Five Under Forty: Laura Schaeffer

Meet the Architect and Owner of Laura Schaeffer Architecture in Boulder
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Portrait by Jennifer Olson

Laura Schaeffer was only 2 when her dad designed their family home, but it had a huge impact on her life and career. “He was not an architect by training—he was a teacher—but he created our house for our family,” she says. “Growing up, I loved talking to him about the process, and that made me want to learn more about architecture.”

Schaeffer, 35, whose parents still live in that Montrose house, went on to earn a bachelor’s in environmental design from CU Boulder and a master’s of architecture at the University of Colorado Denver before going to work at HMH Architecture as a project manager.

In 2014, Schaeffer went out on her own and now does all manner of residential projects.

To this day, Schaeffer applies the lessons she learned from her childhood home. “My parents really wanted to create a home with a central core, where we spent all of our time together enjoying each other. Now, when my clients are relaxed and happy in their home, I know I’ve been a success. I don’t want to build a house for my clients; I want to build a home.”

Pine Front Exterior

Photo by Dane Cronin

“I’ve always been interested in how people live in their homes. I like listening to clients talk about how they live their life. We talk about how they cook—Do they cook together? Do they cook with their kids? Are they big bakers? Do they want a play space off the kitchen so they can watch their children?—before I design a kitchen. Before I design a bedroom, I ask, ‘Do you go to bed at the same time? Does one of you get up earlier in the morning? What kind of space do you need to get ready?’ It’s very personal.”

“My favorite kind of project is one where all the craftsmen—the framer, the cabinetmaker—feel comfortable showcasing their talents. They know their craft the best, so the guy who’s building the cabinets will call if he has an idea, say, for how to fit them together well. I like that collaboration.”

“My husband and I like to travel. I love seeing the DIFFERENT WAYS PEOPLE LIVE and cook and sleep and then bringing those ideas back to my designs.” — Laura Schaeffer

“I really like the character of the historic houses I remodel, and I always try to keep some of that story alive. On a lot of remodels, the house becomes new inside, but I strive to keep as much of the character as I can, whether it’s brick walls or details like moldings. Doing a remodel, sometimes a few small, well- planned moves can transform the whole space.”

Pine Kitchen Detail

Photo by Dane Cronin

“I come from a family of makers, so I love handmade items. So even though I am a minimalist, the modern quilt that my mom made from our wedding fabric, the kitchen utensils my dad made for my baking or the dining room table my brother built for us are my most prized possessions.”

“My husband and I like to travel. I love seeing the different ways people live and cook and sleep and then bringing those ideas back to my designs. I lived for a year in Seoul, South Korea, where they have very small apartments and houses. From that, I learned how to distill what you need down to the basics and then build up from there.”

See the rest of the 2020 Five Under Forty Design Award winners.

Categories: Stylemakers