Mother Earth Living

Canyon Culture: A House Built into a Rock Wall

In Cortez, Colorado, the ultimate natural home incorporates a cliffside and celebrates a view of archeological significance.

Dan designed a cozy nook in the recess of the cliff, as it recedes toward the home’s center. A sheepskin rug thrown over the naturally formed reclining seat makes it a welcoming spot for reading and relaxing.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
The rusted red roof and pine board-and-batten walls of Dan’s home blend with the cliff.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
The rusted red roof and pine board-and-batten walls of Dan’s home blend with the cliff.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
To make the bathroom feel more spacious, Dan opted against an enclosed shower. Instead, he installed the showerhead in the wall and enclosed the bathing area with a shallow circle of sandstone rocks found on the property. The effect of bathing in this open shower, with a rock cliff on one side and the skylight above, is like showering in ­an indoor waterfall.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Dan’s furnishings were selected for scale and texture. The dark rattan sofa and chair are lightweight so he can move them around when he’s using the space to host clients. “The feel is not frou-frou,” says his designer, Arlene F. Bernard. “But neither is Dan.”
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Within a few feet of Dan’s living room are the small remains of an Anasazi dwelling.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
One of Dan’s practical concerns about building a home into the cliffside was that the rock could slough into his home. Before construction, he water blasted the wall, then buffed it with a natural brush. After framing the house, he sprayed the rock with a water-based sealer used as a preservative for old brick buildings. To prevent water from leaking in where the roof and rock meet, Dan designed a shed-style roof made of corrugated heavy-gauge steel. He cut a three-inch slot into the cliff with a diamond saw, then slipped the roofing material into the groove with no flashing. To further weatherproof the roof, he used expandable insulating spray foam and sloped the roof down from the incision.
Photo By Laurie Dickson
Ancient petroglyphs are chiseled into the soft stone near Dan’s home.
Photo By Laurie Dickson

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