A gorgeous setting in southwest Colorado calls one couple to a beautiful timber frame home.By Stacey Freed Photos by James Ray Spahn Majestic views come with the territory when you fly planes for a living. For pilot Tom Brady and his wife Jeanne, that holds true even in retirement. From the living room of their custom timber home near Lake City in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, the Bradys can enjoy the wide valley bisected by Lake San Cristobal, fir covered hillsides and snowy peaks. But getting that vista — and a home worthy of it — took nearly a decade of hard work and planning.
After the couple married 42 years ago, they moved to Texas from their native Colorado, but still spent their vacations in those beloved San Juan Mountains. “Every fall we’d come to Lake City before hunting season to watch the Aspens change,” says Jeanne. It wasn’t until 2004 that they decided to put down roots back where they first met, and bought property on which to build their retirement home. The only problem: There was no way to get to their land. “You could hike to it, but there was no road,” Tom says.
To remedy the situation, they found Bob Williams, principle of Williams Engineering in Gunnison, Colorado, who helped them with the road and the design. “I looked at the site and said, ‘There’s only one place to build — on top of the site,’” Williams says. It took four years to get permits from the Bureau of Land Management, the Forestry Service and various neighbors, but the road was completed in 2010. The next year was spent finding the right builder. Finally, in November 2011, Pike Builders broke ground, but it would take nearly three years to finish the project.
“The design was driven by a few major elements,” Williams says. First, the Bradys wanted to bring the outside in. “The heart of the house is the view south toward the Continental Divide, and it’s probably the most beautiful view from a house I’ve ever seen,” he says. To capture that view, Tom wanted a house he described as a “fishbowl with a front door.” To accomplish this, the framework for everything became the wall of windows in the living room. The other important view is of Uncompahgre Peak, one of the highest summits in the Rockies at 14,321 feet. “To grab that view, we put a catwalk over the kitchen that leads to a deck outside,” Williams explains. General contractors Steve Pike and his brother Paul Pike, who was the project’s main GC, were able to navigate Williams’ intricate design, but had more of a challenge sourcing products that were made in the U.S.A. — a top priority for the Bradys. “From the light bulbs, to the screws in any fixture, to the glass in the windows — everything is American made. That was a massive undertaking and part of the reason why it took three years to build this house,” Steve says. But this attention to detail has made the structure itself as spectacular as the view.
The Bradys wanted the house to blend into its surroundings and appear as if it were an old mining camp, so the 4,600-square-foot, three-level home was built with Eastern white pine, reclaimed from an old tobacco plantation in North Carolina. “The pieces were not refurbished,” Steve says. “It’s all in its original state.” All the timbers are structural, and the Pikes design what Steve calls “intriguing joinery” so each home has its own style.
The highlight of the main level’s open plan may be the view out the window wall, but the exposed wooden beams and dark leather furniture make the living room, dining room and kitchen comfortable and warm — “the opposite of formal,” Tom says. Upstairs, a 700-square-foot man cave is bordered by a railing as if it’s a balcony in a 19th-century frontier saloon. “I wanted it like a bordello, almost tacky,” Tom says with a laugh, “with a chandelier, lanterns and lamps with flickering flame lights.” The ceiling was faux painted to look as if it had seen its share of wood and tobacco smoke. And, of course, there’s the fireman’s pole. For safety’s sake, the team designed and built a cage around the pole to look like an old jail cell. Now, full-time residents of the small town of Lake City, the Bradys enjoys hiking, cross-country skiing, riding ATVs and exploring the old mines. Jeanne does genealogy research on her Swedish heritage, and Tom is happy not to be away from home 20 days out of every month. “Traveling is driving 12 minutes to town and going to the coffee shop and listening to the local gossip,” he says. “I don’t have to go through TSA when I strap on my cross country skis; no one pats me down when I walk out the door to go fishing and I don’t have to stand in line.” “Dorothy had it right,” Jeanne says. “There’s no place like home."