When Ruth and Steve Kent started making plans for their new getaway on a mountainside above Silverthorne, they knew it had to be more than a vacation home. They wanted a mountain lodge, a place to house mobs of friends and an extended family whose energy rivals that of triathletes. They wanted a place where everyone—including a herd of Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, and bullmastiffs that can number up to five when the Kents’ children are visiting—can troop in from a day of outdoor play, hit the showers, and gather to relive the adventures over steaming chili and cold beer. More playground than playroom, the result is far from your mother’s don’t-play-ball-in-the-living-room home.
“These aren’t the kind of people to shoo the dogs off the furniture,” laughs Gwyn Wheeler of Highlands Ranch’s Jordin Architecture. She designed every detail to stylishly accommodate an onslaught of punishment from human and animal members of the household.
It was important that the flooring be claw-proof and traction-friendly to prevent the big dogs from careening like missiles into little folk—the Kents have two small grandchildren. California Gold slate flooring in tones of gold, blue, and green provides durability and traction, foot or paw. In addition, the Kents and their architect chose distressed walnut floors for the great room to hide any dog scratches, as well as for their lodge-like appeal.
As to the overall aesthetic, “Gwyn had us draw up a wish list of the things we truly wanted in the house,” recalls Ruth Kent. “We were looking for a big, open living space with beams and a huge fireplace where everybody could get together.” The resulting great room combines the living room and ample kitchen with enough dining space around the bar and in the adjacent dining room to seat twenty.
The Kents also added a few idiosyncratic items to the list. Ever conscious of encouraging group interactions, the Kents are fans of Benihana-style cooking because it brings groups together for an interactive performance of tableside slicing and sizzling. Why not Benihana at home? A doorway from the kitchen leads into a separate dining room with just such a teppanyaki table surrounded by eight chairs. After several dead-ends looking for the table, Ruth tracked down a manufacturer through a Japanese restaurant the couple frequents in Wisconsin. The octagonal room has also become one of her favorite places to sip morning coffee and watch the awakening day through banks of windows that open onto spectacular forest and mountain views.
Originally, the Kents wanted the two-story living-room fireplace to double as a built-in climbing wall, but they reluctantly abandoned the idea in favor of placing a scenic painting over the mantel. They instead tucked the climbing wall into a corner next to the stairway, where Wheeler was able to design two walls, each three stories high. Climbers use pulleys to belay down the walls, and a ten-inch-thick foam mat at the bottom cushions unplanned landings. Ruth and Steve aren’t climbers themselves, but they thought the wall would be great fun for their two small grandsons as they got older. It’s proved popular with all ages, though, even tempting a guest in her eighties to give it a go.
The home’s main floor also includes offices for both Ruth and Steve, an investment banker who works in Chicago and spends weekends and vacations at the Summit County lodge. Ruth’s office is her creative haven, dominated by a large-format Canon camera perched on a tripod and perpetually aimed outside at the feathery parade of birds that flutter in and out of its long-lens range. “It’s amazing how many birds are up here,” she says. “Sometimes I can see fifty different kinds in just one day.”
Ruth delved into photography seriously about four years ago after Brady, the couple’s first grandson, was born. She’s modest about her talent, but the hanging portraits of her two grandsons as well as those of the birds whose colors and form she fancies—juncos, Steller’s jays, grosbeaks—are professional quality.
Steve’s office next door is equipped with filing drawers disguised as handsome cabinetry, all custom-built by Cutting Edge, Leadville wood artisans. A buffalo rug flanks the sandstone fireplace in this comfortable room, which patiently awaits the day he’ll retire and the couple can permanently call the mountains home.
Down the hall, the master bedroom and bath are set apart from the thick of the action, giving the owners privacy when the house is rocking with guests far into the night. Upstairs are three bedroom suites that altogether can accommodate up to fifteen overnighters—window seats transform into beds for the kids.
But it’s on the lower level that the Kents’ lodge really earns its name, with a bunk room extraordinaire that stacks a house party of sixteen into four sets of upper and lower bunks, all with full-size mattresses. This downstairs play space also has a sports bar, where guests can draw a cold one from a keg tucked under the counter and cheer the day’s contests on two built-in TVs. A microwave and refrigerator stand at the ready for snack prep. The big space offers other diversions, too: a pool table, a foosball table, a card table, an exercise and weight room, and a teeter-totter for, as Ruth calls them, “the luckiest grandkids alive.”
About three years ago, the Kents moved to Colorado from the Chicago area to be closer to family. They bought a home in Greenwood Village just down the street from daughter Erin, her husband, Jon, and their growing family. When they decided to create a special place where everyone could indulge their sports enthusiasm, the two consulted an old college chum, Dan Pins, a realtor and a builder in the Summit area for more than thirty years. The knowledgeable Pins found them the perfect lot overlooking the Eagle’s Nest golf community, and in 2009 he took them through the Summit County Parade of Homes, where they saw and admired the work of Fazendin Brothers Builders. Once the builders were involved, Pins introduced the Kents to Wheeler. “We loved her right away,” says Ruth, “and we signed up with her that very day.”
The Kents settled into their mountain retreat just a week before they opened the just-finished lodge to the September 2010 Summit County Parade of Homes tour. The 9,300-square-foot showplace won first-place honors in seven categories: builder concept and workmanship, kitchen, master suite, interior finishes, interior furnishings, exterior design and elevation, and outdoor living space. The residence was also voted best overall home in its class.
From the perspective of actually living here, the Kents are discovering fresh wonderment in their new surroundings day by day.
“Gwyn planned the house on the lot so perfectly that you can follow the sun from deck to deck as it moves across the sky all day if you want,” says Ruth. Decks embrace the house from the east-facing stone patio, where everyone gathers for barbecues and hot-tubbing in the ten-person spa, to the deck off Steve’s office to the master bedroom deck and the covered dining room deck at the western side of the home, where Ruth can often be found when the sun is angling low in the mellow evening hours.
Unforgettable moments abound, such as the morning they woke up to see the rack of a huge moose looming above the second-floor master bedroom deck. “He was so tall, his antlers were poking up—it was just something so unbelievably breathtaking we’ll never forget it,” says Ruth. As no summer’s day or winter après at the Kent family retreat will be forgotten.