Inside people find comfort in small, cozy places heated by fireplaces in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer. Outside People, if forced by cold weather to live in houses at all, half-want to break down the walls.
A Silverthorne resident named David Strachan is an exceptional specimen of an Outside Person. In the name of science, we might glean some insight into this common subspecies, Homo sapiens exterius, if we examine how he, along with an Eagle County architect and a Summit County builder, collaborated to build a gorgeous home that might serve as a template for other Outdoor People. Tucked into a hillside in the Angler Ranch neighborhood, the house features decks nearly as broad as an Iowa cornfield, windows nearly as tall as the great blue sky, and glass doors all over the house opening straight onto the dirt that grades into nearly endless mountains.
“I don’t like to be enclosed,” says the 70-year-old Strachan (pronounced like “strand”), a retired commercial architect who spent a lifetime designing work spaces for people who rather liked the idea of walls. “Maybe because I spent so much time in my youth outside.”
Strachan was raised on a farm in Humboldt, Iowa, population 4,000. His play time was spent outside, hiking and fishing, and so was the rest of most days. With his two older sisters, Strachan rose early to feed the cattle and pigs, harvest the corn and oats, and bale the hay.
“You don’t hate work on a farm,” he says. “You’re outside, you get a lot of time with the family—it’s not bad.”
It got cold on the farm, so as a boy Strachan built shelters to keep furry and feathered friends warm: a coop for the hens, a kennel for his dog Pal, and a hutch for his rabbit, Buck. Even at that age, when designing, he says he always tried to keep the animals’ happiness in mind, making sure they had plenty of room to move about and could see the outside.
That impulse would stay with him long after he left home. After graduating with an architecture degree from Iowa State, Strachan settled on the West Coast and attached himself to a firm that specialized in designing and building medical offices. It’s not highly creative work; medical offices are pretty standard. But Strachan turned the conventional mold inside out by letting the outside in.
“You don’t want to bring them into a windowless structure,” he says. “Outdoor spaces were critical. You wanted to have a flow between indoor and outdoor, so the patients didn’t feel cooped up.”
Strachan’s handiwork can be found all over the Sun Belt, from California to Texas to Florida. This earned him enough money for a nice house in Del Mar, Calif. As you’d expect, his California residence—all glass doors and windows opening onto three different decks—is nearly as wide-open as the Pacific Ocean.
A few years ago, with some extra time and cash, Strachan started thinking about a second home in the mountains. A family reunion introduced him to Summit County, and he and his wife, Tamia, bought a small Frisco condo a year ago in May. Then they looked at property, eventually purchasing a lot in Silverthorne a little way up Bald Eagle Road, overlooking North Pond Park. Thinking about the home he wanted to build, Strachan knew it would, to local tastes, appear unconventional.
“I see all of these condos that have such tiny windows, such little decks,” he marvels. “With all of the creative people Colorado attracts, you would think there would be all kinds of creative stuff. So many of these houses, they’re kind of the same. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
He found a kindred spirit in Hans Berglund, an architect based in Edwards, whose homes—some with convex roof-lines, almost all with transparent walls of glass—defy the norm in high country.
“Connecting people to the landscape, physically but also psychologically, has been a big focus of my work,” Berglund says. “A lot of my clients don’t want to walk outside and see mountains and beauty and then walk inside and close the door and feel separated from it.”
Not surprisingly, Strachan chose Berglund to codesign his Silverthorne home, a 4,000-square-foot abode with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, two family rooms, one office, a three-car garage, one elevator, and a heavy-duty mudroom so Strachan can wash off his waders after a day in the Blue or the Snake River. It’s crazily wide-open, the architectural equivalent of a landscape painting. The great room is enclosed—barely—by huge sliding glass doors that open onto a massive south- and west-facing deck that is itself as big as some houses, with asthmatic views of everything from Peak One over to the Gore Range. Almost all rooms have huge retractable windows, invisible walls that, with a twist or a crank, disappear altogether. If you opened all of the windows and doors at once, a small plane could soar right through. It’s barely a house at all—and yet, it’s a helluva house.
It has five decks. Four of them allow you to step right off onto the surrounding terrain. The back-porch stonework merges into the surrounding scrub-brush flank of Ptarmigan Peak. It lets the hill “win,” rather than having the house subjugate its surroundings,
Whenever possible, the builders Strachan hired finessed details and tailored the home so that it fit the landscape, rather than the other way around. On most houses, for instance, vertical support beams are anchored into poured concrete pads. Here, the builders instead slid support beams through cored-out boulders matching those found on the hillside, literally anchoring the home to the landscape.
“People live up here for a reason, and that’s the outdoors,” says Raptor Construction co-owner Mike Hurley, echoing Strachan and Berglund. “Allowing nature to kind of commingle is extremely important.”
To that end, the home’s facade is covered in cedar and Colorado sandstone, and the interior is accented with raw Douglas fir and rustic walnut. It’s enough, Strachan says, to recall his youth in wide-open Iowa and relive all of those formative years spent outside.
“I’m not a flowery or poetic person,” says Strachan. “But to sit on my porch and watch the peaks and see the weather move in and out, it makes me feel part of that environment of Colorado—not in a house, enclosed, but part of the scenery. It makes me feel unconfined, not trapped. My arms aren’t held down. I feel free.”
Inside yet outside, soaring at home on Bald Eagle Road.