Inside out, top to bottom, this creekside Steamboat Springs home turns the traditional chalet on its head with a rooftop garden and modern style. Erinn Morgan investigates
Photography by Charlie Dresen
Steamboat Springs’ famous champagne powder floats down gently, covering the rooftop garden of Steve Herron’s home. Nestled in a supremely private, wooded 2-acre lot, this modern, expansive chalet is located, surprisingly, right next to Steamboat’s bustling Old
Town — but still just a mere 10-minute drive to the ski resort.
And, a creek also runs through the property.
That’s two braids of Butcher Creek, to be exact. “It’s my favorite feature,” says Herron, a single father of three young children who owns a Denver-based business. “I grew up in the Midwest on a large farm where there was a lot of live water, so I love this property with the two creek braids running through it. It’s a very private, lovely place where we have picnics at least once a week.”
But this 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home’s conveniently located privacy is just one of its standout attributes. There’s the spectacular architecture and open design with huge windows that bring the outside in. There’s the specially designed joinery that becomes an aesthetic element. Then there’s the 2,000-square-foot roof garden.
The home’s expansive rooftop green space is a botanical and architectural success story. The garden space is also a favorite spot where Herron and his children gather. “We use it all the time — it’s wonderful,” he says. “There’s a fire pit, and we often go up there and look at the stars at night. When the kids aren’t here, it’s a good place for dad to go and have a cup of coffee.”
A thriving rooftop garden is no easy feat, according to the home’s builder and original owner, Daniel Jessen. “The surprise was no one had effectively built a green roof that actually worked,” he says, noting that they found success by using subsurface irrigation — a drip system inside the soil — and the right plant mix, including seedums, succulents and yarrow.
Another bonus: Jessen says that the roof garden is a sustainable building feature because it blocks ultraviolet light from the rubber roofing membrane, thus protecting it and prolonging its life. In addition, the green roof provides some insulation, keeping the home warmer or cooler depending on the season.
The rooftop garden also was a key architectural consideration. “We chose a timber frame because it can hold the soil and moisture,” Jessen says. “The biggest year we had snow-wise was 54” inches of standing snow on the roof, and it was just fine.
According to Jeff Gerber, the home’s lead designer, creating a timber frame that could hold that much weight on the roof was a complicated process. “The biggest challenge was that the vegetative roof put about a 200-pounds-per-square-foot load on the roof, including snow load,” Gerber says. The test was in mixing that requirement with the more free-flowing open space design of a home constructed with timber, columns and main beam lies. Special custom joinery was engineered to solve the problem. “In the end it looks like traditional timber joinery, but it has a very complicated construction,” Gerber says.
Gerber notes that one of the design goals for the home was to put it together almost as a village. The master and secondary bedrooms, along with the entryway and office, are traditionally designed, but everything in between — the main public spaces — is more free-flowing. “They connect the private spaces together,” says Gerber. “It’s one of the more successful aspects of the whole concept.”
Living in the home, Herron says this is one of his favorite features. “There are five completely different sitting areas,” he says. “It’s almost like you can find a different space — and they also change with the light, depending on your mood. It’s also great to be able to have a separate space for the kids and their toys.”
This tucked-away, modern home also boasts a truly open design that is punctuated — and facilitated — by scores of soaring glass windows that bring in the beauty of the natural landscape and changing light outside. “The inside is basically the outside,” Jessen says.
Inside, special details deliver luxury and utility at the same time. Acid-etched concrete floors lend a modern, sustainable feel. A sleek, open commercial kitchen creates a gathering point and a covetable space for culinary endeavors. Outside, the home’s exterior boasts reclaimed mixed hardwood siding. In addition, a detached garage with an additional office sits on the property.
The interior design, curated by Kim Romig, owner of the Steamboat Springs-based Into the West, is at once formal (Herron entertains regularly) and functional (his three children range from 5 to 9 years old).
In the end, Herron says that it is truly the sense of community that this close-to-town house provides that makes it a home. In addition, the property is flanked on three sides by a Steamboat Springs city park. Thus, its value is extended with additional green space in the form of public lands that provide access to a walking path.
“Most of Steamboat in the Old Town area was planned on a grid,” Gerber says. “But, at the very end of this street it just falls apart and ends up feeling very rural where this home is located. It’s a neat experience to leave that gridded Old Town behind and enter this property that is very private.”
And, for Herron, that privacy with a connection to community is key. “We can walk to school, we can walk to church. With three young kids, this gives us time for the family. And, we end up watching the blue herons in the yard — it’s just a wonderful place for my children to explore and experience.”
Take a full tour: click here to see more photos.