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Five Under 40: Ryan Costner

Colorado Homes & Lifestyles' Class of 2019




Photo by Jennifer Olson

Three architects walk into a carnival. Ryan Costner will be the one dressed in black (his daily uniform) and heading to the merry-go-round. Costner works and designs at DAJ Design in Louisville, Colorado, just minutes from Lafayette, where he grew up. 

As a father, Costner believes that the wide-open West of his childhood is a great place to raise a family. “Growth has fueled change in the area,” he says. “Things are being revitalized in the community. For example, a couple years ago, a Coca-Cola mural from the 1950s was discovered when a Lafayette building was in the process of being demolished. The mural has since been restored.”

When you consider Colorado sunshine, acres of open space, the Rocky Mountains, and the rich history and bright future of the Lafayette and Louisville areas, you have an architect’s dream.


Photo by Rockin' Media
“I recently finished a project that was so much fun to create, I said to my wife, ‘I just designed my dream house.’” — Ryan Costner

HANDS-ON: “When I was a kid, my dad taught me the marvel of woodworking. I grew up thinking we could build anything out of wood. We once built a temporary bumper for our VW Vanagon when the original was ruined. I still build furniture today. It gives me a different design medium and a way to work with my hands.”

IT’S PERSONAL: “Designing and building a home for someone is a really intimate experience,” Costner says. “The goal and the challenge are to design something that creates a personal connection for the people who will live in the space.” And sometimes there’s a crossover. “I recently finished a project that was so much fun to create, I said to my wife, ‘I just designed my dream house.’” 


Photo by David Lauer

COMPRESSION ARCHITECTURE: If Costner had to tell you about the one thing he’s doing as an architect that will make us reconsider the craft in a major way, it would have to do with rethinking size. “People get fixated on ‘how big’ and ‘how tall,’” he explains. “But sometimes it’s the small spaces that truly make us comfortable. Tailored spaces with carved ceilings can be so much more engaging. Frank Lloyd Wright’s living-room ceiling at Taliesin West in Arizona is so low you almost have to crouch. But with the roof’s slope and window placement, sitting in it feels comfortable. The room was made for conversation. We explore this in our work. We strive to design homes with more intimate and tailored spaces. That’s why I became an architect.”


Photo by David Lauer

A PERFECT DAY: “My perfect day would start with taking the family in my Ram truck—which happens to be our favorite family vehicle—out to breakfast in Denver. My wife loves going downtown. And I’ll go anywhere that serves black coffee, fried eggs and bacon. From there, we’d head to the mountains, roll down the windows, crank up some hard rock and find a stream for fishing. My daughter loves to fish, especially when she catches one. If we caught a few big fish, we’d fry them for lunch, for a tailgate picnic. Next, we’d head to Peaceful Valley for some four-wheeling, which is my son’s favorite. As he says, “I have big tires for big rocks.” Four-wheeling is a great way to find a secluded camping spot, where it’s just us in the forest. There, we’d set up camp, eat steak and potatoes for dinner and s’mores for dessert, and fall asleep under the stars.”

AT THE MERRY-GO-ROUND WITH THE BRONCOS: “A period I have always admired is the Streamline Moderne era of design and architecture that started in the ’30s and carried into the’60s. A technology-free, streamlined carnival would be really fun. I would integrate some Americana, too, like a drive-in theater. Having a train go through the carnival would be great. The train has to have smoke in it—a steam engine for sure! My kids love a carousel; that and a Ferris are must-haves. And you have to have lots of stuffed animals. The color scheme I would choose would be orange and navy blue. I'm a Broncos fan."

See the rest of the 2019 Five Under 40 Design Award Winners

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