Nestled back in the Sanctuary, Scott and Karin Lee’s house is just that – their sanctuary. It’s cozy and inviting from the moment you step in; steep wooden steps lead up to the double front door and upon entry, the house opens up to a warm and inviting space. In the main room, the open floor plan hosts the kitchen, dining room and living room with high ceilings featuring wood beams and a floor to ceiling stone fireplace. The table is set for a meal, with napkins folded at the ready, and music echoes joyfully throughout the large room.
The dog gets put outside on the wraparound porch, and as we migrate to the living room, sinking into the plush couch, Scott and Karin begin telling their Steamboat story.
Living in Florida, they often took ski vacations with friends – they had been to many resorts across the country from the east coast to the west. Steamboat was a favorite mainly because, Scott says, it didn’t just feel like a ski resort, but rather a ranching town.
Strolling downtown one day, they wandered into realtor Lisa Olson’s office, and the rest was history.
“If you go back to the beginning of the story,” Scott says, “it really starts with Lisa. She’s been our person for almost every point of contact so far.”
Through Lisa, their connections in Steamboat grew deeper. She was the one who introduced them to Peter and Kim Kreissig, who they purchased a condo from in 2005. Stonewood at Eagleridge, located at the base of the mountain, had only dirt on the ground the first time that the Lees saw it. Relying on floor plans, builder specs and good faith, they purchased the first townhome in what would become a 23-unit complex.
“It didn’t take long, however, before a mutual respect and friendship ensued. The Lees are entrepreneurs, just like us, which made it easy for us to connect on a personal level.”
Back in Kissimmee, Florida, Scott and Karin had a career in the miniature golf world where they located, designed, built, owned and operated several themed golf courses. Together with two other families, the Lees continue to own these properties, but after several years of splitting their time between Kissimmee and Steamboat, the duo decided they needed a more permanent home – and they knew who to call. The Kreissigs had become close friends, and the two couples had socialized frequently together outside of work in the few years that they had known each other.
“When Scott and Karin came to Peter to build their custom home, it was a no-brainer for us to accept the opportunity,” Kim says.
Up until that point, Peter had not been interested in becoming a general contractor for anyone else but his own company, for which he built custom spec homes. But both he and Kim agreed that it would be wonderful to work with their close friends on a custom build.
“There was always the fear that things could go South and we might lose a friendship,” Kim explained. “But the opposite happened! The friendship and mutual respect only grew.”
After finding the property, Scott visited it one night at 3:00 am.
“The sky was dark,” he remembers, “and I could see every star. I said ‘yeah, this is the spot.’”
Peter introduced the Lees to Kevin and Wendy Lind of Axial Arts to help collaborate on architectural details, and together, the group designed and built the house from the ground up.
“Architecturally, the Lees wanted to embrace the mountain rustic characteristics of design, with a solid stone base to visually tie the home to the site, and heavy timber structural elements with variations in wood siding,” explains Kevin. “And we wanted to give them multiple opportunities to have access to the outdoors, providing transition spaces between indoor space and the on-grade outdoor places.”
Scott requested three things: an office, an art studio and a gallery space, all of which were incorporated into the home.
Building their dream home was an 18-month process filled with back and forth trips, contractors, interior design decisions and many learning experiences. But as the house was being built, Karin and Scott formed friendly relationships with each and every worker from plumbers to landscapers to carpenters.
“I would wander around the house and meet all the guys who were working,” he remembers. “I grew up working construction every summer and most of my career had to do with construction as well. I’ve swung a lot of hammers and pounded a lot of nails in my day, so I appreciate these guys and the hard work that they do to make everything come together.”
He touts the importance of looking at the big picture when building – not getting too caught up if things aren’t done on time and not haggling for the best price.
Kim Romick, owner of Into the West, helped find window treatments, carpets and furnishings, often emailing Karin photos for her opinion while she was back in Kissimmee.
“Kim really helped make the space feel cozy and like home, which is exactly what we wanted,” Karin says.
The house became their primary residence when the couple sold their place in Kissimmee to live in Steamboat full time. A few years after the house was finished, the Lees decided to remodel the outdoor living area to make it more functional, especially for year-round use. With their good friends Peter and Kim Kreissig swamped with other jobs, they turned to Vertical Arts to help them envision a new reality.
Sarah Tiedeken O’Brien, a partner at Vertical Arts, remembers the existing site being largely unused.
“They were seeking a tranquil and scenic spot to expand their indoor/outdoor living space,” she says.
They enlarged the patio footprint by moving further into the hill behind the house and redesigning the retaining boulder wall to open up the space and allow more access to the yard. A secondary pathway was created to the patio with slab flagstone steps, connecting the garage to the outdoor space. Additional patio space was added to ensure the couple can entertain guests, including a large grill.
Custom made steel panels, designed by Scott and laser cut by a company on the front range, Parasoleil, were installed to provide more privacy between the Lee’s house and their neighbor’s house. The hot tub sits hidden behind another screen, providing yet another layer of intimacy. An eye-catching sculpture designed by Scott sits on display in the middle of the space which aids the transition from indoor to out.
The landscaping was done by Mitch Clark, owner of Snow Country nursery, who became another close friend of the Lee family.
“Mitch moved all the boulders to recreate the retaining wall,” says Scott. “Anyone can stack up boulders but this guy really loves what he does. He’s an artist and takes a lot of pride in his work. He’ll take a rock and move it over a foot, and somehow, it will just be better.”
With the home and outdoor renovation complete, Scott and Karin settled in to host their friends who worked with them. It was pleasantly ironic that the outdoor space was used to gather with the very people who helped build it, including Mitch Clark and Sarah Tiedeken O’Brien, with their significant others. Scott recalls many meals outside at the table and cocktails around the fire.
Relationships are the most important thing to the couple, and it’s clear that they have formed many in this town.
“From the minute I met the Lees, I realized what an engaging couple they are,” says Sarah Tiedeken O’Brien. “They are so kind and so easy to get along with. Not only that, but they appreciate design, as it can impact the usefulness and vitality of a space. With Scott’s background designing miniature golf courses, he understands how the relationship and flow can create amazing spaces.”
Lisa Olson, the realtor who got them started in Steamboat, has remained close friends with the couple as well. “From sampling new restaurants together and catching up about life, they have been great friends, and I have learned so much about running a business from Scott,” she says.
At home in Steamboat, surrounded not only by colleagues but friends, the Lees are happy with their decision to live in Routt County full time. And Scott has a theory: “If you create an environment in your home and it’s a place that you can live really well in, you’ll live longer,” he says with a grin.
Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer in Steamboat Springs. When she’s not chasing after her husband, two boys and a crazy puppy, she enjoys long (quiet) hikes and many hours spent reading.