Greening the McMansion: Simplifying a Grand Home

An over-the-top development house comes down to earth through a combination of natural, earthy materials and a melding of multicultural shapes and colors. The result is a phoenix rising from upscale mediocrity.

| September/October 2004

  • One of several wall niches displays art from Stephanie’s private collection.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • Concrete countertops in a rich terra-cotta color and handmade Mexican tile warm up the kitchen.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • Unique custom-designed furniture personalizes the kitchen’s eating nook
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • Reused stone set against alder bookshelves and a terra-cotta floor changed the cold surfaces of the study into a warm and inviting space.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • Nature’s beauty hand-hewn into magnificent yet simple design typifies this newly greened home.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • From the bedroom wall, vintage obi hang above an antique Chinese table and statue.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • An intricately carved door from Mali marks the bedroom’s entry.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • The master bedroom window provides stunning views of the foothills; beneath it a chest from eighteenth-century northern China.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • Stones collected from Stephanie’s travels nestle in an earthen tray.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • A hollowed out granite sink bowl and Fire and Earth tile were perfect additions to the bathroom.
    Photo By Joe Coca
  • Open fields border this home, now transformed into a personalized space of sustainability and natural beauty.
    Photo By Joe Coca

Stephanie Bordes loved her Lyons, Colorado, residence. Perched on a hilltop with soaring views of the Rocky Mountains, the home was sunny and warm with a modern, open design that connected it to the high plains surroundings. There was just one problem: The artist and her two-year-old son, Daniel, shared the property with a prolific colony of rattlesnakes. They had to move.

So in 2001, Stephanie bought a new house in an upscale neighborhood in nearby Boulder. The backyard opened directly onto city-owned open space and nestled against foothills that rise above the home. The views were incredible—but the developer’s taste wasn’t. In fact there was little about the residence to recommend it, aside from its site. The house had a little of this, a little of that, and too much of everything. The lines were complicated, the finishes were cold, and some of the construction was unrefined.

Stephanie asked architect Chuck Koshi and the mother-daughter interior design team of Carolyn Baker and Kristina Baker de Atucha to give the home a complete facelift. “I would like you to transform my new home into a natural, peaceful, serene, happy setting for me and my son,” she told the team, the principals of Koshi Baker Design Associates. “I wanted to make it as clean an environment as possible,” Stephanie says. “I am very sensitive to environmental pollutants, but I think it’s also part of wanting to make some small contribution to making the environment better.”

Could this home—with its imposing but architecturally unnecessary pillars, set cheek-by-jowl with a bevy of similar grandiose homes—be transformed into something that would suit this sensitive, earth-centered woman?

Welcome home

The design team started at the front entry, which Stephanie found impersonal. They removed superfluous columns and added wood and stone. Alder garage doors and accents create an earthy, natural feeling, and moss rock placed around the foundation—harvested from Stephanie’s Lyons property—grounds the home. The driveway was repoured with a warm sandstone-pink color, and the landscape was tamed to open up the entry, almost as a courtyard. By starting at the driveway, says Carolyn, the design team let the outside begin to tell the story of the house.

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