Building Community: Life as a Vertical Arts architect to Know the Vertical Arts Team

Designing the homes and buildings that make up our community is an important job, especially in a small town. All of us at Vertical Arts live here because we love the mountains and the people who call Steamboat or Denver home. Over the course of our collective careers, we’ve been fortunate to innovate as we create. We’ve also learned a lot. Read on for a glimpse into the life of the mountain town architect.

What do you most enjoy about being a mountain architect? 

Al Leiser: “I like having the opportunity to help design homes that are situated in some of the most beautiful locations in the Rocky Mountains.”

Mitch Rewold: “I like working on project sites with amazing views and natural landscape features that are designed to be uniquely Colorado.”

Chandler Deimund: “I really love being a mountain architect because it gives me the ability to work on multiple project types such as sports facilities, commercial spaces, and residential homes.”

Leia Farrens: “Because of the location, oftentimes the homes we design encapsulate the ultimate retreat for our clients. They put their all into coming up with their dream oasis, and we have the pleasure to dream with them and pull out all the stops along the way to make it a reality.”

What is your favorite design feature in a home? 

Austin Cuthbert: Choosing materials that represent their surroundings and making the home feel like it came from the ground on which it’s located. For example, materials like travertine and limestone formed by hot springs feel appropriate in Steamboat Springs. 

Adam Johnson: More often than not we have big feature rooms that get a lot of design intention, but sometimes we have the ability to add cozier and more personalized spaces such as reading nooks and lofts. These add a personal touch to the overall design as each is usually outfitted in the characteristics that resemble their owner- not to mention they often have great views to appreciate the scenery around. 

Brian Patty: I appreciate the ever evolving move to higher sustainability design. Whether it be through new certification systems such as “Passive House” or just creating a home that is more resilience-focus based. These systems challenge traditional design every step of the way. What does luxury design looks like in terms of aesthetic and function when paired with more efficient systems? For instance, how can we incorporate solar , and still have a breathtaking landscape. I enjoy learning how to navigate all of these new challenges and thought-provoking questions. 

Andrew Pharis: My favorite design feature in a home is the powder room. It can be a statement piece  completely different from the rest of a house that showcases the owner’s design prowess.

Al Leiser: My favorite feature in the homes we design is the large floor-to-ceiling windows we create to look like walls or doors. Including these elements into our designs allow for the spaces to open up and create a connection between the interior and exterior of the home.

What’s your fondest memory as an architect? 

Adam: Seeing my work being built for the first time is a memory I will never forget. 

Mitch: Winning Colorado Home of the Year 2017 for Tazi Ranch – Link: 

Brian: I loved traveling and working in Peru for a project, but nothing beats the feeling of teaching and mentoring our awesome team in the Denver office for 10 years strong.

Austin: I love the feeling of experiencing a quality finished product that I know will improve a client’s daily life.

What would you say the main difference is between a general architect and a mountain architect? 

Chandler:  We focus mainly on residential and resort projects, dealing with sites that have a large amount of grade change.

Leia: Mountain architecture has an assumed style. Breaking out of this box and designing something different while still staying grounded in tradition is somewhat more of a challenge. This, in combination with the personalization of expansive views and steep sites, significantly exposes a mountain architect to nature and we are accustomed to working within it.

What do you love most about living and working in a mountain town? 

Mitch: Access to all the great outdoor adventures – skiing, hiking, paddling, biking, you name it, you can do it! 

Chandler: Steamboat has a very friendly, smalltown vibe and also a robust cultural scene. This gives us access to big city perks without having to live in a big city. 

Brian: It is a unique blend of nature-leaning attitudes and access, coupled with a great professional/competitive environment that allows me to push myself and grow.

Leia: The feeling of endless opportunities. Walk out the door and seek any kind of adventure – none are too far away. Also the ability to grow and be challenged – both professionally and personally. With year-round access to countless outdoor activities, there are bound to be a few you have never done before that can push you physically and mentally.

What has been your most challenging project? 

Chandler: A project where I had to coordinate some abnormal systems such as designing a space for the proper unloading of semi trailers.This being said, I think it also draws a larger point to architecture as a whole in saying that yes we will design something but there is a lot of behind the scenes research, thought, and coordination that comes with the final product. 

Leia: Projects with sustainability goals are very challenging as they require a lot of research and extra time. That being said, they are my favorite to work on and I hope to work on more!

Austin: Any project that is not your personal style; these end up the biggest opportunities to design a unique home as it challenges you to realize the client’s vision even more when it’s not a style you would personally choose.

What is your favorite mountain town?

Brian: I have to say Steamboat, right?  Seriously though, I’ve had some great experiences in Steamboat.  I also love Eagle River Valley, Vail and Minturn plus Eagle.  Travelwise, Telluride and the San Luis Valley are some of the most scenic and beautiful places to ride, trek and photograph. 

Leia: As someone who didn’t grow up near mountains, there hasn’t been a mountain town that has disappointed me. That being said, I’d have to go with Steamboat. It is a mix of the wild west and mountains. It is also in one of the most gorgeous valleys you’ll ever see.

Al: I’d say a toss up between Nederland and Steamboat.

Mitch: Ouray, Colorado, and the San Juan Mountains.

Adam: Morrison (Red Rocks!). This is where they have the best outdoor concerts. The acoustics here are something you’ll never forget.

What is your ideal day in the mountains?

Leia: I’m an adventure seeker, so I’m pretty much down for any outdoor activity, but most likely you can find me on a hike somewhere with my GoPro or camera trying to capture the views and following it up with a good hot springs soak.

Austin: Spending all day outside, skiing, kayaking and so much more.

Chandler: Everyday, because living in the mountains means you never know what you are going to get when you walk out your front door. 

To learn more about some of the amazing projects and designs the Vertical Ars team creates, check out our work here.