Unusual house addition in Boulder, Colorado

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I was in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado last week. While taking a walk in the neighborhood with my family, we saw this unusual house. The stone cottage used to be in the center of the lot. The owners moved it to the front of the property and built a connected addition that nearly fills the lot.

Change-O-House UPDATE: I just remembered that I took a photo of a somewhat similar house about one block away. Click to make big.


  1. Seems like if you had the money to do this, you’d also have the sense NOT to do this.

    Looks really stupid. A cute little stone cottage by itself is nice. This is ridiculous.

  2. It would have been more respectful to the old house to tear it down.(not proposing that’s what should’ve been done, just that the new addition is disrespectful to its lovely stone predecessor; out of scale, out of style, out of material, might as well be from outer space) What an odd juxtaposition. ppppbtpbtpbt! with a thumbs down… I do not approve.

  3. Funny – I actually kind of like it. However they really should have incorporated some stone into the larger structure- to tie them together.

  4. Come on is that all? Got to be more to this story. Don’t tease me with just … built a connected addition.

  5. You know, it may just have been a way to get around zoning regulations. Let’s say there is a requirement that you must maintain the integrity of the original structure. You apply for an “addition” and voila!

    Or, it could be a really cool foyer.

  6. Five or six years ago, a guy near where I was living at the time filed for permission to tear down the house on his property and build a new one. He was denied. He then filed for permission to build an addition to the house, and that was permitted. So, he built an entire new house as an add-on to the old one. He then filed (again) for permission to tear down the old house and got it.

    I wonder if this is something similar.

  7. maybe it’s one of those building permit loopholes where you’re not allowed to build a new house but you can “add on” to an existing one… or maybe it’s a protected heritage building that they weren’t allowed to tear down

  8. It looks like a typical “house owned by an architect” thats trying to leave his or her hideous style on the neighborhood. I’ve seen this several times in several neighborhoods… A postmodern eyesore in the middle of a traditional neighborhood.

    I bet there’s even a website somewhere dedicated to those monstrosities.

  9. Well the whole rock idea fits Boulder, just look at the CU campus.
    There is plenty of odd architecture in the city. But thanks for sharing I hadn’t seen that one, I’m going to have to try and find it now.

  10. The idea of this kind of juxtaposition is not new, and in some cases, very exciting. However, this is one of the worst examples of this I have ever seen. And I look at this kind of stuff all the time.

  11. I really love it.

    I especially love how it seems to piss off all of those people who demand uniformity in their neighborhoods. I grew up in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association that tried to enforce its taste on the entire community, and my family is still at war with them over our garden which is too “exotic” (ie, has native Floridian plants) and our illegal door. If you want to live in a place where condos and single family homes are stamped out all alike, you’re welcome to move down here- it seems to be the trend. Personally, though, I can’t wait to get out.

  12. As with #3, I actually kind of like it. But yes, a little stone on the face of the addition would’ve been nice. By the way, when I say I like it, bear in mind that I have only one picture to like. This property might be a gaudy, casinoesque (as in Tiger Woods’ house), tasteless hell inside, so I’m going to leave it there. I ‘like’ it.

  13. Old House Journal calls this “remuddling” and prints pictures of particularly egregious examples.

  14. I think I’m going to regret saying this but from the picture it doesn’t look so bad – I mean, I have seen way worse. I don’t really like the way the sloped lawn was contained, I guess, but it sure beats what I see in the subdivisions.

  15. Maybe He likes olde-timey with stone and She likes modern with glass. Who knows? It looks fine to me. The trim color on the stone cottage ties in a bit with the addition.

    Wait, maybe the owners are having a joke about glass houses and stones….

  16. Based on what I’ve seen in the CU area, I’d guess #6 is spot-on for why they did this. It’s fairly common for student rental owners in that area to build small apartment additions on the back of their existing rental properties.

    Man, I miss that place. :)

  17. If it was not done to my liking, it should not have been done.

    Anyone with any sense would know that.

  18. In the post, Mark says: “The owners moved it to the front of the property … ,” which I find puzzling (and also I don’t think it is the case). I would be extremely costly to “move” the old building.

    As for the appearance, I like it. Even if the cottage is original, it doesn’t look all that historic anyway (perhaps only 80-100 years old). They already added a metal roof.

  19. There is a house in Denver with the same strange configuration. I don’t have the address, but it is about 1-2 blocks south of Evans Ave., I think somewhere between Pearl St. and Broadway. Maybe it was built by the same stupid architect.

  20. #21: HAH!

    I’m with the so-so’s here, not the haters. I do believe this photo sums up housing in Boulder quite nicely. That county is known for some of the more exotic neighborhood association and zoning laws in America, so my money is certainly on the possibility this was all done to meet specific rules.

  21. Where I live, it can take two-plus years to get the paperwork to build a new house pushed through the building department. A remodel takes a couple of months. It’s not uncommon to leave a single wall as part of an otherwise new building.

    My objection to the house above is – why does anybody need such a gigantic house?

