This home appears modern, and it is. But a closer look reveals a perfect union of past and present. Sited in historic Basalt, Colo.—an old railroad village once called Fryingpan Town for its smelting kilns—the house has a soul that’s rooted in the early 1900s, and it maintains a proud connection to the natural and man-made elements that came before it.
The lot, which abuts public land, was once part of a homesteading property filled with sage and piñon. The site fell into disuse, and invasive weeds took over. It was probably off-putting to some, but the buyers loved the area’s heritage. To build their house, they drew inspiration from Basalt’s “scruffy roots and eclectic attitude” and even from an abandoned cabin and trailer on site.
“Basalt is a collection of cottages, bungalows, mail-order Victorians, and old commercial buildings. It’s a collage,” says architect John Cottle, who gathered design cues from Old Town Basalt. At the home’s north elevation, he stuck a gabled roof on two stories and then superimposed a curved roof and galvanized steel façade for the adjoining single story, calling to mind both Basalt’s houses and its smelting kilns.
Cottle reinforced a sense of place by using as much salvage as possible to build the home. Concrete walks from the original property were broken up and remade into flagstone-style patios and walkways that encourage drainage. The loose sandstone foundation from the site’s old cabin was salvaged for reuse in the new home’s walls. Where reclaimed materials weren’t possible, unabashedly industrial ones stand in. One of the living room’s support beams is whitewashed resawn glulam; another is an off-the-shelf wide flange column from a steelyard. A wall of local brick on the bedroom wing is inspired by Old Town’s false-front commercial buildings and brick streets, says Cottle.
But with its energy smarts, this house is also forward-thinking. The home’s main orientation is south, so almost 50 percent of the home gets direct solar gain. In the summer, the bedroom wing’s brick wall helps buffer the intense, southwestern sun. An energy recovery ventilator heats and cools the space, and an evacuated tube solar panel provides energy for almost 70 percent of the hot water. Eco-friendly materials abound: galvanized steel and HardiePlank exteriors, glulam framing, engineered walnut floors, low-VOC particle board kitchen cabinets, and low- and no-VOC paints and finishes throughout.
The house is as much about reclaiming the site it’s on as it is about repurposed materials. During construction, the owners were able to preserve all but two of the fruit trees from the orchard that once stood on the property. They’ve planted sage and native grasses, and local wildlife (foxes, wild turkeys, and coyotes, among others) is coming back. One more aspect of living here that’s old-timey in the best way: Work, food shopping, and the town’s main street are all a half-mile walk from home.