The House That Steamboat Built
● By Alesha Damerville
Photography by David Patterson
By Suzi Mitchell
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS- Finding love through loss was the last thing Gardner and Millie Flanigan expected after their family home burned to the ground in 2016. The well-respected local couple symbolizes the spirit of giving, but for the first time, they found themselves on the receiving end. When tragedy struck, Steamboat Springs’ townspeople and building community came out in full force to put a roof back over their heads.
The Flanigans have long been beloved by the Steamboat community. Together they’ve amassed more than 50 years of living in Steamboat Springs. Dubbed the “Voice of Steamboat,” Gardner’s upbeat commentary comes out of loudspeakers at many athletic, community and philanthropic events. He and Millie have a history of lending a hand for charitable causes.
“In times of need, they are always the first ones to offer help,” says Jeff Gerber, who co-owns Gerber Berend Design Build with Hans Berend.
After the devastating fire, the Flanigans, along with their two children, Bode and Merritt, turned to close friends Hans and Heidi Berend to start the rebuilding process. “Hans happened to call as I was driving to see what was left of the house for the first time,” Millie says. “He told me, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ and I knew he was right.”
Hans and Jeff invited the Flanigans into their office, where they spent eight hours browsing through images and discussing design. “At first, they were nostalgic and wanted to rebuild what they had,” Jeff says. “We ended up utilizing the original foundation, but flipped the layout to give the home a better flow and a fresh start.”
Gerber Berend received numerous unsolicited calls from subcontractors offering their help – in some cases, for free. “I think when a lot of them heard we were leading the charge and offering a discount, they wanted to do the same,” Hans says. It was a testament to the wide reach the Flanigans have in the community. “The outpouring of help was amazing,” Jeff says. “The spirit at the job site was so special with everyone working together.”
The original home had a traditional cabin feel, with lots of wood trim and darker tones. The family opted for a sleek, modern farmhouse look for their new home. Textured finishes, wrapped trim, quirky light fixtures and bluish doors complete the style.
A contemporary kitchen with an oversized island is the home’s focal point. Millie, Heidi Berend and Kim Ledehoff, owner of Into the West Home Design and Boutique, chose soft furnishings. “I wanted everything to still feel cozy,” Millie says.
The house centers on the open-plan living room with picture views to an aspen grove in the garden. “We lost around 20 trees from the fire, but for the first time since we’ve lived there, we’ve seen a sunset from our bedroom window – which is very special,” Millie says.
A painting of the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival by Dennis R. Pendlelton sits on a mantel above the fireplace. It was a gift to the family from Gardner as a symbol of what the community has done for them. “I’ve always liked the painting; I think it summarizes the spirit of Steamboat,” Gardner says. “It’s a reminder that we are home here and we are loved here, no matter what.”
A chipped pottery plate, which was salvaged out of the charred dishwasher, sits on a nearby shelf. It was the only recognizable belonging left. The Flanigans lost their possessions, but found love in a community that opened its arms, as the Yampa Valley does in times of need.
At night, light shines out through an elongated window at the front of the new house. “It looks so welcoming when you approach the house,” Millie says. “I feel like it’s Steamboat’s home because it was built with kindness.”
Steamboat Springs’ townspeople and business that helped contribute:
The Carpet Shoppe