Front Porch Lifestyle

  Tucked into a neighborhood of brick bungalows, a contemporary home shows how the right design can preserve the traditional connection with the street and the neighbors.

By Sharon Withers | Photography by James Ray Spahn

Context was key for Stefan and Allison Douglas when they scraped a bungalow on a small lot in Platt Park, but they didn’t use that exact word.

“I’m a Colorado native so I think that somewhere deep in my DNA I wanted to build a house that was modern, but felt reminiscent of the structures and landscapes you see throughout Colorado like an old ranch building in a meadow or a hay shelter set against a mountain backdrop,” Stefan says. “I feel that each generation should have a chance to express its own definition of creativity, and good architecture is one of the most enduring ways to do this. We live in a neighborhood of beautiful, old homes but I don’t think our [contemporary] house detracts from the neighborhood in any way.”

The Douglas family has lived In Platt Park since 1995. When their three-year-old daughter asked if there was another bathroom somewhere in their 1914 bungalow, they decided to remodel but soon discovered they could build their dream home for almost the same investment. So, in 2008, they drove Denver neighborhoods but kept circling back to Platt Park, where they bought a 650-squarefoot alley house on a narrow lot covered in weeds. Lined with 50’s duplexes and early 20th-century bungalows, the block was somewhat diverse. It was about to become more diverse with its first contemporary house.

Allison wanted lots of windows and natural light, and Stefan, a serious cook, wanted a good kitchen he could call his own. “It’s easy to default to a ‘shotgun’ floor plan [such as those found in many of the 1900’s bungalows] but we wanted a modern house with a good balance between public and private spaces,” Stefan says. They envisioned a design that encouraged togetherness—the two girls could do their homework in their bedrooms, in the office/music room or in the kitchen, where, Stefan says, they usually end up. And they wanted their house to fit in with the tree-lined neighborhood dominated by 100-yearold bungalows.

A wish list is one thing; turning those dreams into reality requires ingenuity, especially on a 37-foot-wide lot in a traditional setting. Architect Dan Craine called the eyesore-of-a-lot “the missing tooth on the block.” He was ready for the challenge.

Craine recognized that they would be pioneers of sorts. “Building on these small lots was somewhat new at the time,” Craine says. “It is a fairly recent trend.” Influenced by many social and environmental factors, people are moving back into town and building their dream homes smaller, with an emphasis on function and energy efficiency, as well as a clean, simple aesthetic. “This house is modern…clean, but very contextual,” says Craine, who did use the word, which can mean different things to different people.

Just how it is contextual might not be obvious to the casual passerby. It Is oriented to the street with a front porch, just as are traditional bungalows. The front patio is close to the sidewalk and also opens to the dining room. From the patio, the Douglas’s can engage with neighbors. The scale of the house fits the neighborhood. The front setback lines up with other houses on the block, a common practice in Denver’s older neighborhoods. The house reaches the 30-foot height limit but the footprint is in keeping with the neighborhood. The two stories above grade total 2,260 square feet; the basement is 1,230 square feet. The garage is detached and there is a small back yard with a private patio. The side windows allow privacy between neighbors.

Basically, the lot size drove the diagram. Craine divided the “very, very public spaces” in the front of the house from the private space in the back with a massive concrete wall, which bisects the house crosswise, and rises from the basement to the railing of the second floor. It lends texture, unity and visual interest to the entire house. He then hung the stairwell next to the concrete monolith.

The concrete wall repeats the concrete used on the exterior of the house and was built at the same time as the foundation and essentially in the same way, with rebar-reinforced concrete. It was all wide open to view during construction. “The two-and-one-half-story, freestanding interior concrete wall that divides the dining room from the kitchen and family room definitely raised some eyebrows when the house was being built,” Stefan says. “I think people were concerned we were building an ‘end-of-days’ bunker.”

Rather than a massive structure, it turned out to be a light, clean design with an elegant simplicity in its exteriors and interiors. “I think for both of us, the greatest pleasure is the sense of calm you feel when you walk in,” Stefan says.

FAMILY ROOM

The kitchen is in the center of the house, and the family room opens to the rear garden. The stairwell is hung along the massive stone slab that bisects the house crosswise.

KITCHEN

A professional Blue Star kitchen is the star of the space, designed to feed Stefan’s cooking passion. The walnut cabinetry is from Kabi, Denver. The Bosch dishwasher runs very quietly, important in this space. Pendant lights are from Urban Lighting. Countertops are Chroma Quartz by Pental, from Capco Tile & Stone, Denver.

DINING ROOM

This interior public space opens onto the front patio, a modern equivalent of the traditional front porch. The table is custom-made from reclaimed wood. The chandelier is from Crate & Barrel. The stone slab wall bisects the house crosswise and separates public from private areas of the home. In the construction, it was poured first, and the house was built around it. The stairwell is hung on the back of the stone slab, which extends from the basement to the upper level railing.

FAMILY ROOM

Narrow vertical windows flank the Heat & Glo fireplace insert on the south wall. The rear patio is through the sliding doors behind the sofa on the right. Both sofas are from Room & Board.

MASTER SUITE

The upstairs master suite faces west and is located at the back of the house for privacy. A balcony is perfect for viewing sunsets or enjoying a morning cup of coffee.

MASTER BATHROOM

Large floor tiles, a Victoria + Albert IOS tub from Water Systems, Denver, and sleek cabinets from Kabi, Denver, create a spa-like atmosphere on the light-filled second floor west side of the house.

UPSTAIRS BATHROOM

Turquoise tile from Capco add a splash of color to an upstairs bath. A narrow vertical window floods the space with light.

REAR VIEW

The butterfly roof opens up the rear of the home to western views and afternoon light. The patio is located off the main floor family room.

Grant Street

House: Total of 3,490 square feet: 2,261 square feet above grade; 1,229 square feet, basement. 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms

Architect: Dan Craine, Craine Architecture, Denver, 720.457.2012 | crainearch.com

Owners: Stefan and Allison Douglas

Contractor: Blake Learned, Learned Construction, Denver, 303.946.5717

Cabinetry: Kabi, Denver, 303.862.3563 | kabi.net