A Change Will Do You Good
Those of us who have been through a remodel know that design goals evolve over the course of the project. Is that true even for a designer’s own home?
CH&L: You call your home “a loft in the mountains.” Tell us why.
Keira Ritter: After working on multiple loft-style projects, I wanted to combine an open floor plan with more of a mountain aesthetic, so the “loft in the mountains” idea was born. I always strive to create a unique fusion of industrial and organic, and our home became the perfect canvas for this approach.
So you began with an interesting design concept. What did you hope to achieve?
The home was originally built in 1968 and was very compartmentalized. We removed walls, added windows and used exposed steel detailing inside and out to emphasize the industrial qualities we both love. The home in its original state didn’t take advantage of the surrounding landscape, a problem I fixed by using materials that complement the color palette outside. We also added a sculptural porch canopy, which peels away in layers as it stretches away from the house and into the soft grasses.
We wanted a sense of cohesiveness throughout the house, so we repeated certain details—like the custom iron-and-stainless-steel guardrail you see on the second-floor lofts, which tie in with the steel columns in the sunroom and exposed steel framing in the living room. And the birch slab doors with rusted steel kick-plates tie the materials outside with materials we used indoors. Plus, they add a sense of warmth.
Those of us who have been through a remodel know that design goals evolve over the course of the project. Is that true even for a designer's own home?
Definitely! The design went through several iterations, thanks to budget constraints that made us re-work our ideas. The big question we kept asking was: how can we use ordinary materials in extraordinary ways? For example, most designers don't use raw steel as a finish material in residential interiors, but I love steel, so decided to use it as an accent or design feature wherever possible.
We also had our fair share of surprises, just like anyone going through a remodel. During demo, we discovered that the south sunroom wall wasn't supported adequately, so we would need to reinforce it. The typical solution would be to bury columns in the wall, but we wanted to do something a little different, so I designed 25-foot steel columns that solved our structural problem and created a prominent design element.
That's a bold solution.
Well, my house functions as my laboratory. It's where I test my ideas. I want to be sure that these unconventional methods work before I encourage my clients to take risks in their own spaces, and thus far it's been very successful.
We're always interested in how a location influences design, and if you're going to be bold, Boulder seems like a community ready to embrace it.
There's a lot of creative thought in Boulder and a growing appreciation for good design. Our home is a bit edgier than most, but it's been well received. It's rewarding to share our project with our community. Complete strangers have stopped by, asked questions about the house, taken pictures—it's a pleasure.
We certainly have our favorite features of your home, like the beautiful rust patina on the fireplace mantle. What do you like best?
There is this amazing combination of hard materials and beautiful mountain light that creates a sense of warmth you wouldn't expect from a house full of steel, stone and aluminum. We found the right blend of color, material, texture and light—and we've ended up with an extremely serene space.
There's one piece of this remodel story that's not so much about the materials or structures. This home was originally your fiancé's, and your relationship grew over the course of the remodel. Does the finished result reflect your relationship at all?
Believe it or not, Joe and I agreed about the design direction from the very beginning. We're both creative and innovative people, and the house is proof! Our individual tastes have contributed to the overall vision: Joe loves Bang & Olufsen and Philippe Starck—and motorsports. I collect Eames furniture, books, plants and anything orange. We thrived on the process of bouncing ideas off one another, and our home really is an expression of our personalities.
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