DTJ DESIGN


In production housing, requests for contemporary design present a prickly problem. How to deliver something innovative, but not too far out, with broad market appeal? We faced just that riddle recently for a community in Denver. Buyers from the suburbs wanted to live in a loft downtown but couldn’t afford it. Others wanted to be outside downtown but wanted a home that in no way resembled the Colonial they grew up in.

To satisfy the demand for modern with less edge, we revised the foursquare that’s classic to Denver and applied a modern face using flat and wedge rooflines and contemporary patterns of block and stucco. At first, buyers loved the revisions. But the super-modern elevations? Too edgy.

Before: The tried-and-true, classic foursquare offers familiar and widespread appeal in markets all over the country. It also reminds many buyers of the home they grew up in, and that's not always a good thing.
DTJ DESIGN Before: The tried-and-true, classic foursquare offers familiar and widespread appeal in markets all over the country. It also reminds many buyers of the home they grew up in, and that's not always a good thing.


To soften the edge, we kept the classic lines of the foursquare. But we made the windows bigger, and put a glassed-in kitchen at the front of the house. (Cheaper, more energy-efficient window packages continue to make this easier.) The new homes are filled with light and expand indoor-outdoor living through a generous side courtyard.

The first-floor roof is like the original foursquare, but by enclosing part of the porch, a modern home looks friendly to the street. Mid-century homes often have lower ceilings, but today’s buyers expect higher ones. This raises the roof 3 feet and throws the elevation out of whack. To solve that, we designed tray ceilings on the second floor that are built into the truss so the plate height doesn’t have to be changed. The homes are selling well and the transitional elevations are most popular by a 2-to-1 margin. With modern floor plans and moderated styling, we’ve hit the nail on the head.

After: To soften the modern edge, the foursquare's width, height, roof lines, and porch are maintained. But windows are bigger and crisper elements are used. Here, it's hip to be square.
DTJ DESIGN After: To soften the modern edge, the foursquare's width, height, roof lines, and porch are maintained. But windows are bigger and crisper elements are used. Here, it's hip to be square.


Steve James is founding principal of DTJ DESIGN in Boulder, Colo. sjames@dtjdesign.com

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Denver, CO.