Heart & Light | VailDaily.com

Heart & Light

H. E. Sappenfield
Brent Bingham

Step up to the entry of Steve and Laura McKeevers Cordillera Valley Club home, and you immediately see one of its eclectic treasures: a 117-year-old Spanish door. Full of character, its made of blue, yellow and clear glass panels and reflects the diminutive stature of folks back then in its small size, which has additional wood panels to fit todays proportions. This gem of a door even has its original center handle and opening mechanism. Its the kind of detail that causes you to pause and gleefully study its uniqueness. It makes you eager to step through and discover what lies within.The front door was very important, says Laura McKeever, who purchased it even before theyd found the lot. Its the soul of our home it sets the tone.In 2003, the McKeevers left Fort Worth, Texas, for Breckenridge in search of a better lifestyle for their four children. Steve, a builder in Texas, worked remotely. Then schools in the Vail Valley drew them over the pass. In 2005, Steve moved his business there, and they began shopping for a lot. In Cordillera Valley Club, they found a site which sloped up to bordering BLM lands and a majestic rock outcropping, which jutted on the hill like a guard tower.We love it, Laura says. We see so much wildlife back there. One morning, Steve called us up to his office (which looks out on the formation), and there was a bobcat, sitting on the rock.Architect Micheal Gallagher of Breckenridge had designed a remodel on the McKeevers Breckenridge home, and they involved him in the creation of their new home right from the start. He assisted in selection of the lot, yet when it came time for design, he still faced challenges.Micheal was great, Laura says. He came to our home in Breckenridge and got a feel for our family who used this room, who used that one, how we used space. But were a big family, and we needed every bit of the building envelope. And the lot was sloped.Gallagher took what he observed and applied it to design.I dont only look at how people use space, Gallagher says, but at how formal people are. Some folks keep their homes like Architectural Digest. Others live more casually.What Gallagher noticed most was the McKeevers focus on family.They are a large family, and they are very dedicated to their children. The design of the house reflects how important the children are in their lives and includes features, which are oriented toward children, toward fun. A craft room where messes wouldnt be an issue was important. From there, Laura would also run her embroidery business. They wanted the kids to have their own laundry room and wanted a washer and dryer in the master suite. They desired a home theater with walls that could open completely into the game room, so someone playing pool could also see the screen. In front of the screen they needed a small stage, so kids could put on performances. And they wanted a fire pole.The kids loved the house in Summit County, Steve explains, so we said they could choose one thing for this new house. They chose the fire pole from a photo in a magazine. It stretches from the third floor to the first-floor mud room adjacent the garage. At its base is a 6-inch circular foam pad, specially made to be thicker than pads available on the internet.They love it, Laura says. When they have friends over, they use it. They climb up it as much as down. When its time to go to school, they run upstairs so they can slide down to leave.The McKeevers wanted all this while maximizing the sites expansive southern views of the Sawatch Range in a functional, unpretentious floor plan. After two drafts, the plans still werent right.The look on Micheals face, Laura says. It wasnt bad, rather you could see his determination. He threw away the drawings and started from scratch.They finally settled on a longer driveway with the garage at the back of the lot to allow the living areas to move forward and optimize the views.On a custom home, Gallagher says, its got to be right. It may be difficult to keep the business profitable, but you have to put in as much time as it takes.The final plans comprised five bedrooms, eight baths and an office in 6,000 square feet, which manages to feel cozy. This is due to the McKeevers choices for interior finishes.We didnt want to just settle for getting things done faster, Laura says. We were going to be making memories here. What matters is if you like it, and we wouldnt change a foot.The overall effect is a home filled with curved lines, color and Old-World charm.Inside the remarkable front door, a slate mosaic leads to an orchestra of staircases, which links to the homes three upper levels. Through the use of curves and varying stair width, they appear like art, rather than flights of steps. In the homes open, main living area is another stunning focal point: the kitchen. The boundary between the dining room, living room and kitchen is created by a serpentine island topped with extra-thick black granite and fronted with wrinkled copper. Above it, colorful, leaded pendant lights inset with colored glass and laden with hanging amber jewels develop the Old-World feel and follow the bars playful curve; its so inviting, its hard to resist bellying-up.Usually, people put the stove against the wall with a big decorative fan above, Laura says. But Steve loves to make pancakes on the weekends, so we put the stove on the island, so he could talk to the kids while he cooked, and so he could flip the pancakes right onto their plates. It was tough, because we had to install pop-up venting, but its been worth it. Playful, colorful lighting is one of the homes endearing themes, and Laura worked with lighting consultant Wendy Cooney, of Wendy Cooney Lighting Design in Breckenridge, to inspire her creativity. Matching pendants hang over the sink in the kitchen. A chandelier and sconces also match the bar lights, creating continuity throughout the main living area. In the McKeever home, Cooney says, there are two layers of lighting: architectural, which is integrated into the structure and meant to be quiet, then there are decorative elements, which draw your eye and are almost like furniture in that space. For example, in the kitchen, there are recessed down lights in the ceiling, creating one layer of light, and then theres the decorative lighting at eye level. The McKeevers were all about fun and vibrancy.The theme was brought into the master, Cooney continues, yet softened with simpler fixtures. In the kids library, they went the opposite way, even more colorful and playful.Whether in hallways, in bathrooms, or at the tops of stairs, the effect is of continuous color, interest and fun.We wanted to create a place with warmth and comfort, Steve says, a place that wasnt finicky, for family, where people could walk around in ski boots, where no one would be upset if something breaks.

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