By Elizabeth Gold
Current trends in local architectural design are directly related to a meeting in the middle.
As people migrate to Colorado, they bring ideas for living spaces that make their change in location seem more like home. In Boulder County, the technology industry especially is pulling in people from both coasts.
“They’re bringing with them sophisticated design expectations,” said Steven Perce, principal with Bldg.Collective Modern Colorado Architecture and Design in Boulder. More than half of his company’s clients are from out of state.
“They’re interested in aesthetics plus style, and for us to blend those things from different locations and climates with the special elements of Colorado,” added Chris Gray, another principal at the firm.
Modern Colorado architecture mainly highlights the unique characteristics of our area. It’s a misnomer that all of Colorado is in the mountains and a fact that not everyone is interested in what used to be associated with the state: log cabins.
Materials such as wide plank wooden floors and plaster walls override the heavily textured walls and big logs that were the style of pre-modern Colorado.
“Modern isn’t really a style anymore,” Perce said. “It’s more the approach to design.”
He described the approach as rational and practical while sensual with a focus on location and environment. Gray added that attention to outdoor space also plays a big role.
Outdoor spaces need to be designed to fit in with Colorado winters and weather.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, modern design had more to do with expressiveness than with function. Some of the designs of the time included aesthetics such as awnings, which don’t hold up in Colorado high winds.
“Extraneous things like that don’t last long on a building here,” Perce said. “Historically, homes in Colorado have been fairly utilitarian. There are no silly hats on top that don’t have any function.”
Modern Colorado architecture puts the idea of function high on the list.
“Coloradans in general are practical people,” he said. “They’re not ostentatious in their lives or their approach to things.”
Using durable materials with low maintenance further describes the design approach of modern Colorado architecture. Those materials include external products such as thermally modified wood products that can stand up to the kind of harsh climate Colorado can dish out.
Colorado modern color pallets also take the landscape into account.
“We’re doing lots of neutrals and grays and then throw in a bright pop of color on particular walls or tiles,” Perce said. “We use color very judiciously, though, because there’s so much sun in Colorado that it can become overwhelming to add too much brightness.”
According to the National Association of Home Builders, there’s a trend for new construction homes to be smaller, and Perce agrees with the movement in homes his company is building.
“We see a lot of projects where people aren’t interested in building large homes but in living in neighborhoods with smaller spaces,” he said.
He referred to the interest as a lifestyle trend — especially in Colorado where people are attracted to doing things outside. “The outside space is as much a priority as the inside here,” he said.
Smaller spaces also can make a home more energy efficient and help reduce the heating and cooling bills.
Making effective use of resources such as the sun to warm a house in the winter, heat water and produce power are additional interests that meet the same goal. It also reduces wear and tear on the planet, another high-on-the-list interest of Colorado homeowners.
“Green and sustainable are part of every project we do, and it’s becoming more typical to the point where they’re assumed,” Gray said. Those things include mechanical elements such as heating and cooling systems and good-quality window insulating foam.
“Smart homes are becoming more and more a topic of conversation,” said Perce. “There’s now a gap between supply companies creating great products and expandability. Things like the Nest reach scalability limits very quickly.”
Even though combining a high number of components for a smart home relies on a control system that’s very complex, people still want the basics. That means having lights on when they come home and being able to control their environment and sound and video systems.
Those new-home owners do want to be prepared for the future, however, reflecting an increasing trend for pre-wiring new homes. Doing the work before walls go up rather than retrofitting at a later date comes with a much more affordable price tag.