At first glimpse, from the horseshoe-shaped driveway, Pa Gomo seems more like a cluster of small, linked, prehistoric structures – think Cliff House, at Mesa Verde, or maybe even Lowry Pueblo, before the disappearance of their Anasazi inhabitants – than a 10,500 square-foot, multimillion-dollar home, one of 12 at Gray Head, Telluride’s 900-acre wilderness preserve 15 minutes away from town.
The nine variously sized, subtly sloping Pa Gomo structures, with their exterior stone walls, blend into the 35-acre property so artfully that, in the words of architect Jack Snow, they take on the feel of the place, becoming almost “a sculpture that grows out of the ground.” The structures are linked by wood-floored walkways, encased in thoroughly modern glass, wood and steel, and angled to let in maximum sunlight over the course of the day.
At nightfall, the play of light is reversed: now, the framed walkways seem to release all that captured sunlight back into the darkness, emitting a soft, warm, yellow candlelit glow.
The play of light and dark is key to the philosophical underpinnings of this place that is at once a home and a work of art.
“We’ve got these truncated forms of stone,” explained Snow, who worked closely with Pa Gomo owners Stuart and Valarie Ross on every step of the three-and-a-half year design and building process, “which interlock with lighter curved wood-and-glass structures” for contrast.
In the walkways, he added, “There is always a skylight, a band of glass. That’s a theme that always reappears.”
The stone structures have a recurring feature, as well, with five matching black bands that look like maybe fire- or high-water marks, scored by the elements into their circumference of stone. These are actually “blackened strips of concrete that we ran around the house,” said Snow, an artistic statement with roots in the work of granite sculptor Jesus Moroles.
The strips help to emphasize the delicate slope on the site-harvested granite exterior walls. These walls are actually built up around empty space – “a void,” Snow said, designed to hide “the bones” of the house.
These are two of the three elemental surprises in this house designed by an architect who confesses, “I tend to look more at sculptures and environmental art than at other architecture.”
‘WE ALWAYS KNEW THERE WAS GOING TO BE WATER’
An artistic sensibility lies at the heart, as well, of the stream that flows beneath the house, from its backyard waterfall “headwaters” to a trout pond off the patio, appearing, at first glance, to continue on down the mountain, although it’s actually recirculating, in yet another action artfully hidden from view.
“We knew early on that there was going to be water,” compatible with Gray Head’s unique water rights, said Snow, “and we knew we would have a bridge over it.”
That bridge links the two main flanks of the home – the kitchen, master bedroom and Stuart’s study on the east side, above the pond, and the larger west side, where the living room gives way to more compact media and gaming rooms, with Valarie’s bird’s nest aerie of a study upstairs.
‘PEACEFUL AND BALANCED ART’
Snow and his clients worked hard to make the transition from indoors to outdoors seamless throughout Pa Gomo, to achieve what Valarie Ross has described as “peaceful and balanced art that becomes a whole, as you walk from room to room.”
They succeed most spectacularly at this with the 2,800 square-foot living area that opens onto a covered deck and then to the pond, thanks to glass doors that “lift and slide” into the stone-wall voids. The stone floor continues from the living room out to the patio beyond, facilitating the indoors-to-outdoors transition.
In its first iteration, the patio is home-and-hearth cozy, thanks to a covered outdoor kitchen, complete with a wood-fired pizza oven, a grille and a rotating Evo griddle, a large teak table and chairs and hanging heat lamps.
The roof gives way, however, to the south, where oversized lounge chairs (designed, as is most of the furniture, by Snow and Stuart Ross’s brother, Alex) perch at the drop-off, perfectly positioned for watching early-evening Alpenglow.
But take a right turn, just before those chairs, and follow the steps leading down, first to a fire pit and then to a hot tub, both with views of the spectacular San Miguels in their 14,000-foot splendor, and inclusive of Lizard Head Peak, Colorado’s most difficult summit.
FROM OUTSIDE TO IN, A SEAMLESS TRANSITION
The fact that “the homesite itself provided the ‘wow!’ factor,” said Gray Head developer Steve Catsman, demanded a blurring of the structure’s transitioning from indoors to outdoors.
“It was always, from day one, about creating a seamless transition from inside to out,” added Snow.
That theme of transitioning is reiterated, he explained, “every time you walk out of a bedroom or another living space.”
In transitioning between the home’s discrete structures, he said, “You don’t walk outside,” but rather travel via view-encompassing walkways, moving from room to room in a constant interplay between light and dark, and from public to private.
“I think there’s actually a third level of room that we were very conscious of,” Snow said, observing that Pa Gomo’s five bedrooms and “private spaces,” which include two offices, a media room and a game room, each have “a secondary exterior gathering spot.”
The most extraordinary of these is probably the bridge/walkway linking the two main structures.
During the building process, “We always found ourselves hanging out on the bridge,” he said.
FROM RESTLESS TO ROOTED
The Rosses divide their time between Puerto Rico, where Zimbabwe-born Stuart settled after graduating from Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, with a degree in agribusiness, where they spend time on their yacht named “Restless,” and Telluride, in Pa Gomo, which is “rooted” in the elements that surround it.
For more information about Pa Gomo, contact Steve Catsman at www.catsman.com. For information about Jack Snow, visit RKDArch.com.