This bright contemporary home is a showcase of cultural artifacts and ancient crafts.
By Lisa Marshall
As a textile importer who hosts weaving and dyeing workshops, as well as tours to artisans’ studios in India and Japan, Jessica Warner knows that when friends make art together, their bond grows stronger and their creations resonate.
So when it came time to transform her cramped north-Boulder ranch house into a bright and modern but soulful home, she knew just who to ask for help—her good friend, Boulder architect Kristin Reisinger of Boulder’s Space Craft Architecture (www.spacecraft architecture.com). “We have similar tastes, so I didn’t have to do a lot of explaining about what I wanted. And she’s so easy for me to talk to,” says Warner, an Australian native and founder of www.twofoldstyle.com.
The two had “seen each other around” in the early 2000s, when they lived in the same small Brooklyn neighborhood—Warner pursuing a career in arts fundraising, Reisinger working as an architect in the city. Both of them ultimately came to Boulder, where they’d each settled down to raise two kids and run businesses rooted in design. Impressed by their similar paths, they struck up a friendship here in 2012.
When it came time to start the remodel in 2013, Reisinger’s eye for clean contemporary spaces and Warner’s affinity for artistic craftsmanship made for a perfect partnership. “It was really nice to create a simpler, more modern space for her to fill with really interesting sculptural pieces and accents,” Reisinger says.
At first they planned to build just a stand-alone 400-square-foot studio in the backyard, where Warner could host workshops and store her inventory. But when the 2013 flood hit halfway through construction, it flooded the 1,800-square-foot house. Warner, her husband and two daughters had to move out anyway, so the couple decided to “go for it” and build the second floor they badly needed. Thanks to a relatively small lot and a litany of local regulations, the logistics proved tricky.
How could they raise the roof without shading the neighbor’s yard? Where would they put the stairs without chopping up the first floor? How could they match the exterior of the old house but make the addition look architecturally interesting? Reisinger and Warner scribbled ideas on napkins, over glasses of wine or dinners at each other’s houses. On weekends, they visited showrooms to look at finishes. The end result of the one-year process was an exquisitely unique home that seamlessly blends old and new.
Crammed with Culture
From the street, the first thing you spot is the handsome 22-foot-tall tower of bleached vertical cedar. Built by The Magnolia Building Co., a sustainable Nederland builder, the tower was Reisinger’s clever solution to the space and architectural challenges. “We had a low, flat building and we were going to put a second floor on, but not all the way across. How do you make that work, but also create a composition that has interest to it? The tower provides a transition point,” Reisinger explains.
The tower provides a space, tucked in a front corner of the house, for the staircase leading to the upstairs addition. And it made room for a sun-soaked library/reading nook at the top of the stairs. Large vertical windows provide a glimpse inside where, at night, a glorious light fixture by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi glows in the window.
The studio in the back, built by Boulder’s Habilis Design Build, boasts another artful exterior. Instead of using traditional siding, Warner opted for Shou-Sugi-Ban—charred Japanese cedar from Delta Millworks in Austin, Texas. In an ancient Japanese practice, artisans lightly char the wood to make it more resilient and fireproof, and to give it a unique, slightly weathered look. “It’s interesting to take a very clean modern shape and put a traditional rustic material on it,” Warner says.
Inside the studio’s 8-by-16-foot glass-paneled slider hang two white George Nelson bubble lamps—paper-like icons of mid-century modernism. Below them are Warner’s store offerings—an eclectic collection of hand-dyed, embroidered or woven scarves, and bags and pillows from India, Asia and the American Southwest. “These are contemporary designers who have a real respect for old textile-making traditions,” Warner says, adding, “Nothing looks generic.”
Indeed, that theme resonates throughout the house. In the kitchen, immaculate white Caesarstone quartz countertops and built-in, pullout white-oak cabinets from BKI Woodworks create a sleek canvas for the hand-painted Moroccan-style backsplash tile from Fireclay Tile. Hand-carved Australian light fixtures made from wooden beads hang from the ceiling “like giant earrings,” Warner notes. Over the cherry breakfast table from Tokyo, handwoven South African lampshades add a flourish from yet another corner of the world.
On the walls hang Japanese-inspired, indigo-dyed artworks from Rowland Ricketts, an artist who grows his own indigo and ferments the leaves for 100 days to create a traditional Japanese indigo dye called Sukumo. Nearby, a patchwork wall hanging shows off the Korean technique known as Pojagi. Warner enlisted a fellow Australian, Georgia English of The Upholstery Shop in Lyons, to transform an inherited blue mid-century modern velvet couch into a dynamic red centerpiece for the living room.
Upstairs is a bright tree-house-like space with two bedrooms for Warner’s girls, ages 8 and 10, along with a small lounge for them and their friends. “It’s kind of like a basement hangout, only with much better light,” Reisinger says. “It’s the anti-basement!” On the lounge wall hangs a floor-to-ceiling, hand-embroidered quilt from India depicting a mother with her children. Wide planks of engineered white oak line the floor—a good choice for spaces with in-floor heating because engineered wood doesn’t shrink like real wood. Prettily patterned cement tiles grace the bathroom floor.
Standing at the top of the stairs admiring their creation, the two friends reflect on how much fun they had, and say the project no doubt brought them closer. The only downside: Now that it’s over, they don’t see each other as much.
“There was a point in time when we were literally talking every day,” Reisinger says. “I miss that.”