When architect Jim Jose designed a home for his family, he decided to go big. But he was also determined to leave as small an ecological footprint as possible.
That sounds like a contradiction, especially for a 6,000 square-foot, six-bedroom, five-bathroom home. But Jose — a partner in Holy Cross Building and Design in Edwards — pulled off the feat, thanks to a combination of old materials and new technology.
The home, in the Highlands neighborhood of Eagle Ranch — back up in the piñon-sage hills past the south end of the golf course — was built from reclaimed siding from old barns, as well as stones salvaged from other construction sites.
"I've always had an affinity for giving new life to old things," Jose says. "I found a way to express that here."
The look on the outside is rustic — the barn wood siding gives a presence to the home that the modern houses around it lack. And the views, both front and back, are remarkable — to the north and west is the rest of Eagle Ranch and the town of Eagle, with I-70 nearly 5 miles away and all but inaudible. To the south and west are trails leading into Bureau of Land Management property in the hills between Eagle Ranch and Gypsum.
But there's more to Jose's decision to use old materials than just appearance.
"It's indestructible," he says. "It's really low maintenance, and it's an existing material given new life."
Jose put numerous rustic touches inside, too. Exposed beams are everywhere in the high-ceilinged main floor. The television nook is paneled with more old barn wood, and the doors to the laundry room and an office across the hallway originate from an old schoolhouse, and slide along iron rails above the doorjambs.
Behind the look
The reclaimed materials aren't the only traditional touches. Those high ceilings and opening windows close to the top of the walls vent hot air from the living space in the summer. The home has air conditioning, but Jose's wife, Joanna, says they've never had to use it.
And that's where the real effect of smart design comes in.
"This house is about 6,000 square feet," Joanna Jose says. "Our utility bills are about what they were in the 2,500-square-foot house we lived in before we moved into this one."
Scot Webster of Slifer Smith & Frampton was the listing agent for the home, which recently sold. He says he was amazed when he looked at the utility bills.
"I think the highest one they had last winter was less than $200," Webster says. "The average was around $93 or so. This thing was really done right."
Behind the reclaimed and traditional finishes is enough insulation to keep the winter winds and summer heat at bay, and all of the windows are the most efficient available.
The result is a home that is comfortably heated only by the radiant heating system on the ground floor.
"We have the ductwork in place for forced-air heat," Joanna Jose says. "But we just haven't needed it."
Webster says the houses that have recently sold for more than $1 million at Eagle Ranch — including Jose's —have all been very energy-efficient.
"It's becoming more important to buyers," Webster says.
From personal to saleable
Jose built the house for his family but decided to sell as the economic slump continued to linger. That's when some of the personal touches faced potential buyers.
The biggest hurdle was Jose's decision to reduce space in the bedrooms in favor of more living space. The kids' bedrooms aren't cramped — there's plenty of room in one for a queen bed and all of a boy's stuff — but they aren't expansive, either.
The same is true of the master bedroom. Again, it's not cramped, but a king-sized bed and a couple of dressers would take up much of the room.
Jose says he knew putting more room into the living areas could be a potential turn-off for buyers.
"In today's era of big, people like big bedrooms," he says. "I wanted to put more space where life happens."
The idea, Jose says, is to put as much home on as small a space as possible. That may sound odd for a 6,000 square-foot home on a nearly 1-acre lot, but Jose thinks the layout works.
The home is three levels, with mostly living space on the main floor, bedrooms upstairs and a downstairs area for whatever a family might need.
Jose's desire for a smaller footprint is also reflected in his choice to add a small accessory apartment above the garage. When the home was occupied by the Jose family and the tenant, eight people lived there.
Still, like most property these days, it took some time for this one to sell. On the market for about a year, the home started with a pre-recession asking price of almost $1.8 million and finally sold for just less than $1.3 million.
When the price dropped, people started looking, Webster says. And people mostly liked what they saw.
Webster acknowledged the size of the bedrooms was a "hurdle" for some potential buyers, especially those who were looking for a primary residence.
"It doesn't matter as much to people looking for a second home," Webster says. "And, as it turns out, that's who bought this one."
Jose says he and Joanna are renting right now but are looking for another project. He'd like the next home he builds to tread lightly for its size, too. And that includes using still more reclaimed materials.
"I think people are more willing to accept a blend of traditional and modern features," he says. "I'm looking forward to the next one."
What's the big deal?
Home size: About 6,000 square feet, including a 700 square-foot apartment over the garage.
Exterior siding: Reclaimed barn wood, stone reclaimed from other construction sites.
Heat: In-floor radiant on the ground floor.
Average winter utility bill: Around $100.
Holy Cross Building and Design
Jim Jose, partner
P.O. Box 572
Edwards, CO 81632
Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, Eagle Ranch office
Scot Webster, listing broker
P.O. Drawer 2820
Avon, CO 81620