  22. I love bastardized architecture and the people above who are lambasting this on the basis of not having a unified or even identifiable style are a bunch of blue-haired fuddy-duddies.

  23. When I first looked at the picture, I laughed. What I saw was a ugly modern structure with a quaint stone “addition” added to the front!

  24. #24: I’m with ya! Why does any human deserve to have anything more than a 2×6 foot bed when they return to their worker drone pods? It’d be much more effecient to just distribute our pablum through giant feeding tubes instead of this whole buy steak at the market nonsense.

  25. Why all the scorn? The sleek contours of modern architecture trump the rock-heap and squashed hut designs of cottages any day of the week.
    Surely one can appreciate the compartmentalized forms, as if stories are like lifted shelves, the house a device unfolding a complex shell of austere beauty. Besides, one can better enjoy the countryside with the many windowed walls.

    if #7 hanov3r’s scenario is the case for this property, I would hope that tedious, cottage gets torn down.

    Cottages belong deep in the woods, not in open fields, at the base of a mountain anyway.

  26. It does have a certain schizo charm. I hope that the family who lives here gets into the spirit of the thing and changes their style as they move from one house to the other – swapping their constricting corporate drag for some comfy organic flannel; turning down the Josh Grobin and turning up the Jeff Buckley. They could bake pies in the stone house and I don’t know, just run the empty food processor a lot in the new addition.

    Or even better, maybe a couple lives here and each partner lives in the part of the house they like best and visiting each other is like traveling to a foreign country.

    Maybe more people should live in a metaphor.

  27. I am a boulder resident and you friendly readers have found yourself smack dab in the middle of one of the most contentious issues in the people’s republic at the moment. The case of the “scrape and pop” on historic homes. In Boulder County, if you are able to preserve one (or more) of the original walls of the original house, the city won’t contest the additions on the house, leading to a dearth of houses built to fill the small lots that at one point held bungalows and cottages, most with one very odd wall that doesn’t fit with the new house. The city council is getting ready to fight over the size of some of these expansions and homeowners aren’t exactly having kittens about the whole thing.

  28. Why does any human deserve to have anything more than a 2×6 foot bed when they return to their worker drone pods?

    I haven’t observed that 1,500 square feet of living space per occupant really makes people any happier. Chances are the bank will own it soon anyway.

  29. #13 – I’m sure they can’t wait for you to leave, too.

    This isn’t a question of uniformity. It’s a question of defacing an existing structure. The stone cottage shows some hallmarks of an “Arts and Crafts”, “Craftsman” or “Lodge” style building, which could date it to the late 19th/early 20th century. Hell, if you want to live in a badly-done post-modern office building, why not just move?

    Oh and Versh – when this was built, it’s very possible that it was in a wooded area.

  30. I like modern architecture almost exclusively and I really can’t get behind this. Yikes. This was a bad idea for so many reasons. It doesn’t do either structure or the site any justice.

  31. Surely one can appreciate the compartmentalized forms, as if stories are like lifted shelves, the house a device unfolding a complex shell of austere beauty.

    Can you link to a picture of the house you’re describing?

  32. @#33 Anonymous
    Too true, there’s a good chance a forest once surrounded the cottage. Now that it’s gone, the cottage would look silly even without the appended architecture collage behind it.

    @ #36 grimc
    Okay, maybe I was a little too gratuitous with praise. However, even if it is generic Bauhaus, it’s a step in the right direction.
    Our society is capable of manufacturing stronger, newer, more efficient materials– so why not attempt new ways of construction instead of imitating the past?

    #35 DefMech has the right idea. Even if this is a feeble endorsement for modernism, it’s poor site planning. I think admirers of both aesthetic schools can agree on that.

  33. the original house is adorable. i guess i’m happy they saved it, rather than knocking it down. still: the new house is probably a hideous addition to the neighborhood — oversized for the site, and also too tall for the surrounding buildings, and it probably ruins the feeling of the neighborhood. i hate people who do this sort of thing.

  34. It almost certainly was done to exploit the add-on loophole. But that doesn’t change reality, which is that the new addition looks like shit – especially with the cottage right there to make an instant comparison.

    But that’s just me. I’m sure whatever lives there is happy in its own way.

  35. #37 – There were never any trees in Boulder. The first trees were planted by its initial residents around the turn of the 20th century.

    Not only is Boulder now completely priced out of reach of the middle class, but the prevailing trend to scrape and build zero lot line monstrosities has bled any and all interesting and unique architecture out of the city. To each’s own, of course, which is why we live up in the mountains!

  36. I actually like it but then again as a admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, the addition definitely has that feel.

    The updated house (the small pic) looks fine. They did a good job of blending the addition in with the original house.

  37. Why don’t more people plant trees is Boulder, then. If these people have enough money to do this large of an addition, I think they should get some nice tall trees to line the new walkway. it would help soften the hard edges and big blank planes a bit.

  38. They could also do a roof garden, where hanging ivys could spill over the square section directly above the old house. Greenery along the top edge would give the house a little camoflauge so it doesn’t stand out quite so much.

