An Eye for Design

John Fielder designed his home using much of the same process he does when composing one of his detailed photographs of nature.

By Kimberly Field | Photography by Raul J. Garcia

Colorado’s favorite landscape photographer, John Fielder, has a Summit County home that isn’t a grand showplace. It’s more of an intimate self-portrait. “Designing the spatial sense of the house, the proportion and dividing lines, was identical to making a photo,” Fielder says. “It was one of the most fun things I ever did.”

After 35 years of photography, Fielder sees landscapes deeply and quickly. Choosing where to site his home among the Aspen trees and wildflowers on his 20 acres with a panoramic view of the Gore Range was “an instantaneous composition” for Fielder. The photographer relocated to Summit County after 30 years in the Denver area. “It was love at first sight,” he says. “I had to hide my enthusiasm a little so I could negotiate.” Fielder thought about his what he wanted in his home, right down to the placement of the light switches. He even built a cardboard mockup for the architects of Allen-Guerra Architecture of Breckenridge.

The house harkens back to an old stamp mill, like the ruined mining buildings one finds throughout Colorado. “These old structures are beautiful as Mother Nature consumes them,” says Fielder. “I wanted it to look like it has been here for 100 years.”

Fielder captured the complex tone and texture of weathered wood by using reclaimed snow fence planks sourced from the plains of Wyoming. Corrugated metal and I-beams used on both the interior and exterior, rusted onsite, then sealed, provide just the right color mix. He chose soapstone for countertops—“just like in high school chemistry class”—for its durability and subtle beauty. Cabinetry of maple veneer stained a gray-beige complement the rustic woods. “I wanted a maintenance-free house and landscaping – of which there is none,” he says. “After seven years, I think I made the right choices.”

At 3,000 square feet, the modest home fits Fielder’s desire to walk softly on the earth. “The best way to make a house less impactful is to make it smaller,” he says. “This accommodates every piece of my lifestyle. It’s perfect for just me, but I can serve 10 at dinner, and my family and grandchildren all fit.” Its furnishings are spare. “I hate stuff! I don’t like things that intrude on my visual space,” says Fielder. “The artifacts here are of family or art and books that are important to me.”

A seven-mile swath of the Gore Range provides a panorama to the west, and is visible through the home’s many windows, but Fielder skipped the predictable glass wall, not only to conserve energy, but also to forgo the obvious. “I think you should go in through the back door and not be too direct. I want to enjoy things in a more subliminal way,” he says.

The vivid colors of Fielder’s Aspen and wildflower meadow and cobalt sky brighten the home’s quiet earth tones. Fielder’s photos line the walls, bringing mountain beauty on even the stormiest day. The ever-changing granite face of the Gore Range is present throughout. “I could photograph that view every day for the rest of my life,” he says. Fielder is quiet for a moment. “I probably will.”

EXTERIOR: Anomalies make for great photographs and good home design, notes Fielder; bare Aspen trees in winter or golden Aspen leaves against a cobalt sky in autumn. “My house, an old mining structure in an Aspen meadow framed by the mountains, is an anomaly,” he says.

INTERIOR: Above, Fielder frames the views through the living room windows as if he were composing a photograph. Left, Fielder’s photographs throughout the house capture the seasons, much as the views through the windows.

MASTER BEDROOM: Well-chosen furniture Is both beautiful and functional in Fielder’s design aesthetic. He found this 150-year-old Chinese chest (above right) in an antique shop during one of his photography trips.

BATHROOM: The master bath is truly his and hers, with separate toilets and vanities. A spacious meet-in-the-middle shower with dual fixtures joins the two spaces. Rust-colored streaks enliven durable soapstone counters that wear beautifully atop maple-veneer cabinets stained to complement the beiges, browns and grays of the reclaimed wood-paneled walls. Cabinetry by Cutting Edge Woodworking of Leadville.

OFFICE: Fielder edits photos in an office that’s also home to thousands of photo images stored in utilitarian, archival-quality metal cabinets. “I never was a darkroom guy,” he says. “ But now that everything is digital, I’m back in the darkroom.” The spectacular view of the Gore Range makes work a bit easier.

GREEN FEATURES: Minimizing environmental impact is important to Fielder. A three-kilowatt solar panel on the property produces most of the power, and R32 blown-in foam insulated walls conserve energy. He was the first net metering customer in Summit County; he’s on the grid and buys electricity at night and sells excess electricity back to Mountain Parks Electric during the day. “I’m at 9,400 feet with a 40-inch snowpack that sticks around until May, yet my utility bill is never more than $150 a month,” he says. The home’s in-floor radiant heat contributes to its low energy consumption while providing a luxurious experience. Solar by Innovative Energy of Breckenridge

John Fielder

Architect: Allen-Guerra Architecture, Breckenridge, 970.453.7002 | allen-guerra.com

Reclaimed Wood Siding: Centennial Woods, Laramie, WY, 307.742.3672 | centennialwoods.com

Cabinetry: Cutting Edge Woodworking, Leadville, 719.486.2346 | cuttingedge-woodworking.com

Solar: Innovative Energy, Breckenridge, 970.453.5384 | renewablepower.com

Interior Lighting: E.L.K Lighting, Nesquehoning, PA, 800.613.3261 | elkgroupinternational.com

John Fielder Photographs: Fielder’s photos are available as framed, limited edition fine art prints in sizes up to 4 x 10 feet from the photographer’s gallery, John Fielder’s Colorado, located at 833 Santa Fe Dr. Denver. 303.744.7979 | johnfielder.com

John Fielder Photography Workshops: Fielder conducts photography workshops at various locations. For more information, visit johnfielder.com