01 Sep On the Ranch
HE'S A RETIRED COMMERCIAL DEVELOPER who spent his career building warehouses, shopping centers and office buildings, but Bill Knoth clearly has the heart of an artist. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of architecture in harmony with its surroundings, he and wife, Pamm, have created a distinctive mountain home that reflects their shared passions, personalities and history.
After two years of countless long drives searching for the ideal property, the couple found a 600-acre ranch in south-central Colorado’s Wet Mountain Valley. At an altitude of 8,000 feet, the site is bordered by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Spanish Peaks, with dramatic rock outcroppings, 100-year-old Ponderosa pines and spectacular views.
Wright famously said, “Space is the breath of art,” and to that end the Knoths worked with Dwight Smith from Hamill Creek Timber Homes to design an expansive 13,000-square-foot home. “The form of timber frame construction and the exposed structure always intrigued me,” Bill says. The refined ‘free of heart’ timber used in the home’s construction is anything but rustic, and the soaring interior ceiling structure evokes a series of tree branches raised to the sky. An abundance of windows and skylights further connects the house to the outdoors, flooding interiors with natural light and blue sky.
The main floor living area is where the couple — and their friends and family — spend most of their time. “We’ve comfortably entertained 125 people for dinner inside and on the deck,” Pamm says. The kitchen is at the heart of the space, with simple Shaker-style cabinets made from striking, mottled birch burr wood trimmed with maple. Natural materials were specified for most of the hard surfaces, including rustic iron, blackened steel, rock, granite, marble and unusual woods. A spiral staircase leads to an overlook at the top of the house, with a telescope providing great views to the valley floor and the mountains beyond. “Sometimes in the morning the Sangre de Cristo Mountains turn red for just a few minutes,” Bill says. “It’s an incredible sight that originally inspired the name of the range, which means ‘blood of Christ’ in Spanish.”
Pamm created the home’s comfortable interiors. “We call the style ‘modern mountain,’” she says. “It’s not completely contemporary, but it’s not really traditional, either. Our rooms are furnished with handcrafted pieces, antiques and furnishings that we’ve collected over several decades. In some cases we’ve updated existing furniture to fit this setting. For instance, when we moved here from Kansas City we brought a pair of unusual, small Queen Anne chairs that we’d had for 30 years. They’ve had many lives, but they’re now covered with custom-dyed cowhide and curly lamb.”
Wool Gabbeh rugs cover the floors throughout the home. “We love the vibrant colors, which come from natural dyes,” Pamm says. “They also don’t fade despite the constant exposure to sunshine from the large windows in the house.”
Art is on display at every turn, from a huge black-and-white Charles Phillips photograph in the kitchen to a brightly colored oil landscape by Colorado artist Michael Untiedt in the stairwell. “We don’t get enamored with whose name is on the art piece,” says Bill. “We enjoy a wide variety of different art forms, and we’re very eclectic in what we collect.”
Twenty years ago, the couple began collecting fine art glass. “Our first purchase was a Lalique, and after that we usually bought a piece whenever we traveled,” Pamm says. “Each piece is different, and we never set out to collect one artist; we just buy what talks to us. We’ve accumulated our collection over time, and they’re all pieces that we’ve fallen in love with.” Bill designed the custom shelving set directly in the mullioned windows to display the colorful collection. “You really need natural light to illuminate and see the craftsmanship in the glass,” Pamm says.
Bill views the house as a living, evolving work of art in and of itself. “The artistry starts and ends with the house, and everything else is in between,” he says.
Eliza Cross is a Senior Contributing Editor for WA&A and the author of five books, including the award-winning Family Home of the New West (Northland Publishing). A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, she has written more than 200 articles for a variety of regional and national publications