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photos by william horton photography

For this couple, life is better on the farm

By Lisa Truesdale

When you trade in a high-powered career for a mellower one, you need a lifestyle and a home to match. For Pamela Ray and Dale Cantwell, their second careers led to farm animals, helping people in Peru, and an idyllic farmhouse on the prairie.

The kitchen’s banquette is the perfect nook for a spot of tea and a gaze across the pasture to the alpaca barn.

After several years of practicing law, Ray decided she would rather be raising alpacas. “I wanted something that would be fun, and also be the complete opposite of a high-stress job, plus a way to transition into retirement,” she explains. So she severed ties with the courtroom in 1993 and bought an alpaca farm.

But her new farm, Xanadu Alpacas, was in Platteville, Colo., and she and her husband lived in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Cantwell wasn’t prepared to leave his high-powered job in the oil and gas industry, so Ray commuted to Platteville daily for more than 20 years. The grueling, 80-mile back and forth took its toll over the years, and most people might not have put up with it for as long as Ray did.

But just when his wife had had enough, Cantwell switched to a less-stressful career as executive director of Quechua Benefit, a Peru-based nonprofit that works to provide education, health care and economic opportunities to underserved communities in the Peruvian Highlands.

Like most every place in the house, the roomy master bedroom has boundless views out the mullion windows, and a direct line of sight to the barn where Pamela’s beloved alpacas frolic with their crias. Her office windows overlook the pastures, “so I can watch them graze and monitor the expectant alpacas.”

The couple was finally on the same page, wanting to move to a rural setting with enough space to raise Ray’s alpacas. They found their literal Xanadu on the outskirts of Longmont, just east of the county line, with 35 acres of lush, green farmland and breathtaking mountain views.

Although a natural tendency with that much acreage might be to try and fill up some of the space by overbuilding, Cantwell and Ray say that living in a large house didn’t feel natural. “We didn’t want a giant home, like a mega-mansion,” Cantwell says. “We decided we’d rather concentrate on quality over size, spending our time and money on the details instead.”

At 2,800 square feet, the couple’s ­single-level farmhouse, completed in 2014, is actually smaller than the high-tech 3,600-square-foot barn they built for Ray’s 60 alpacas and 12 to 14 crias (baby alpacas) who reside there each year.

And it really isn’t a “farmhouse,” either. Ray, who grew up in a farmhouse on a cattle ranch in South Dakota, definitely didn’t want it to look like one—even though it just happens to be on a farm.

Rooms with a View

After numerous interviews with area architects, Cantwell and Ray hired Denver architect Kristen Park, of Kristen Park Designs, to work closely with them to transform their visions into reality.

Pamela Ray and Dale Cantwell’s idyllic farmhouse on the prairie is home to them and their 60 or so alpacas, who live in a high-tech 3,600-square-foot barn on the property and roam the expansive pastures. The 2,800-square-foot house is actually smaller than the barn, and sports upscale farm flourishes with down-home feel. (photo by William Horton Photography)

The design features a formal courtyard in the front with a soothing fountain. “We like to sit and enjoy a glass of wine there in the shade on late summer afternoons,” Ray says. In the back, a more informal courtyard with comfy seating areas and a grill faces the banks of Boulder Creek, just to the west.

Nearly every room in the home opens up to, or looks out on, one of the two partially sheltered courtyards, ­creating a seamless transition from indoors to out and back again.

To the left of the front courtyard is Cantwell’s office, where he works from home when he’s not on one of his five or six annual business trips to Peru. On the opposite side of the front courtyard, Ray’s roomy, bright office gives her quick and easy access to her prized animals.

“My windows overlook the pastures,” she says, “so I can watch the alpacas grazing, and I can monitor the expectant moms during birthing season. When I want to go check on the animals in person, I just duck out the back entrance next to my office; it connects to a path that leads right to the barn.”

And when she can’t get out to the barn? “I can also see inside the barn via barn cams in the house,” says Ray, who breeds and sells the alpacas, and markets their fleece.

Pamela’s office windows overlook the pastures.

After extensive consultations with Cantwell and Ray, Park designed the home specifically with these functional work-at-home conveniences, but her input didn’t end with a set of drawings. While Brady Van Matre and crew, of Lafayette’s Van Matre Construction, built the home, Park continued to work closely with Cantwell and Ray to ensure that the interior features and outdoor living spaces stayed true to the couple’s vision and Park’s design.

“My design philosophy is that if it includes a nail or glue, I want to be involved,” says Park, who offered input on such details as the pendant lights suspended over the kitchen sink and the hand-cut tiles adorning the walls of the double steam shower. “Designing a house can be daunting to some people, so I do it all; there’s no need to also find a separate kitchen designer and a lighting designer, for instance.”

Ante Up

“[Park’s] personal touches are visible everywhere,” Cantwell says, like the 150-year-old, hand-hewn white-oak beams visible high above the great room, the native sandstone floors in the entryway, and the reclaimed hickory flooring in nearly every room. She also designed the numerous built-in cabinets and hutches that feature detailed millwork—there’s even storage space under the breakfast-nook banquette—and it was her idea to keep kitchen essentials, like the coffee maker and cereal boxes, tucked out of sight in a spacious butler’s pantry next to the streamlined kitchen. Both offices have small alcoves as well, where cluttered-­looking components like folders and printers stay hidden from view.

The kitchen’s built-in cabinets and hutch boast detailed millwork, and a spacious butler’s pantry provides plenty of storage to keep everyday essentials out of view. (Kimberly Gavin Photography)

Laura Abramson-Pritchard of Camellia Interior Design then added creative touches of her own, such as the comfy chairs in the sunroom—“the best place to read,” Cantwell says—and the striped and tufted banquette cushions. The landscaping, which Cantwell says is still a work in progress, was entrusted to Preston Whitfield of A Natural Bliss in Longmont.

For Van Matre, getting the chance to work on the home was a great experience. “With any custom project, there are a million questions that come up,” he says. “But Dale and Pamela have both been involved in construction projects before, so they were able to make decisions quickly, and that made our job a whole lot easier. Plus, all of my specialty subcontractors were truly dedicated to quality.”

Of course, quality comes with a price. But Cantwell and Ray were happy to ante up, for themselves and their alpacas. And we’re almost certain that Calidad, one of the farm’s young breeding males, whose name means “quality” in Spanish, would agree.

More Photos

1Sunroom

photo by william horton photography

Comfy chairs in the sunroom make this space “the best place to read,” Dale says.

2Spacious Patio

photo by william horton photography

The sunroom opens onto a spacious patio with an outdoor kitchen and peaceful prairie views.

3Great Room and Living Room

Reclaimed hickory hardwood floors run throughout most of the house. The great room and living room feature 150-year-old, hand-hewn white-oak beams in the high ceilings.

 

4Reclaimed hardwood floors

Reclaimed hickory hardwood floors run throughout most of the house. The great room and living room feature 150-year-old, hand-hewn white-oak beams in the high ceilings.

5Dining Room

kimberly Gavin photography

 

6The Kitchen

Kimberly Gavin Photography

The kitchen’s built-in cabinets and hutch boast detailed millwork, and a spacious butler’s pantry provides plenty of storage to keep everyday essentials out of view.

7The Bath

william horton photography

Hand-cut tiles adorn the master bath, with his and her vanities.

8Entry

kimberly gavin photography

The entryway’s native sandstone floors contrast handsomely with the home’s hickory flooring.

9Master Bedroom

Like most every place in the house, the roomy master bedroom has boundless views out the mullion windows, and a direct line of sight to the barn where Pamela’s beloved alpacas frolic with their crias.