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A Dreamboat of a Home in Colorado's High Country

A spec house comes to the rescue of a Philadelphia couple longing for a Colorado retreat to call their own.

Written by Charles Bevier
Photography by Tim Murphy
Successful entrepreneurs Brent and Linda Brookstein call Philadelphia home, but they have a special love for Steamboat Springs in Colorado’s high country. “We’ve been going there for more than 30 years, in the winter and in the summer,” recalls Brent.
 
In 2001 the couple purchased a two-acre parcel to build their dream vacation home in a new 180-acre development outside of town that would feature a total of 20 custom homes on multiple-acre parcels, along with three stocked trout ponds. 
 
But once there, Linda started experiencing severe altitude sickness. The couple reluctantly concluded that they would have to sell their vacation home. “We have to play the hand we’re dealt in this life,” Brent admits. But the loss stung.
 
“Then I was online one night when I came across a sketch of a spec home that was being built in Steamboat that was a really interesting design. We visited the job site the next day. The home was all dried in and we fell in love with the breathtaking views and the home’s design. I made them an offer on the spot,” he recalls. “We thought that somehow, miraculously, her altitude sickness would go away.” Unfortunately, that has yet to happen. Although oxygen therapy is helping to mitigate the effects.
 
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Because there is typically a lot of money at stake, most spec projects are conservative when it comes to design. But that’s where one must admire the courage of architect Mike Olsen, contractor Rob Thvedt and investor/high-tech home expert Guido Constantini, who partnered on this project. Instead of the typical ski chalet, the trio dreamed up a 5,113-square-foot clamshell design, with four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. Its defining feature? A 60-foot-long barrel-shaped timber frame above the great room, kitchen and dining area. The group collaborated with Mansfield, Pennsylvania-based Woodhouse: The Timber Frame Company to help finalize the earthy design, featuring premium wood, steel and rock.
 
“None of us had ever conceived of such a design before, so it was a first time for all of us,” Mike says of the home, which features stunning views of Mount Werner and the Steamboat Ski Resort.
 
“The neat thing that Woodhouse brought to the table was the unique ability to adapt their building system to what is a one-of-kind shape for a building,” Mike says. “To be able to create all these curves with post-and-beam joinery and structural insulated panels (SIPs) was an achievement. To do all that and make the home extremely energy efficient was remarkable.”
 
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From their home in Philadelphia, the Brooksteins controlled all aspects of the build through a Crestron home automation system, using their cell phones or tablets. “The home has had some interesting visitors. Recently I had the drapes closed and a mountain lion walked up to the front door, saw its reflection in the glass and growled,” Brent recalls. “We’ve seen moose and bears walk by, too.
 
“We hardly ever have to turn on the heat,” he continues. “Even when it’s below zero outside, the home doesn’t fall below 53 degrees. It’s that efficient.”
 
While the pandemic upended their normal visits to the home, Brent treasures the memories they have made with their family, sharing the home’s amenities.
 
“In the lower level, we have a restored 1945 Brunswick pool table, a salt water hot tub and a gas fireplace. My son-in-law handcrafted a custom bar made out of black walnut,” he shares. “We’ve had a lot of good times in that space.”
 

Focus on Practicality

Despite the emphasis on high tech in the design and amenities, ultimately the design/build team wanted the home to live practically, simplifying life by making daily tasks easier to execute. “We were very cognizant of that from the outset,” the home’s architect, Mike Olsen, says. “When we think about the layout, we think about how one lives in this space and how we can make it the most efficient for daily life.” Here are just a few of the home’s easy-living features:
 
  • An oversized 693-square-foot garage accommodates today’s larger vehicles, as well as snow removal equipment, tools and toys. Three large windows on the garage door allow for plenty of daylight.
  • A broad staircase leads from the garage into the mudroom, providing ample space for shedding gear and clothing, as well as providing space for cabinets and drop zones that corral the necessities of daily life. A horizontal window above a bench invites natural light and views to the mountain meadows beyond.
  • The mudroom’s angled placement removes it from view of the main living area, creating a welcome visual and mental divide.
  • The kitchen pantry makes easy work of unloading dry goods and other kitchen supplies.
  • A floating drop ceiling above the kitchen provides generous task-oriented LED lighting for prep and cooking while making the space intimate and inviting.
  • A fountain in the stairwell of the main floor not only provides soothing white noise and ambiance, it adds much-needed humidity to Colorado’s dry mountain air.
  • The soaring steel accent structure at the rear of the home conceals two 55-square-foot storage spaces on each deck level, which are perfect for housing everything from snow removal equipment to patio furniture.
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Plus! Green Design Tip

Since the structural insulated panels (SIPs) used in Woodhouse’s building system create a home that is typically 75 percent more energy efficient compared to conventional construction, an air-to-air heat exchanger was specified for this home. Exchangers use a closed-loop system that exchanges heat inside with outside air to maintain the set internal temperature while providing superior indoor air quality and a contaminant-free environment.
 

Home Details

Square Footage: 5,113
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 4 full, 1 half
Architect: Mike Olsen

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