Mountain Mural

Written by Patrick Soran


They might admire the pure white snow and jaw-dropping blue sky of winter. Or autumn’s tawny russets. Or summer’s oases of green. What is unusual, though, is the season one designer chose to represent in a 12,000-square-foot home located above Steamboat Springs. “I picked that peculiar interim between winter and spring,” chuckles designer Nancy Jeffrey of Studio 211. In other words, mud season.

Jeffrey loves the tan tones of the underbrush, with its touch of gray and hint of rosy blush. And, while you’re not supposed to track mud into the house, that’s exactly what she did, room after room. Jeffrey created custom plaster colors for each area, sensitively tinting them to the travertine or tile flooring.

As it turned out, those hazy beiges created the perfect background for the high-toned art and richly finished furniture. Larger art pieces fly above the living room’s doors and fireplaces, bringing pops of color into the room. Jeffrey prefers chairs and tables with wood elements so that they, too, stand out against the pale background. “They have an almost graphic appeal,” she says. One of the first things Jeffrey learned as a designer was to use the same design element in a slightly different way in different rooms. For instance, she says the tile used for the glass-enclosed indoor pool also shows up in the master bath. “Each area has its own personality, but as you move through it, the house as a whole has a kind of memory.”

One of Jeffrey’s own memories will be of the swimming pool. The owners wanted something unusual, so she designed a mural for the floor of the pool and it became the driving force for the home’s entire design. “We loved the idea of the mural in the pool so much that we laid out much of the house so that you could look down into it,” says architect Bill Rangitsch of Steamboat Architectural Associates.

Often the pool in a larger home gets paddled off to the side somewhere, but here it’s the center of attention; the living and dining rooms and master suite overlook it. That meant the other rooms had to dig themselves deep into the hillside. Luckily, this fit perfectly with Rangitsch’s strategy of layering spaces so that each has appropriate views and light. He broke the home into a cluster of blocks sheathed in glass, recycled wood and moss rock.

Rooms such as the entry are smaller and deeper into the hill, while major spaces such as the living room spread themselves out to views up the Thunderhead ski runs or down along the Yampa Valley. How to connect the two kinds of rooms? For the uppermost level, Rangitsch specified five-foot-deep wood-laminated beams leaping from eight feet to 18 feet above the floor. He says, “I wanted them to vault from the scale of a human, near the entry, to the scale of the trees on the mountain.”