "instills in him the need to chop wood and a love for wood-burning fireplaces."
Related Reading: A Norwegian Summer Cabin Embraces the Rocky Terrain
Builder/ General Contractor: Key Elements Construction
Structural Engineer: KL&A
Civil Engineer: Boundaries Unlimited
Landscape Design Company: Mt. Daly Enterprises
Lighting Design: LS Group
Fixed Finishes/Cabinetry Design: CCY Architects
Cabinetry Manufacturing: Whalen Custom Cabinets
Photography: Draper White Photography