A Perfect Fit
left to right: Members of the Marr Corp. crew: Erik Iverson, Chris Meyer, Corbin Marr, Victor Zermeno Tapia, Doug Fowler and Brent Strauss.
Diane and Tim Mueller are determined to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible, which is evident in the way they power their three ski resorts—Crested Butte Mountain Resort and two resorts in New England—with clean, renewable wind energy. And it’s evident in how they honored the past and the planet when building a new home in Crested Butte. “Tim and I have a long commitment to environmental responsibility, both in our ski resorts and in our homes,” Diane says. “It’s in our blood.”
When the couple bought the Crested Butte Mountain Resort four years ago, they took their time deciding where to build a home, considering the benefits of the mountain, valley and town. The upper East River Valley won out, with its spectacular 360-degree views of Paradise Divide, Whetstone Mountain and Crested Butte. The 70-acre site had a pond and space for Tim to train dogs in water retrieval. It also had an old, red metal barn at the top of a rise, something of an eyesore. “We considered tearing down the barn,” Diane says, “but we liked the location so much and felt we could transform it into a home. It didn’t make sense to us or seem responsible to totally start from scratch.”
The barn housed a small apartment, so it already had the necessary infrastructure: a road, well water, foundation, electricity and a septic system, all big-ticket items. “We began to recognize that this junker building had some pretty handsome lines and a shape that fit into an authentic Western landscape,” says builder/contractor Corbin Marr.
Teaming up with local talent, including Marr, architect Jennifer Hartman, interior designer Raye Malzhan and several craftsmen, the Muellers put together a like-minded team committed to green building. Hartman, whose architectural firm has expertise in sustainability and environmental consciousness, had done some design work at the ski area. Marr, who Diane says “never throws anything away,” took the homeowners’ ideas and ran with them, making suggestions such as adding photovoltaic solar panels to produce electricity. Even the furnishings were selected with an eye for green or recycled materials.
The inside of the barn was completely gutted except for the main staircase and subfloors, and the windows were reconfigured to bring in more natural light and capitalize on the mountain views. The space was reorganized for a two-story dwelling with a large garage. “Tim and I wanted something livable but not so big that we can’t find each other,” Diane says of her 2,955-square-foot home.
To protect the home from the intense sunlight and harsh winter weather at an altitude of 8,885 feet, the Muellers’ team had to build an energy-efficient home. The barn’s original metal walls are now encased in 15 inches of layered insulation and wood siding. New wood-framed windows are energy-efficient, and two different types of solar panels mounted near the home provide electricity and supplement hot water for household use and radiant in-floor heat.
The team chose materials and patinas indicative of old mining and farm buildings. “We transformed the barn into a building that looks like it could have been here for 100 years,” Diane says. “It’s so important to us that a building fits into the context of the landscape and the community.” Cor-Ten steel roofing with a rusty surface, aged and distressed board siding, and barn-style cupolas define the exterior. Inside, the walls are covered in recycled barn wood. “We wanted the barn to read through on the interior as well as the exterior,” Hartman says.
A host of natural materials, such as reclaimed wood, iron, stone and American Clay plaster, bring an earthiness to the space. A massive sandstone fireplace anchors the open great room and warms the home, while hefty vertical timbers and ceiling beams add a feeling of solidity to the interiors. “We basically built a timber-frame house inside the barn,” Marr says.
Diane and interior designer Raye Malzhan decorated the home with colorful accents and lots of rich texture: chenille and crewel upholstery fabrics and Turkish carpets. Some of the furnishings are handmade; others are family pieces or antiques. “Bringing in lots of different types of furnishings creates more intellectual interest and artistic tension,” Malzhan says.
Local craftsmen created more interest with custom stone masonry, ironwork, wood working, furniture and art. “I knew we had good talent in the area, and we wanted to help support and encourage our local creative community,” Diane says. “We benefitted with wonderful and unique work in our home.”
The abundance of wood in the house is counterbalanced with natural light during the day and a well-designed system of can lights and hidden rope lights that make the house glow with warmth at night. “The house feels good. It's warm and inviting, definitely home,” Diane says.
For relative newcomers to Colorado and part-time homeowners—the Muellers divide their time between Crested Butte and New England—Diane and Tim have adjusted well to the Western lifestyle. “The people here are part of the landscape—from real sports enthusiasts to artists to those connected to the land,” Diane says. “Tim and I are those kind of people, so we just fit right in.”
Builder/contractor Corbin Marr made sure that nothing was wasted as the Muellers’ team transformed the old metal barn into a comfortable new home:
GRIND IT UP. Marr hired a subcontractor to grind up the old sheetrock and linoleum from the barn apartment. This decision drastically reduced the number of truckloads taken to the local landfill, which accepted the ground-up material as useful structural fill and didn’t charge a dumping fee.
SPREAD IT AROUND. The barn’s metal roof was dismantled and offered to a local rancher, who used it for cattle shelters. Insulation and doors were given or sold to companies in Gunnison and Montrose that recycle construction materials. Marr found a place for the cabinetry in his own workshop.
REUSE IT. The original metal barn walls add support and are imbedded between insulation (spray foam and cellulose insulation creates a hybrid insulation system) and board siding. Wood from old partition walls was reused as backers for the siding.
RECLAIM IT. Very little new material went into the construction of the home. Exterior siding was milled from dead standing beetle-kill pines. Interior wood floors, beams, walls and even crown molding are all reclaimed wood.
BUY GREEN. The designer selected furnishings and fixtures from green companies, including Eleek, Inc., a lighting manufacturer that recycles aluminum and bronze, and South Cone Trading Company, which uses sustainable forestry practices and employs indigenous people in Peru. For her own furniture designs, Malzhan specifies either reclaimed or sustainable wood.
Marr Corp. Construction