Local builder constructs a new home in a historic neighborhood
Perched on the edge of downtown Steamboat Springs, Jeremy and Krysta MacGray’s home stands as an example of how a unique vision can transform a landscape. What was once a narrow, sloped lot now stands as a modern farmhouse that perfectly balances seemingly opposing styles as well as the needs of a large family.
Jeremy MacGray, a general contractor and President of local building company JSM Builders, has been in the business of fulfilling future homeowners’ dreams in Steamboat Springs since 1998. When deciding on a new build for his own family, finding what worked for all of them was a top priority. This unique downtown location gave them access to amenities, a safe environment and a chance to build their long-term home. It’s a place to watch their kids grow, where family and friends are always welcome, and they can support their active lifestyle.
Located near the site of the former Steamboat Springs hospital, the neighborhood is a mix of traditional homes, remodel projects and new builds. The appeal of the lot is undeniable, located on a private street close to schools and within walking distance to downtown shops and restaurants. The access is in the back of the home, much like the alley approach common in downtown Steamboat, but with much more open space. The front of the property, with no driveway approach, is reminiscent of a park entrance with its thoughtful landscaping and stone walkway.
Once they found the perfect lot, the MacGrays turned to Steamboat Springs-based architectural design firm Vertical Arts Architecture to transform the lot into their future home. With a houseful of four children and three dogs, that was a large task – seeing beyond the everyday, anticipating future needs and building to suit them. Vertical Arts was ready to take on the challenge.
Architect Brandt Vanderbosch was tasked with transforming the sloped lot into a homesite.
“The slender shape and grade of the site with access points on each end of the house made for a big challenge,” states Vanderbosch. The lot also created interesting design challenges within the home. “It was a unique challenge getting the mud room entry on the lower level to connect with the upper level kitchen and not overwhelm the upper level with a large exposed stair.” The architect not only overcame any layout challenges but created a home that easily moves the family throughout the space.
The MacGrays first and foremost wanted to create the perfect home for their family. The thoughtfully designed, modern space isn’t afraid to show signs that a family lives there. It goes beyond décor – children’s framed watercolors decorate the walls – but also features unique details specifically designed for kids like built in cubbies, a utilitarian mud room and even a downstairs theater room. The family- friendly design ranges from reading nooks by the fire to an open floor plan and large kitchen windows that provides easy visibility to kids playing in the yard.
“We thought about the kids coming home from school and being able to watch that from the upper deck,” says Vanderbosch. “We also thought about where they enter on the lower level and the pathway to storage – where they put their back packs.”
Merging the couple’s style was a top priority for Vanderbosch and Interior Designer Sarah Tiedeken O’Brien at Vertical Arts Architecture. “Jeremy really loves industrial design whereas Kristen has more of a modern farmhouse/feminine aesthetic. The goal was to integrate elements from both of those styles to create an eclectic mix that reflects their styles. Everything needed to be kid-proof and durable without being too precious,” notes O’Brien.
The result is a modern farmhouse with industrial accents featuring a combination of those styles, like shiplap next to exposed duct work and weathered steel beams. The varying styles work to contrast but also complement each other – the combination of metals and warm wood throughout the home helps to soften the industrial elements of concrete and metal. The main room houses the family’s collection of books, further illustrating how diverse tastes can create a cohesive style. “We love how the house feels like a family home, due in part to the eclectic taste that my wife and I have with furnishings and interiors,” says Jeremy.
Steamboat residents often like to spend as much time outside as they do in, and this home is specifically designed to meet that need. Floor to ceiling windows throughout the main room allow the beautiful surrounding views to steal the show. At the far end of the home, foldable glass doors open to an elevated, full-size stone patio, complete with hot tub, fire pit and plenty of seating. The layout takes you above the street, and above even most of the surrounding homes, so you can focus on soaking in that picturesque view. In this type of setting, you almost forget you’re minutes from downtown.
The family feel extends beyond the home. A detached caretaker unit emphasizes their desire to have friends and family visit, with the unit often occupied by guests staying for weeks at a time. “We are really proud of the way the mother-in-law unit is separate but connected to the home by the rooftop patio. Our guests get to stay with us, but not in our space,” notes Jeremy. And when those guests come inside the main home, they are welcomed at a custom wooden farmhouse-style table that begs for family and friends to gather round.
A large stone fireplace serves as the focal point on the main floor, the one element that diverts the open floor plan. The double-sided, French farmhouse-inspired sandstone piece provides an entryway on the one side and on the other side a cozy space that opens up the rest of the home. It’s a stunning centerpiece, a grounding feature that both welcomes guests in the front door and encourages them to sit and stay awhile. Perfectly placed reading chairs provide ready seating to enjoy the ceiling-height book collection that sits opposite.
Providing another component of the modern industrial style, concrete floors throughout show attention to detail. The main floor features smooth, diamond-ground concrete floors while a different, hand-troweled texture finish is used on the upper floor. “Getting the concrete floors finished and installing the huge windows and doors was the most challenging aspect of the build,” says Jeremey. “Both were done in the middle of the winter when it was cold, snowy and icy.” Despite the challenges though, it’s clear the family is thrilled with the floors. It’s the perfect material to maintain that modern feel while still being practical for lots of little feet and paws scurrying around.
An essential element to the family home has to be the kitchen. The MacGrays wanted an open design that creates a seamless transition to the outdoors, with large windows, floating shelving and suspended cabinetry blocks. The design allows the light from the large windows to saturate the space and extend the indoor/outdoor feel to the kitchen. Another creative touch in the home is the custom breakfast bar. The non-linear bar sits at a 90-degree angle, so diners are looking at each other, not just down the line. It also makes an easier job of serving up meals to four hungry kids.
The stairs leading to the second floor feature one of the most vibrant elements of the home: an eye-catching, colorful runner that adds a playful feel to the modern space. Constructed from 12 separate rugs, this statement piece makes an inviting and lively path to the upper level, where a playful patchwork-style wood sliding barn door fabricated by Twenty1Five creatively hides an upstairs laundry unit. The highlight of the upper floor, the master suite boasts 180-degree views of Mount Werner and Emerald Mountain. Design details like a low-profile bed and window shades that rise from the ground up take full advantage of the views while minimizing the surrounding structures. In the master bath hand-picked tiles, selected even before the house was designed, add a colorful contrast to the shiplap walls and repurposed snow fence vanity.
Being a local builder comes with some perks: the owners knew what they wanted and to how to get there, having built a few houses along the way. They are also well acquainted with local resources. They often use the same subcontractors for every project, have worked with the architects and designers many times, and are familiar with the unique challenges and opportunities of building in Steamboat. They can also use their own home as an example of their craftsmanship, a story that potential buyers can see unfold as they walk through. The home is a result of close collaborations with local partnerships that have been fine-tuned over the years.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the MacGray home is that at the end of the day, it’s the perfect home for them. It’s a beautifully crafted home that showcases their love of family, love of the outdoors and their desire to live life with both of those front and center.
Photos: Dave Patterson Photography