Serendipity in the City
Perhaps it was destiny. When architect Chris Davis found a dilapidated house on a narrow lot in Denver’s mixed-use Highlands neighborhood, the structure was beyond repair. Still, the principal at BOSS Architecture was intrigued by the narrow 25-by-150-foot “shotgun” lot—and the community in which it resides.
“Our firm is very invested in revitalizing urban areas of Denver,” Davis says, who works with fellow architect and business partner Kevin Stephenson at the Denver-based firm. “I was immediately attracted to the Highlands neighborhood, and this block in particular.” He put an offer on the property, and at the closing something else caught his eye—realtor Brighty Bradley, who would later become his wife.
It didn’t take long for Davis, Bradley and Stephenson to begin conceptualizing plans for a new home on that fateful lot. “Many of the homes on our block were built in the late 1800s,” Davis says. “I was especially inspired by one 1870s Victorian brick square house in particular, and I decided to reinterpret the design in a new way with a context appropriate for the neighborhood in scale, material, size and color.”
The team conceived a streamlined, efficient floor plan that was carefully designed to maximize space. Acting as a general contractor for the project, Davis hired Mallory Construction to frame the 1,800-square-foot home, which includes three bedrooms, four bathrooms, an exercise room and office in the basement, a courtyard, and a two-car garage with a rooftop deck.
For the new home’s exterior, Davis had hoped to duplicate the old orange pressed brick prevalent in the neighborhood, but he couldn’t find the quantity of salvaged brick he needed. So he got creative and applied new brick with the smooth back side facing out and the textured side facing in. To modernize the façade, Davis and Stephenson fabricated and installed a blackened hot-rolled steel balcony enclosure. “It’s a very simple, classic palette,” Davis says.
Inside, an open living room flows into the kitchen and dining area. Stainless steel-and-lacquered-MDF cabinetry and stainless appliances merge to create a sleek wall that provides smart prep space as well as storage. In lieu of an island, Davis handcrafted a massive table of African mahogany. “That table is the heart of our home,” he says. “We cook there, eat there and work there.”
Opposite the kitchen’s work wall stands a modern staircase. “The stairway is an element in the space that acts like a sculpture,” Davis says. The custom laminated-wood stair treads cantilever out of the wall, connected by exposed steel pipe stringers. From above, light streams down on the staircase through a skylight, filtering all the way down to the basement.
Light also floods the back of the house through a large custom glass and steel pivot door that slides open, extending the living space to a private courtyard. This oasis is where Davis ends most of his days—enjoying the property he was destined, it seems, to revitalize. “The courtyard is my favorite ‘room’ in the house; my wife and I sit back there and have a glass of wine together nearly every night.”
CREATING AN OUTDOOR HAVEN WITH LIMITED SPACE
“It’s critical to have outdoor living space in a home,” says architect and homeowner Chris Davis, who
created a private courtyard with comfortable seating, landscaping and a water feature, all within a 15-by-20-foot rectangle. Here’s how you can follow his lead.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better. The outside space should be proportional to the scale of the home. “In my opinion it’s worse to have a space that’s too large than one that’s too small,” Davis says.
Create a palette of plantings. “We had mature ash trees and added two young catalpa trees; I like the contrast and juxtaposition,” Davis says. Potted plants and shrubs can fill in empty hardscaped areas.
Create easy access. In Davis’s home, a pivot door swings wide open, blurring the boundaries between inside and out. “The courtyard is a nice amenity to have right off of the kitchen,” the architect says.
Furnishings should be comfortable and inviting. Davis built the simple wood bench to fit the space and added two classic butterfly chairs for seating.
Consider adding a water feature, such as a fountain. “An element of water is important,” Davis says. “It cools the space and creates a sound that muffles the noises of urban living.”
Architecture: Chris Davis and Kevin Stephenson, Boss Architecture, Denver, (303) 377-6322, bossarch.com