EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, the name given to a particular house really does reflect the home's design focus (and not just some marketer's trumped-up theme). That's definitely the case with Eureka!, a custom design built by John Laing Homes that swept the awards at Denver's most recent Parade of Homes, at Vista Ridge, a new community in nearby Erie, Colo.
Eureka! fits because the exuberant, 6,300-square-foot house, designed by the Woodley Architectural Group, has mining as its theme. The offbeat inspiration works from top to bottom, front to back. “I wanted something that felt pure and was true to Colorado, but Colorado is one of those places that doesn't have a lot of indigenous styles,” says architect Michael Woodley. “Mining is what really started Colorado, so I wanted to capture that feel, to give the idea of some of the textures and the way space compresses and expands in a mine.”
Woodley also wanted the house to—elegantly—reflect the haphazard way mines were constructed. “Mines weren't built over centuries but over decades, so there might be a wing of stone, then an element of plaster,” says Woodley. “Part of the roof would be metal while another part would be composite. It would be built over time as generations of miners added parts and pieces with whatever materials were available to them.”
The mining-inspired home with a finished, walk-out level was built with empty-nesters in mind. Hence the relative paucity of bedrooms—just two—and the abundance of luxury touches, including four and a half baths, two offices, four stairways, a “sky lounge” overlooking the golf course, a wine cellar, a wet bar, and, off the master suite, a two-story seasonal closet for year-round clothing storage.
“This is not the typical house we build,” says Rich Staky, John Laing's division president in Colorado. “But it does have a couple of things in common with what we normally do. We think a lot about our designs and hope to convey to the market that we're a thoughtful builder.” And Laing used the same trades to build the custom home that it uses on its production models, to showcase their ability to produce a very high level of quality and workmanship. “These two ideas transcend whether you're doing a custom home or a bread-and-butter production home.”
Staky and his team at John Laing were totally on board with Woodley's mining theme and especially liked the combination of indoor and outdoor living spaces the house offered. The front entry takes visitors through a portal gate and into a large courtyard with a fireplace. Once inside the house, at the impressive entry tower, you look directly onto an outdoor parlor, which is separated from the inside by a series of large, glass vanishing doors. “It was fascinating to watch people as they came through the courtyard to the inside but found themselves looking outside again,” says Woodley. “The living room of the house is really a covered outdoor room.”
But it was the mining details that really wowed the 125,000 people who visited the home, and who voted to give Eureka! 11 of 12 architectural awards plus the coveted People's Choice award. They responded to the distressed stone and wood floors, the cable stair rails, the mix of rooflines in front and back, and the gutsy exposed-steel trusses.
“There's no cutesy wrought iron here, no lofty arches,” says Woodley. “Everything is square with real headers that have been bound together with big old bolts. We wanted this house to look like it was done by men with big tools who used whatever material they had on hand at the time.”
Location: Erie, Colo.; Size: 6,300 square feet; Architect: Woodley Architectural Group, Littleton, Colo.; Builder: John Laing Homes, Denver
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Denver, CO.