Durango Dream Home: Elevation Custom Builders
By Graham Coffey
Most of us do it. We look at our closets and imagine how much more convenient it would be if the layout were designed to fit our wardrobes. We stare at our backyards and imagine the way we’d customize them for entertaining.
Nestled into the hillside above downtown Durango lies a home built with unique intention, with every square foot of the property and structure tailor-made for the owners. In many ways the owners of the property spent a lifetime designing it. Though they might not have known it at the time, they changed the layout of their future home each time they discovered a new hobby or passion.
The house is a project of Elevation Custom Builders, a local firm with a passion for taking its clients through every step of the construction process on the way to creating a home that is perfectly designed for their personalities. Elevation Custom Builders is co-owned by Jeff Perino and Don Ferrarese.
“We have substantial experience in different facets of designing and building,” explains Perino. “We work as a team and have extreme collaboration with the client to give them the best of what this area has to offer.” Perino is a fourth-generation Durango native who partnered with his father-in-law Don to start the business. Together they have assembled a team with more than 130 years of combined custom home-building and design experience.
The house downtown was a design-build project that started before the client had even bought the property they call home. A major part of the Elevation team is Kim Eisner, the firm’s in-house designer. “People like the process of being involved from the very beginning,” says Kim. “We work with the client from the start on everything from the aesthetic to the budget. We have that honest connection from the very start so we don’t have to go backwards and redesign. Jeff is a civil engineer, so his ability to work with the land is incredible. We help clients before they even purchase the land and walk the lot to talk about the slope and how to get the most out of it.”
Perino’s skills were a necessity in executing the build of this home and ensuring the client’s vision came to life. The 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath property sits on a steep lot, and the clients, a married couple, wanted to ensure they would have space for all of their hobbies.
“The husband is such an outdoor guy. He’s an avid climber and loves getting outside, so we had to find a way to create storage for lots of outdoor gear,” explains Perino. “In order to stick within the local building codes and give them that space on this particular lot we had to find a way to get underground and go into the hillside.”
The Elevation team made the storage work by building underground, and they were also able to install a vented climbing gym on this basement level. “Our project manager created an indoor climbing wall, and also installed some hangboards so the client could have a place to get training in for his climbing objectives.”
With each step through the house, you can learn a bit more about the passions of the couple for which it was built. In the back of the lot is a studio where the wife, an acclaimed artist, creates her work. When you step into the kitchen you find an orbital stainless island countertop. The walls surrounding it feature custom cabinets, and the storage was planned to her specifications so everything would fit just right. After seeing the kitchen, it’s no surprise to learn she is also a wonderful chef.
It is these types of details that make the house so unique, and Elevation is experienced and comfortable with the sometimes-static process of building a custom home. When it comes to working with subcontractors, the combined experience of Elevation’s team has allowed them to pull together the best that the Four Corners has to offer. “We work with subcontractors who specialize in and understand the idiosyncrasies of working with custom builds. They rise to the challenges every step of the process and remain flexible along the way to ensure the customer gets what they want.”
The couple is passionate about spending time with friends. Instead of opting for a large TV room they chose to have more space around the fireplace and a reading room filled with bookshelves. Both feature custom woodwork from John Kassay at San Juan Trim Works, and they add to the spaces in the home where people can sit and enjoy one another. The guest rooms are on the top floor with views of the mountains around Durango. The owners had an elevator built to ensure guests with mobility issues will be able to visit comfortably, and Elevation’s team worked with the manufacturer to surround it in glass to maintain an open feel.
The house blends numerous design styles. “We combined some aesthetics to give it a Craftsman feel as you come into the home and then it turns more contemporary,” said Kim. “The glass elevator, open staircases, skylights, lots of windows… It was all intentional to give the home the feeling of an open place to gather, and I think that it mirrors the personalities of the clients.”
Elevation worked hard to ensure there was still ample space for landscape architect Drew Weigle of Ecological Resources to work his magic around the home. The property features multiple outdoor living spaces – a fire pit, gazebo, tiered gardens, stone steps, and multiple patios for gathering or sitting in solitude.
Despite the challenges the pandemic has created for builders, the team at Elevation Home Builders was able to turn the couple’s vision into a reality. “Nowadays I think we work twice as hard trying to keep everything on schedule and helping clients understand how the world is affecting their build,” says Jeff. “Because of how we work we’re okay with that. Our clients deserve every piece of attention we can give them, and we want to ensure they get what they want.”