  39. This is the result of Californian ex-pats fleeing the terrors of their home state. I formulated a theory about this during a visit to Boulder in 2002, and an article in “American Demographics” published a year later confirmed my suspicions. Also, a good friend in college who was a Colorado resident complained about “all those damn Californians”.

  40. The cabin part of the house looks old enough that it could be owned by the Boulder Historical Society, which prevents the tearing down of older building structures around the city of Boulder. I just didn’t know that they had spread their reach to North Boulder already.

  41. “I just didn’t know that they had spread their reach to North Boulder already.”

    This was near Chautauqua Park, not North Boulder.

  42. The problem is not the stylistic juxtapositions. The problem is that the proportions are clumsy, especially concerning the alignment of the curtain wall with the dripline of the cottage roof.

  43. I’m pretty sure comments 5 and 7 have nailed the reasons.

    Hell you might as well do the full post modern jig with such constraints. Nice mudroom for the house.

  44. Anyone know the address of this thing? I’d love to bike to it once the snow melts.

    And as bad architecture goes, North Boulder has more than just about any part of the city. I miss Victorian houses built during her reign.

  45. The way the new building is jammed onto the old one, it looks commercial, like a dentist’s office should be in there. So it doesn’t look edgy or individual to me, it just doesn’t look residential. If you saw this next to a strip mall, you wouldn’t look at it twice.

    What I find offputting about it is the size. I’m guessing that no more than two people are living in it. I’m pretty sick of seeing this huge homes everywhere. It’s not even a matter of the size of the lot, thought at first it seemed so weird to me, that people would build McMansions on a postage stamp sized lot. But now I think, good, just jam them in as close as possible, waste less land.

    Ah, but we’re going to see a stop to all this stupid self indulgence soon enough.

  46. There’s a few case like that in Porto. Not stone cottages, but late XIX century houses that were abandoned and dilapidated, until a building company acquires the estate. As some of them have HUGE gardens, they are quickly transformed into inner-city condos, but as city laws don’t allow the destruction of property over a few years old if it’s still sturdy, the older building is used as a front for a large condo or a store after being recovered (and more often that not, completely rebuilt except the outer walls).

    The end results aren’t as striking, but the principle is the same.

  47. You get the same effect from towns that have quaint, but severely space-limited, old Carnegie libraries, and build a modern extension onto the back.

  48. #34 ANTINOUS: And that isn’t the first controversy about land in Boulder.

    I remember quite a few years back (pre-internet news, so no link), there was a very distinct geodesic dome house built out of wood on the very edge of the Boulder City limits, right next to the highway as you were driving in from Denver. Boulder wanted to make sure the site lines to the horizon were alway clear and never developed, so they condemned the land all the way around the city. Well, this house sat halfway on the land and halfway off it, and ended up getting torn down to “Preserve Boulder”.

    Even if surrounding cities sprawl completely around Boulder in the future , there will always be a near-perfect circle of field around it. Kind of nice (besides kicking people out of their homes to do it), but mention property and rent prices to a Boulder resident and they’ll complain incessantly. You did it to yourselves, you granola yuppies.

  49. You should be able to do anything you want with your own property, regardless of any aesthetic frailties of others. That’s one of the fundamental principles of natural law, and thus one of the cornerstones of a free society.

    That being said, anyone who builds an ugly home, or who thinks flat roofs are not a fundamentally stupid idea, should be publically and mercilessly mocked unless and until they tear the excrescence down. Snark away, brethren!

    Peer pressure and social interaction are also part of natural law, and of free societies.

    I live in an old factory, myself.

  50. This looks as bad as anything OLD HOUSE JOURNAL has ever displayed in their “Remuddling” picture feature, at the back of the magazine. Some of those could he horrendous, but this just takes the cake, eh?

  51. Hey! I know that house! I used to live right down the street! I still go by it sometimes when I go for bike rides. The original poster should have included a better picture of the crazy sculpture-thing. I can kind of see it on the right of the photo. That’s pretty special all by itself.

  52. You know, when my age was in the single digits, I had a dream that my parents won the lottery and we did something like that.

  53. Ito Kagehisa, that’s never been true where people live in communities. It’s not a cornerstone of free societies, and it has nothing to do with natural law.

  54. building codes are for and by banks. You never get to build anything new because “the market says” no one would buy it so hence no loan to build it. Strike a blow for aesthetic architecture in your town; shoot a banker today.

  55. Building codes are not only for the banks’ benefit — there are also safety consideration, such as firefighting (wiring up to code, exits working, smoke alarms) and general public safety (i.e. stuff not falling off onto the sidewalk).

    That doesn’t even begin to touch on the semi-aesthetic considerations, because neighborhood values may well depend on the visual upkeep of properties….

  56. I’ve LIVED through most of those nightmares. Not just confined to old construction and renos too.
    Friend of mine told of a visit to a new house where the furnace has quit. Went through the basement a few times and finally figured out they has dry walled the furnace, water heater and other mechanical into a blind space. The owners genuinely thought there was no need for access, ever.

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