Cooking Light's third FitHouse is nestled among native ponderosa pine and gamble oaks in Escavera, a community of 262 homes on 200 acres of rolling hills near Denver, Colorado. At Escavera, nearly half the land has been set aside as natural habitat, and a lifestyle that embraces the outdoors prevails.
The project's designer, Ken Pieper of Ken Pieper and Associates, has taken cues from the surrounding high plains to create a calm refuge for an active family. From its low-maintenance landscape of aspens, Russian sage, and buffalo grass, the house welcomes you in stages–first through a porte cochere, then into a serene foyer with a trickling water wall–never shutting off the outdoors.
The house and land are so well suited that the home, built by Caribou Custom Homes, earned "Built Green" designation from the nonprofit organization Colorado Built Green, which cited the home's extremely energy efficient heating and cooling system, its sun-tempering roof overhangs, and its use of durable, environmentally sound materials.
You don't have to live high in the mountains to benefit from this year's FitHouse because most of its ideas about ease, safety, healthy living, and ecological fitness make sense wherever you call home.
A tranquil retreat
The great room soars to 18 feet, with a view to the west that includes the 10,000-foot Devil's Head Mountain, the tallest peak in the nearby Rampart Range, and the still taller Front Range mountains beyond. A wall of windows fills the room with natural light, but a deep roof overhang protects the space from the high summer sun. The casement windows have a “low-e” coating that reduces heat transfer, helping to keep heat out during summer and in during winter. The walls are filled with blown-in cellulose insulation made from recycled newspaper. The home's interior, designed by Dianne Pieper, features an eclectic mix of furniture that encourages informal, unfussy living, as does the easy flow of space between the great room and the dining room.
A place to entertain
The lowered ceiling soffit establishes a coziness in the dining room and provides a place for recessed downlights controlled by a dimmer switch to create an ambient glow. Thin muntins divide the top of each window, evoking the intimate scale of the room. And yet there's ample space for a trestle table with a rough-hewn top that honors the pioneer spirit of the region. The dining room holds an enviable corner spot between the living room and kitchen, with views to the patio and mountains.
Space for working and dining
The kitchen and breakfast room are a healthy blend of new and old. There's a TV monitor wired to the housewide media system and efficient appliances, all with energy star ratings. The cutting edge appliances go nicely with pendant lights and a hickory floor, hand-scraped by Amish artisans and prefinished so it doesn't release volatile organic compounds (vocs) inside. The walls in the kitchen are a rich sage green, a suitable backdrop for cherry cabinets and countertops made from quartz crystals.
The cabinets feature glass-paned doors, perfect for displaying everyday dishware and favorite heirlooms. There's ample counter space and, best of all, room for family and friends to move about without getting in the way of the cook.
In the kitchen, as throughout the house, the low-odor paints emit zero vocs.