Denver House Tour - Frank Lloyd Wright style Usonian Exterior
Four bedrooms and two small baths nest in the gabled portion, while behind the metal handrail/ mailbox, the homeowner-built birch front door opens into a small entryway leading to the kitchen and living room. Previously, the corner lot was mostly grass, but Dean Hight felt that wasn’t right for the extreme high-altitude climate. “I’ve taken out 60 percent of the grass and put in perennials and native plants. Bluegrass is not native to Colorado,” he says. Replacements include juniper, daylilies, lamb’s ears and bark mulch.

Obsessed with Frank Lloyd Wright, when Dean Hight came across an unrelated Usonian beauty in Denver, Colo., he knew it was time to move (part 1). After updating the necessities—electrical, paint, carpet—Hight updated the kitchen into a funky wabi-sabi paradise. Next, it was on to the exterior of the house.

Hight also added on to a back deck and improved the exterior, replacing rotted siding, choosing corrugated metal for some portions in a modern industrial nod. Outside, between the first- and second-floor bedrooms, where flat sand-texture asbestos panels were originally, Hight replaced the worn-out elements with distinctive frieze panels. “I was too into Wright at the time and modeled them off his Usonians and textile block houses,” he says with perhaps a touch of chagrin. A skilled woodworker, he also designed and built an outdoor table, a desk and a coffee table for the family.

Denver House Tour - Frank Lloyd Wright style Usonian Exterior (back)
While the two-story studio looms over the garage as seen from the side street, it is hidden from view on the front facade. Faux finishes and mixed materials give the addition textural interest.

Despite the many improvements, an ongoing issue was the lack of studio space for Fournier, a 48-year-old former flight attendant turned working artist. In 2004 they decided to expand the house further. Originally 1,800 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths, in 1960 the owner converted the carport to a den, a side patio was enclosed to form the dining room and a garage was built at the back of the lot, adding 800 square feet to the living space.

“It was challenging to get a variance to expand the house because it had already been added on to,” Hight explains. The new garage-cum-studio-workshop would encroach on the lot setback; ultimately an engineer had to sign off on the final two-story design, which was sunk into the ground slightly to help minimize its mass. Eichler-style siding was milled to match the material used on the 1960 addition. Today, the house is a robust 3,300 square feet, with four bedrooms, two baths and a studio with northern light up the stairs from the dining room.

More than Exterior Deep

Leaving behind any home is a challenge. So how does Hight’s wife, who loved their old Victorian, feel about this new place? Find out in part 3!