‘It was midcentury time capsule-meets-1980s’
In Colorado, a couple DIYs the renovation of a 1957 gem
Fresh off the renovation of a circa-1955, Cliff May-designed home in Denver, Danielle and Cole St. Peter were hungry for a new project—so they went hunting for one. What they found was a 1957 gem in Northglenn, Colorado’s hilly Deza Estates neighborhood, overlooking downtown Denver and, to the west, the Rocky Mountains.
After living in a neighborhood where house styles came in limited variations, the couple was drawn to the custom aspects of the Deza Estates house, as well as its classic post-and-beam construction. (An original brochure for the development reads: “You select your site in Deza Estates...a site that will give you the view YOU want...the landscaping YOU want...the size YOU want. Then you sit down with the architect for a session you will never forget.”)
As the house’s fourth owners, they were eager to learn about the Patterson family, who had lived there previously—and for the longest period of time, from 1968 to 2009. Danielle and Cole were delighted to connect with the couple’s two daughters, who shared family photos—black-and-white images from the ’60s, color photos from the ’70s and ’80s—that showed the home in various stages of remodel throughout the years.
While the house’s bones were in great condition, what had been updated—the fireplace, carpeting— felt a bit like a mish-mash. “The state that it was in was [midcentury] time capsule-meets-1980s,” says Danielle.
After having a structural engineer visit the site, the couple commenced their renovation almost as soon as they moved in, in March 2017. “That’s when I found out I was pregnant,” says Danielle. “We had to quickly make some plans [about] what we wanted to do first and start the design phase.”
They were fortunate enough to have a large finished basement they could live in during the renovation process, with its own entrance. Every space on the 1,330 square-foot main floor got a serious makeover: The couple knocked down a wall to open up the dining room and updated the kitchen. They also removed carpet and installed hardwood floors throughout.
Though the couple hired tradesmen to perform specialized tasks, like redoing the fireplace and running new gas lines, Cole did most of the construction himself; he grew up learning from his father how to lay hardwood floors, a contractor, who also helped with the electrical work. He and Danielle finished the bathrooms, worked on plumbing, laid tile, and completed other construction work.
The renovation included a few surprises: In the process, the couple learned, for example, that the dining room was once a bedroom and the carpet was not concealing hardwood floors as they had assumed.
But the house’s original single-pane windows needed very little tending, which was welcome considering how many of them there were. They were in great condition, and the couple had to do very little more than some caulking and removing and replacing encrusted layers of old paint. “We get a lot of windows salesmen coming to our house because when they see [it] from the street, they’re like ‘gold mine!’” Danielle says, laughing. “[But] we have no desire to upgrade them.”
The windows contribute to the home’s natural heating and cooling, providing opportunities for cross-breezes in the summer and radiant heat in the winter. “That’s one of the biggest things that draws us to this style of architecture, this way of living, and this house in particular,” Cole explains. “[The way] it’s positioned on the plot of land to take advantage of the sun, and the windows were...put into place for [a] reason.”
Furnishing the space wasn’t as easy as moving what was in their Cliff May home to the new house, even with double the square footage. “We definitely had a problem with that,” says Danielle. “I assumed everything would have a place and it would fit perfectly. There were so many pieces that just didn’t have a home here for whatever reason.” While a Lane dining table and Broyhill Brasilia hutch came with them, both of which had sentimental value for Danielle, they were recently replaced.
A Skovmand & Andersen dining table, Dyrlund chairs, and a Bernhard Pedersen and Son sideboard took their place, which came from the same estate sale as their Georg Jensen Model 97 rocking chair. Most of the main floor got new furnishings, with the exception of their bedroom furniture. (They’ve added a Brasilia headboard, uncovered by a local collector dubbed Midcentury Mike.)
Remember that bedroom turned dining room? It was the work of the Patterson family, which also added the staircase to the mezzanine-level living space. And Danielle and Cole are still uncovering things that the Pattersons were working on when they lived in the house. Recently, while redoing the brickwork around the fireplace in the basement, they found a peace sign with ‘1970’ written in cement.
“I really appreciate their DIY spirit,” Danielle says. “[It seems] like they were always working on projects around here.” The couple has stayed in touch with the Patterson daughters and thankfully, Danielle adds, they’ve “loved all the work that we’ve been doing.”
“It was nerve-racking at first because it’s their childhood home [and] you want to do it justice; you want to make them proud and make their parents proud,” she says. “They were here for a very long time. It’s nice to know that we’re following in their footsteps.”