There’s a new style on the block.
Popping up in Denver’s hottest neighborhoods – East Wash Park, Highlands, Berkeley, Five Points – are homes that ditch the boxy design and flat roofs that have long dominated the scrapes-and-rebuilds in favor of a roof with a serious slope.
These new standalone houses, duplexes and multi-family buildings use a simplified version of an elongated farmhouse with a steep pitched roof and the appearance of a higher second floor. The new-builds incorporate modern minimalism and touches of industrial colors and materials.
So says Christine Franck, founder of the Center for Advanced Research in Traditional Architecture at CU Denver. Franck first started noticing the term “modern farmhouse” a year ago.
“The style is appealing to people’s desire for warmth, simplicity, rusticity, and authenticity … and people’s desire for freshness, minimalism, and newness with a little industrial thrown in,” she said in an email. “While I am not terribly impressed with most of these modern farmhouse buildings, they are leaps and bounds more polite and beautiful than so much of Denver’s new development.”
Morgan Bilger, a designer at WorkShop Denver, said her firm has designed eight modern farmhouses in Denver in two years, including a 3,000-square-foot home at 3360 W. 33rd Ave. in the Highlands.
“The driving factor with this is the Denver zoning and maximizing the square footage,” Bilger said. “I guess it’s been popping up for around a year or two. It sits well with our zoning.”
Andrew Schmidt, an architect at Design Practice, said he was trying to reference more of Denver’s architectural history than the boxy houses that often rise from scraped lots. His firm designed the duplex at 4120-4122 Raleigh St. in Berkeley.
“We just were trying to emulate the old pitched roof houses and the pattern of what Denver used to be, and not create these boxy duplexes that have been popping up,” Schmidt said. “I think we’re trying to be cognizant of the neighborhood.”
Architecture critic Brad Evans, who runs a Facebook page called Denver Fugly that reviews local architecture and building, said the nascent style is an improvement, but it could do better.
“If they would just look at the neighborhood and give some nods to it, it would be less offensive,” Evans said. “These really aren’t that bad … this would be fine in Lakewood in a brand new subdivision.”
Plus, Evans is concerned the steel and siding material doesn’t fit into the character of a neighborhood like Berkeley, where many homes have red brick.
“To do something industrial in a brick bungalow neighborhood, it’s not very respectful (to) the world we’re creating,” he said.