An Artistic Escape

Photographer: 
David Patterson
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Good clients make an architect’s life easy. Great clients remind an architect why he or she chose the profession in the first place. For Katherine Kiefer, owner of West Elevation Architects in Steamboat Springs, the owners of this house on a bluff overlooking a river fell into the latter category. “They called me from out of state one night after seeing one of my projects in a magazine,” says Kiefer. “They simply said, ‘You need to design our second home.’” There were a few specific directives: four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. Otherwise, the main request was to create a home that highlighted the owners’ growing art collection. For Kiefer, who worked as an art curator before she became architect and designer, this was like winning the lottery.

The property, just outside of Steamboat Springs, was once an old ranch that had been subdivided into lots. The stunning views—the river, the ski area, the sunsets–seemed to dictate that the home be an elegant combination of rustic and contemporary materials. Kiefer chose maple cabinetry throughout, concrete floors (softened by area rugs), concrete blocks for the floor-to-ceiling fireplace and steel beams that still showed their foundry markings. The key was to create a tasteful but quiet background in order to frame the natural views and showcase great art.

 


 

“The couple already a good collection of paintings when I first met them,” says Kiefer, “and as the house was being built, we talked back and forth about different artists and exhibitions. They narrowed down what they liked and purchased more pieces.” Kiefer’s advice to them (and all clients): if you find something you like and you keep thinking about it, it’s meant to be yours. Don’t worry whether it matches your other art, or even your furnishings. If you love it, it will work.
 
Kiefer designed expansive walls for specific works. Case in point: she specified an off-center piece of drywall on the concrete block fireplace for James Strombotne’s painting, Dancers, one of the clients’ favorites.  Though Kiefer normally hangs pieces so the center point is 60 inches above the finished floor, this one works when hung a bit higher because it is off-center and picks up the colors of the Colorado sky outside both floor-to-ceiling windows.
 
One of Kiefer’s challenges was to place all these dissimilar pieces of art (some representational, some abstract) and make them look as if they were conversing easily with each other. Her guiding light was a central design principle: look for repetitions in texture, color and shape. Let larger pieces stand alone. Place smaller pieces in more intimate spaces so viewers can get up close. “In a home like this,” she says, “if you’re not looking at the spectacular views, you’re looking at a spectacular piece of art. Everything needs to flow.”
 
She and the homeowners were also not afraid to move pieces from their pre-planned places. Kurt Solmssen’s painting, Puget Sound, was originally placed in the master bedroom, but after Kiefer installed the custom-designed credenza in the dining room, opposite a window that looks out on the river, everyone decided the seaside picture was best in that room. Likewise, an Emilio Lobato painting now resides where an early 20th-century French poster once hung. “After the couple purchased the Lobato,” Kiefer says, “it was obviously a better choice for this spot.”
 
If art is meant to be a source of joy, this home delivers. So much so that the owners simply can’t leave: what was once considered a second getaway home is now their primary residence. What greater testimonial to the power of good art and architecture?
 
 
 
 
 
 
If art is meant to be a source of joy, this home delivers. So much so that the owners simply can’t leave: what was once considered a second getaway home is now their primary residence. What greater testimonial to the power of good art and architecture?
If art is meant to be a source of joy, this home delivers. So much so that the owners simply can’t leave: what was once considered a second getaway home is now their primary residence. What greater testimonial to the power of good art and architecture?She and the homeowners were also not afraid to move pieces from their pre-planned places. Kurt Solmssen’s painting, Puget Sound, was originally placed in the master bedroom, but after Kiefer installed the custom-designed credenza in the dining room, opposite a window that looks out on the river, everyone decided the seaside picture was best in that room. Likewise, an Emilio Lobato painting now resides where an early 20th-
century French poster once hung. “After the couple purchased the Lobato,” Kiefer says, “it was obviously a better choice for this spot.”
If art is meant to be a source of joy, this home delivers. So much so that the owners simply can’t leave: what was once considered a second getaway home is now their primary residence. What greater testimonial to the power of good art and architecture?
If art is meant to be a source of joy, this home delivers. So much so that the owners simply can’t leave: what was once considered a second getaway home is now their primary residence. What greater testimonial to the power of good art and architecture?clients make an architect’s life easy. Great clients remind an architect why he or she chose the profession in the first place. For Katherine Kiefer, owner of West Elevation Architects in Steamboat Springs, the owners of this house on a bluff overlooking a river fell into the latter category. “They called me from out of state one night after seeing one of my projects in a magazine,” says Kiefer. “They simply said, ‘You need to design our second home.’” There were a few specific directives: four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. Otherwise, the main request was to create a home that highlighted the owners’ growing art collection. For Kiefer, who worked as an art curator before she became architect and designer, this was like winning the lottery.
The property, just outside of Steamboat Springs, was once an old ranch that had been subdivided into lots. The stunning views—the river, the ski area, the sunsets–seemed to dictate that the home be an elegant combination of rustic and contemporary materials. Kiefer chose maple 
cabinetry throughout, concrete floors (softened by area rugs), concrete blocks for the floor-to-ceiling fireplace and steel beams that still showed their foundry markings. The key was to create a tasteful but quiet background in order to frame the natural views and showcase great art.
“The couple already a good collection of paintings when I first met them,” says Kiefer, “and as the house was being built, we talked back and forth about different artists and exhibitions. They narrowed down what they liked and purchased more pieces.” Kiefer’s advice to them (and all clients): if you find something you like and you keep thinking about it, it’s meant to be yours. Don’t worry whether it matches your other art, or even your furnishings. If you love it, it will work.
Kiefer designed expansive walls for specific works. Case in point: she specified an off-center piece of drywall on the concrete block fireplace for James Strombotne’s painting, Dancers, one of the clients’ favorites.  Though Kiefer normally hangs pieces so the center point is 60 inches above the finished floor, this one works when hung a bit higher because it is off-center and picks up the colors of the Colorado sky outside both floor-to-ceiling windows.
One of Kiefer’s challenges was to place all these dissimilar pieces of art (some representational, some abstract) and make them look as if they were conversing easily with each other. Her guiding light was a central design principle: look for repetitions in texture, color and shape. Let larger pieces stand alone. Place smaller pieces in more intimate spaces so viewers can get up close. “In a home like this,” she says, “if you’re not looking at the 
spectacular views, you’re looking at a spectacular piece of art. Everything needs to flow.”
She and the homeowners were also not afraid to move pieces from their pre-planned places. Kurt Solmssen’s painting, Puget Sound, was originally placed in the master bedroom, but after Kiefer installed the custom-designed credenza in the dining room, opposite a window that looks out on the river, everyone decided the seaside picture was best in that room. Likewise, an Emilio Lobato painting now resides where an early 20th-
century French poster once hung. “After the couple purchased the Lobato,” Kiefer says, “it was obviously a better choice for this spot.”
If art is meant to be a source of joy, this home delivers. So much so that the owners simply can’t leave: what was once considered a second getaway home is now their primary residence. What greater testimonial to the power of good art and architecture?

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