For homeowners Rob and Erika Leavitt, going green was always part of the plan. And because Rob is the owner and principal of eco-friendly building company Crimson Construction, building an affordable and environmentally responsible home for their growing family was well within reach. They just needed to find the perfect site.
During one of their frequent afternoon drives through Aspen and the Roaring Fork River Valley, the Leavitts stumbled across an idyllic piece of land: more than an acre of wooded property at the end of a quiet road in Basalt, complete with a winding path to the Roaring Fork River inlet. “We could not believe our good fortune in finding such a perfect piece of land left in the valley,” Rob says. “It seemed like an ideal place to raise our family.” The land ultimately defined the house that is now nestled within its stands of mature oak and cottonwood trees.
A bridge traverses the double-height living room and connects the upstairs spaces. Simple steel railings and exposed glulam beams underscore the home’s open floor plan and architectural integrity.
A visit to the Leavitts’ home reveals their successful collaboration with Aspen architects Sarah Broughton and John Rowland. The architects designed the reclaimed barn-wood garage to look like a “found historic structure” on the site, while the main house looks like an addition built many years later. “We wanted the house to feel organic with the land, like it had been there for some time,” Broughton says. This bit of architectural storytelling firmly roots the home in the surrounding landscape, along with its gravel drive, mining-era vernacular and hint of Victorian attitude. The use of patinaed corrugated-metal window boxes, dormers and siding on both the garage and house—selected for sustainability, ease of maintenance and performance in harsh mountain climates—unites the architectural styles, while traditional red-painted siding adds a pop of color.
To keep the project within budget, Broughton and Rowland chose simple materials and then embellished those materials with unusual details. Extending the roof rafters beyond the roofline adds visual interest, as does the exposure of structural glulam beams. “These types of decisions don’t add cost to the project; they simply make it unique,” Broughton says.
Maple millwork and flooring keep the four-bedroom, 3,556-square-foot home light and airy. “Our taste is on the modern side, so we tried to avoid what was ‘in’ for mountain homes—dark woods and floors and heavy timbers,” homeowner Erika Leavitt says. With the help of interior designer Andrea Dill, the Leavitts broadened their modern interpretation of a mountain home with a palette of sustainable interior finishes, including cork flooring and sanded glass tiles. Erika also worked closely with Feng Shui consultant Susan Hayward to create a design that would feel right.
Rob Leavitt, who served as the home’s project manager, oversaw the installation of all-natural wool carpet, water-conserving two-flush toilets, increased roofing insulation and radiant in-floor heating, “which pays for itself and cleans up the design with the elimination of vents,” he says.
The couple’s daughters inspired an equally important goal of the house: room to grow. The open floor plan keeps the spaces flexible. The washer and dryer are located on the second level, where the majority of dirty laundry collects. Located off the kitchen, an informal play area serves as a space that can easily become a den later. Rowland and Broughton left space for an additional bedroom and bathroom over the garage; the Leavitts can finish the rooms as their family’s need for space changes. “I think the success of any project lies in anticipating how a structure will adapt to change,” Rowland says.
But the most defining aspect of the home’s interior is the double-height living room, which capitalizes on the property’s views with walls that step out from the body of the house. This subtle architectural detail affords a generous window placement that captures three different perspectives of the property and brings in ample sunlight. Above the living room, a bridge traverses the second-floor living space and offers views of the backcountry landscape the Leavitts hoped to preserve with their low-impact approach: the Roaring Fork River, rambling paths and game trails, glimpses of Crown Mountain, and long, serene views through mature juniper and cottonwood trees. “Our lot was heavily wooded, so in the initial phase of construction, we contacted the Forest Service for assistance,” Rob says. “They arrived, hoping to persuade us to remove as few trees as possible.” But they were preaching to the green choir: “We had contacted them hoping to save as many trees as possible.”
The Leavitts spend a lot of time outdoors, from relaxing on their master bedroom deck to dining al fresco on their flagstone patio. “Here, you feel very removed, very far away, like being at camp,” Broughton says. Rowland agrees: “It’s like being on a fishing trip.”
Even two years after its completion, the home serves as a powerful reminder of the design team’s vision. “I think this house is proof that affordable, eco-friendly residential architecture does exist,” Broughton says. “Even in the Roaring Fork River Valley.”
“It’s not a power piece of architecture,” Rowland says. “It has integrity. It’s very honest.”