Living Vertically
by Kandee Degraw
Dec 18, 2009 | 1880 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hamilton Haus Echoes the Mountains That Host It

“I think everyone should be surrounded by an environment that is most like them because it gives them a sense of peace,” Hines says, by way of explaining her process for making her very individual structures.

Eventually, it becomes apparent that each structure has been choreographed to the client – to the client’s daily movements, to the light and the views, to their personal preferences and site locations.

For Hines, it’s important that people are able to move through the environments that contain them each and every day; with natural light, living within the sequence of nature and with harmony in their day-to-day habits.

“I have learned how to make the views and daily routines work for people,” Hines says. “I don’t want people to have to turn on their artificial lighting.”

To get there, this architect asks many questions.


“Oh, what do you do in the morning; what is the first thing you do before you go to bed?” Ah haa – that’s why she says it’s like getting married. “Generally,” she says, “people have spent many years thinking about what they want.

“It is so amazing to know that people have been saving their entire lives to retire here – and I get to help them realize that dream.”

It’s a mission she takes very seriously. “It is my job to give them more than they want, and to understand what they might need. You show them more contemporary ideas and they grow to love it. It is a very intimate process. It becomes an act of psychology.

“I have to really get to know them,” she says of clients, to help them “develop their style.” In her work, Hines emphasizes: “I don’t have my own style.” Rather, the style of the project “is created through the interaction with the client.”

Take, for example, her work on the Hamilton Haus, in Ouray. Everything changed when she learned that Nancy Hamilton was a runner – the first-ever woman, in fact, to win the arduous Silverton Hard Rock 100.

“She has a clear relationship with the trails and the mountains,” Hines says. To honor that clarity: “We were going for very specific views, which meant something to Nancy,” who expressly asked for the view of Mt. Abrams she sees “from the tub.”

Working together, client and architect articulated a “flow” for the house, Hines says, that “resembled the way the water moved through the mountains,” with short spurts of stairs and a public or private terrace articulating each level of the house.

Nancy’s husband, Rick, has a deep knowledge of art, architecture and antiques – and so, says Hines: “I try to draw from their life.” She decided on deep red, as the main color, culled from the sculpture/found art of a vintage Pontiac dealer sign featured prominently in the house, and reiterating it in everything from the wood grain of the cabinets to the entry wall and the even flagstones used throughout the house and all of its terraces.

“We used the color in various places because it created a warmth to the space that was needed. People perceive contemporary architecture as very cold,” she elaborated, “but with this house, there is a feeling of lightness and warmth throughout.”

That feeling is further exaggerated when the sun hits the home’s high-set windows, creating what Hines calls a “floating in sunlight” feeling, reiterated in the home’s central tower with hand-glazed pieces of birch to pull in notes of deep red, and using organic color and patterns creates an inner spine in the house that gives a feeling of being welcoming and traditional.

On this project, Hines drew deeply from the history of Ouray, reflected in the way the building is shaped, on its steep lot, with a pick-ax cross in the windows, a mineshaft feel to the central tower and finally, the gentle curves of the roof manifesting a calm contrast to the mountains’ sharp angles.

Hines’s architectural curves exude a quiet strength with their natural flow, using delicate metal highlights and firm swooping arches. “Subtle beauty is better than something that’s in your face,” she says. “I like things that are unexpected” – leading to her penchant for expansive windows that both feature and include the stunning vistas into the undercurrent and energy of the building’s whole formation.

United Church of the San Jauns

In Ridgway, a dedicated group of retired professionals from four different religious denominations wanted to provide a place of worship for their community that was connected to the beauty of the surrounding mountains. They wanted a low maintenance/energy efficient building that utilized green-building materials as well as local talent and supplies. Their chosen lot, in downtown Ridgway near the library and park, has an expansive view of the Cimarron Range, viewed through a large window to the east. Using the southern exposure, Hines was able to create a clerestory that did not require the use of artificial lighting. For energy efficiency, Hines used SIPS insulation panels; light tubes she describes as “basically a Plexiglas dome and series of mirrors down the shaft which direct the sunlight into the space,” as well as an air lock, in the north vestibule. Local craftsman and designers, beetle-kill pine and reclaimed wood were used whenever possible. “The building went up fast,” Hines says, coming in “under budget and under time. I am proud of this church – proud it came in under-budget, and so green.” She considers it “a good addition to the town,” creating “a nice center” with the library and park nearby.

“With a little more growth, it will become a nice center for the town.”

These days, there is a growing trend to address possible future energy needs in home design. Hine’s work always includes what she calls a “stubbing out” through providing conduits and any other necessary components so that later on, solar infrastructure – like photovoltaics – can be included with ease.

“Who knows how much electricity and gas will cost in the future?” asks this pragmatic architect. “By providing access areas and storage for these things now, we save installation and renovation costs for the owners.” Hines also focuses her designs on the tried and true methods of energy efficiency, with cross ventilation and passive solar. ”Designing here is so conducive to sustainable design, sunlight and dryness. You don’t have to worry about humidity.”

A Desire to Create Space

A Southerner, Hines went straight from growing up in Tallahassee, Fla., to Washington, D.C.’s Marymount University, where she got an undergraduate degree (magna cum laude) in interior design. In Washington, she was wowed by the readily accessible art and culture. “Coming from a sheltered environment and moving to a large metro area like D.C.,” she says, “I was made so much more aware of the outside world.

“I went to school with princes and princesses – in the South, you don’t really get a lot of that. I was the minority,” she reflects, and it was, she says, “eye-opening and wonderful.”

Somewhere along the line, Hines decided that interior design wasn’t enough. “Interior design is just the filler of the space, and I wanted to create the space,” she says. In the course of completing her thesis, she realized that “I was cutting pieces out of the building, and realized I should probably go into architecture.” So she moved on to the University of Florida, Gainesville, getting a master’s degree in architecture, with a focus on contemporary architecture.

A visitor to Colorado over the years to indulge her love of mountain biking, Hines finally made it her home, first living on the Front Range where she worked on large commercial projects, and then moving to Ridgway where now she works with second homeowners, community organizations and small businesses.

She cites the skiing, the biking and her love of the snow and people as her reasons for moving to Ridgway. “It isn’t the Southern charm, which is what I am used to, but here are a lot of transplants, so you get to create your own family.”

These days, Hines lives the working mother’s life, with all its attendant joys and stresses. “My mantra is learning the balance of life and work. Nobody really tells you how hard it is,” she says, but “now I get it” – and finds she actually prefers working under pressure.

“The recession was scary,” she allows, “because I wasn’t doing my thing. I am a better wife and mother when I can do my own thing.”

Her 2-year-old daughter Neva (it means “snow” in Spanish) is full of energy. “Children live so much in the present, you as a mother are forced to do that also, and it has helped me in my work. It has taught me how to be present and listen and it has simplified the whole process for me. “

Hines and her husband, Edward, have packed a lifetime into the space of a few years: “We broke ground on our own house, and had Neva in the same month.” Add this to that: “I was the contractor on our house” – and she had five projects in various stages in her company.

But the overall experience has reaffirmed her love of the process. “I love this house,” says Hines. “It has taught me so much.

“It is the first time I have lived in a space which I have created,” a process she compares to “having a child,” in that both experiences “teach you both what your attributes and mistakes are.

“I don’t ever want to live in a space which I didn’t create. There is sense of peace when you live in something so close to yourself. I try to give my clients a space that is just like them.”


A Room Divided – The master bedroom divides vertically, with a spacious downstairs dressing room (left) and two stairways (above) lead to (left) the master bedroom and (right) his-and-her bathrooms.

Hines at work in her Ridgway studio
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