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.
The bright laundry room, just off the kitchen and adjacent to a plant-potting area outside, combines practicality and good looks best exemplified by the tiled, step-up shower, which makes pet washing, not to mention watering potted plants, easier. The tiled floor is easy to maintain, whether the room is used to care for pets or kick off muddy boots.
Enjoying a meal outside is a breeze. A sheltering roof supported by 16 x 16–inch fir posts extends fresh-air living across much of the year. The outdoor kitchen features a full complement of all-weather stainless steel appliances inset in a stucco-and-tile island. The dining furniture is made with teak harvested in an ecologically sustainable manner.
A room of quiet ease
Guests, like family, are treated to bed linens made from organic cotton, which is produced without synthetic chemicals and in muted colors created with low eco-impact dyes. In the bath, guests can unwind in a deep tub surrounded by tumbled taupe and beige stone tiles, accented with small squares of quartz and marble.
Behind the workout room on the lower level are a bedroom and meditation room that form a refuge within a refuge. The meditation area is an acoustically isolated space for yoga, relaxation, or quiet contemplation. Glass pocket doors between the rooms call to mind Japanese shoji screens, and in both spaces, soothing celery green walls complement floors made of bamboo, an ecologically fit alternative that's at home in the FitHouse.
A daily escape
The master bath walls reflect the natural shades found just outside. The light caramel tumbled stone and dark green marble tiles enhance the effect.
Step into the master bedroom–with its palomino beige walls and perhaps a fire in the gas fireplace beyond the foot of the bed–and right away you start to unwind. On the far side of the bed is a cozy area for letter writing with a bay of windows that takes in an evergreen view.
Fit for a Family
A turn on the elliptical trainer, the step machine, or the home gym feels like a climb in the mountains thanks to a 10-foot-wide
expanse of glass with doors that slide open to the view. Wall mirrors at the back of the room double the view, reflect daylight,
and encourage good posture. On the tight, closed-loop carpet–an ideal surface for bodywork and stretching–you'll find exercise
balls, yoga mats, and other workout props.