Has modern architecture finally arrived in Steamboat?
“I love walking through the back alleys of downtown Steamboat, where everything wasn’t built all at once. It’s a fun thing to check out,” says Erik Loebeck, Principal Architect at WorkshopL Limited, a design firm specializing in modern, energy-efficient design. “Not everyone is going to have the same taste and that’s the great thing about Steamboat; there are so many different ways you can approach modern architecture. It’s just a matter of scale.”
While individual tastes are one thing, modern architecture has only recently arrived in a town traditionally known for its western, rustic vibe, a ski town that’s more cowboy and country than modern and chic. For the past few decades, “mountain contemporary” has dominated the Steamboat landscape with a surplus of large, complex homes that feature multiple rooflines and traditional building materials like wood, stone and glass.
But that’s all changing, thanks to a younger set that’s coming in to Steamboat and demanding more modern, sensible design. “The demographic here is shifting away from what I like to call the ‘brown lumps,’ these big houses that have twenty different rooflines all sliding together. They’re all brown and they’re all the same,” Loebeck says. “These are ‘location neutral’ young professionals who are able to work remotely, and they have a different subset of sensibilities than your average Steamboat second homeowner.”
Loebeck says the clients that are showing up in his office today are vastly different than they were ten years ago. “They don’t want sheer size. They have a different set of values and a different sensibility in terms of what they want out of their living space. There has definitely been an increased level of interest in updating the design conventions that Steamboat has held for so long.”
Darrin Fryer, Broker Associate for Steamboat Sotheby’s has also seen a shift in the types of buyer coming to Steamboat and is seeing an increase in clients who are looking for more modern style homes. That’s one of the reasons he’s been involved in several spec home development projects over the past few years, to meet the demand of this new market.
Fryer is currently in the process of completing a single family home on Fox Ridge Road that’s the most modern home he’s built to date. “Moving in a more modern direction is not for everyone, but more and more people are interested in it, that’s for sure,” he says. The four-bedroom, four-bath spec home is over 4,500 square feet and features an ultra modern singular shed roofline, a huge departure from the complex rooflines that define the more traditional mountain contemporary luxury homes Fryer has built to date.
“This is a more simplistic view compared to back in the nineties when it was all about how many roof angles can you have to make a home look credible and fancy. This home moved more toward full square lines, one roofline, tons of glass, cantilevered decks, big window sets and visible steel that show integrity of the structure of the house. There is a rawness that is super modern.”
Fryer explains the design aesthetic aimed to minimize the impact the home has on the surrounding landscape and the great lengths his team went to in terms of excavating the lot to achieve that. “We literally dug into the ground to make sure the house was set into the forest and the ridgeline so it would blend in with the rest of the landscape. You almost don’t see the house from the ski area.”
To that point, Loebeck says modern architecture is often misunderstood and seen as complex when the goal is to achieve a simplicity and efficiency in design that makes sense for the climate, the landscape, the client’s needs and budget, and is more environmentally sound.
“I think there is still a level of restraint here, which is OK,” Loebeck says. “People still like to see more traditional shapes with modern embellishments and building on historic precedent. But then again, I have clients who walk in my door that want something right out of the Hollywood Hills. That’s when the modern approach can be taken from mild to wild.”
When it comes to an increased interest in modern architecture, Fryer is willing to bet on it—the Fox Ridge project is currently on the market for $2,995,000.