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Steamboat Magazine

Bats in the Boat?

12/02/2012 12:43PM ● By Christina Freeman

The inside of the "bat cave"/Photo by Corey Kopischke

By Katy Jones

Out of the box? Definitely. Artistically inclined? Of course. Especially when interior designer Irene Nelson is involved in the creative process.

The peculiar notion of building a “bat cave” has Nelson’s signature all over it.
What was once an odd-shaped storage corner in the basement of Verne Read’s mountain home is now a small replica of a bat cave, designed in honor of the home’s owner, a nationally known naturalist and chairman emeritus of Bat Conservation International.

The cave is especially beautiful in the morning light, radiating warmth from the Colorado red rocks that form its walls and outline its seating area. Nelson’s friend, artist Sigi Malinowski, sculpted trees at the entrance of the cave, employing chicken wire and concrete as his media.

A small waterfall built into the cave’s corner is the room’s centerpiece. Oddly shaped pillows placed in the cozy seating area invite reading and reminiscing. What would a cave be without bats? Small black, Halloween-style faux bats perch in random places throughout the room.

To create the semblance of a cave’s floor, Nelson shredded paper, glued it down and covered it with clear acrylic. “You can do anything with paper,” Nelson says. “Floors, countertops and walls.”

Malinowski has been working with Nelson for about 30 years. In addition to creating sculptures of various media ranging from downed trees to cement, he has also designed innovative fireplaces, wine cellars — and environmentally sustainable homes.

Together the power of Sigi and Irene’s imagination produces results that are both surprising and delightful. A place of tranquility, the cave is a “magical,” as Nelson describes it. She’s not yet willing to declare the project is finished, but it offers the complete package — not meant to scare, but to inspire.