Durango Dream Home
As travelers, we collect inspiration from the places we visit, bringing home remnants of the world beyond our front doors. In Durango, the owner of a contemporary Italian farmhouse, perched among Gambel oaks and ponderosa pines, displays the construction of his dream home, a celebration of imagination with no passport required.
Beyond envisioning windows that frame Raider Ridge from the breakfast nook and Perins Peak from the dinner table, the owner’s ultimate goal was to incorporate old-world materials into an exquisite masterpiece. To accomplish this goal, he chose to work with two word of mouth recommendations: The McCullough Group, owned by Sam McCullough, who has worked as a full-service builder in Durango for more than 20 years; and Tracy Reynolds, of Reynolds Ash + Associates, who has been designing custom homes and major commercial projects in the region since 1997.
The owner initially provided Reynolds a home design for the unique, in-town site that had been completed for a previous owner. Those plans quickly went into the trash, and Reynolds and the owner put their heads together to come up with a custom design. After a number of iterations, and three to four exercises of staking out the home on the site, the two achieved a design that captured every prime vista while also meeting the owners special requirements.
Meanwhile, contractor McCullough worked closely with the owners, using the RA+A blueprints, to approach the one-year project like putting together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
“The most important piece of all is getting inside the client’s head to understand and figure out how to build a one-of-a-kind design,” says McCullough. “The client has an engineering mind yet wanted something very unique. So every decision was thought about three or four different ways.”
A build-as-you-go mentality was adopted for this truly custom home, often requiring design to follow whatever materials could be sourced. Working closely with the owners, styles were pulled from various time periods, interior and exterior finishes improvised in tune with the build. To find the eclectic pieces, McCullough set out on a scavenger hunt that connected him with farms in the Deep South and across the Atlantic to the Italian countryside.
As these treasures found their way to Durango, McCullough would carefully unpack each piece to ensure that none of the original 100-year-old patina was scratched or removed. The hunt was only the beginning of a meticulous process, requiring McCullough to launch all the joinery work by hand tooling, which utilizes tools powered by hand rather than a motor.
In both form and function, the wood selection was naturally the most critical element of the quest. Heftier than new lumber, the 100-year-old reclaimed barn timbers McCullough found reveal the original mortise-and-tenon connections and wood dowels from the barns they once supported. Each timber truss was carefully selected, labeled, graded, and installed based on its individual character and appearance, resulting in an intricate display of beam work. Reynolds “reverse engineered” these beams in many cases to determine which timbers would be adequate for each unique location in the home.
“We think the old South farmer would be proud of his old barn wood,” says McCullough.
Complementing the wood, copper barn gutters grab the eye upon entry to a vestibule leading through a timber-framed hall to the airy living space, where a stony fireplace calls for a good book and a stiff drink on a wintry night. A reclaimed-wood stairway decked with ironwork invites a trip upstairs, while a pivoting bookshelf surprising as a decoy for a hidden library buried within the walls.
Throughout the house, many of the walls and floors feature bricks pulled from 100-year-old buildings in Chicago, some bearing the stamp from the original manufacturer, Before a mix of off-whites and reds were handpicked and installed in a precise pattern, McCullough and team pulled roughly 15 bricks to construct a mini wall. After eight of these samples were erected, the owner was able to choose the perfect tint of grout.
With the brick warmed by morning light flooding in from the kitchen windows, a cup of coffee can be savored while whoever is on breakfast duty slices bread and chops veggies for omelets at the enormous island. A gourmet, the owner was compelled to see the island’s sink base fashioned from pickle barrels. Any leftover barrel parts were used to create the floating tabletop in the kitchen booth, while barrel side products were emphasized with the retrofitted hardware.
Retrofitted hardware commands attention in the master bathroom, too, on the custom shaker cabinet, old-world sinks, and turn-off-the-century faucets. The faucets were disassembled and refinished to satisfy the keen eye of the owner, who also collaborated with McCullough to craft a custom claw-foot tub, while imported Italian “graffiti” porcelain punctuates the shower.
With the accent of brick and the clean lines of hardwood shaping each room, the décor, calls for easy textures, like the linen and wood, oil-rubbed bronze, and simple, sleek furniture. Glass and ceramic light fixtures softly illuminate stone countertops, farmhouse-style sinks, and other vintage relics.
From the roof to the walls, the entire home is enveloped with a full closed-cell foam insulation package, eliminating thermal breaks and ensuring that the farmhouse is far from the drafty structure it emulates. No sound of wind whips through these beams, and a calming quiet owns the ambiance, thanks to high-efficiency boilers and appliances. To prevent creaks and moans, humidification keeps the woodwork joinery tight and the plants and people inside feeling healthy.
On the outside, striking reclaimed siding is the star of the show, with three different “weatherings” and thicknesses. Cut logs and antique fence material bring the siding together seamlessly, a fastidious progression of trials and error with the added challenge of not damaging the hundred-year-old patina. Sticking with the theme, the exterior doors were stripped down, scraped, and finished to resemble weather-worn barn doors.
“None of the reclaimed material was stained, requiring the exposed faces and edges of all material to be handled with great care,” says McCullough, who focuses on only one or two custom projects a year.
A covered walkway graced by a couple of aspen trees and Adirondack chairs leads to a barn garage off the south side of the house. The woodwork here, accentuated by clerestory windows, might classify this structure as the most stunning reclaimed barn in La Plata County. The inside features custom car lifts and a storage-loft lift created by the owner. Handcrafted garage doors rise 20 feet into the air over the car lifts in masterful details.
“This was a true challenge that in the end makes you feel really proud of what client, builder, and architect can accomplish in a great partnership,” says McCullough. “It’s the kind of project that helps us fulfill our dream to do good work in Durango, so we can stay and play in Durango.”
By Joy Martin
Type of building
Address110 W 11th St, Durango, Colorado, USA