Architect Y. Rosemary Fivian


Y. Rosemary Fivian. Photo by Jeff Nelson

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area exposed Y. Rosemary “Rosie” Fivian to some of Northern California’s most dramatic architecture. Still, she entered the University of California, Berkeley, without a plan for a major so she studied a wide range of things: sculpture, anthropology, Swedish (her mother had emigrated from the Scandinavian country in the 1950s), math, physics, sociology, English literature, art history and painting. Then came an intro to architecture course taught by noted designer Lars Lerup. “I remember we had a pop quiz one day where we were each given an index card and asked to sketch a house in 15 minutes,” Fivian says. “I drew something totally unconventional and modern, and aced that quiz.” She never looked back. “Architecture is a rewarding profession where you can always be creative, you never stop learning and the opportunities to explore new directions are endless,” she says.

These days, having launched her own firm in 2006 on the heels of winning a prestigious design competition in Georgia, Fivian splits her time between a downtown Boulder office (“in an iconic Charles Haertling building,” she says) and a home office on the south side of the city. The Puzzle Box house that won the Decatur Modern contest demonstrated the influence of architects such as Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra as well as the paintings of Piet Mondrian. These modern lines are still evident in her work today.

Fivian says she’s inspired by her clients’ stories, dilemmas, likes and dislikes. “Experiencing the project site, whether already developed or undeveloped, always starts the creative process for me,” she says, “as I think deeply about its potential, views, problems and solutions and start to visualize and imagine possibilities and to develop ideas.”

Even though Fivian helms her own firm, she strongly values collaboration. “My favorite projects are those where the entire project team—owner, architect, contractor, subcontractors and consultants—works in harmony and is passionate and excited about new ideas and about executing the details artfully,” she says. In particular, she enjoys working with people skilled in their crafts. “I love hearing their ideas, learning new things about that particular trade and how they intend to construct something; then together we find ways to improve the design with that added understanding of each other, the design intent and the materials and tools at hand,” she adds. “In my experience, the most inspired designs come from this type of a collaborative process and everyone involved gets excited about it.”


Cedarbrook is a net-zero-energy home in Boulder designed with both passive and active solar strategies. The home is oriented to take in the views of the Flatirons to the south. The sunroom at the corner functions as a yoga studio and has a roof deck above it with an outdoor shower. The deck is surrounded by self-watering planters that function as guardrails and also provide places to plant veggies and herbs out of reach of browsing deer. Courtesy Y. Rosemary Fivian Architect Inc.



The master suite at the Cedarbrook home features his and her baths. Her’s has a freestanding tub with a built-in niche within easy reach. The tub, from Victoria and Albert, has a waterfall bath spout and hand shower from La Cava. The views from the tub face the forest to the east, and the outdoor deck is reached from a glass door near the tub. Courtesy Y. Rosemary Fivian Architect Inc.



Hill House at Winter Park Resort is a winter warming hut for the tubing hill behind the building. In the summer, the building is available to rent for weddings and other events. The design of Hill House was a collaboration between Fivian and Kevin Penland of Design Fruition. Courtesy Y. Rosemary Fivian Architect Inc.



Floor-to-ceiling glass at the Hill House provides views of the Mary Jane ski runs beyond. Ceilings are from locally sourced beetle kill pine. Structural columns and shear walls display cut log ends that serve to frame the building entrance and fireplace. Courtesy Y. Rosemary Fivian Architect Inc.

I have lots, but here are three: “NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism,” by Pierluigi Serraino; “In Detail: Single Family Houses,” by Christian Schittich; and “Small Eco Houses: Living Green in Style,” by Cristina Paredes Benitez and Alex Sanchez Vidiella.

Sara Paloma Ceramics

Le Corbusier, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Steven Holl, Tadao Ando, Joseph Eichler, John Pawson, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Takaharu and Yui Tezuka

Paint color? Sherwin-Williams Eider White.

Fabric? Stripes by Paul Smith from Maharam.

Tabletop items? Russel Wright American Modern servingware from Bauer Pottery.

Seat? Sori Yanagi’s 1954 Butterfly stool at

Furniture designer? Charles and Ray Eames (designers of chair and ottoman)
2401 Broadway