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Steamboat Magazine

Bridging Old and New

06/06/2014 02:35PM ● By Christina Freeman

Cynthia Pougiales regaled history while making a modern home. Photo by Aryeh Copa

By Suzi Mitchell

When local architect and Skull Creek Greek restaurateur Cynthia Pougiales bought her home on Maple Street, she never anticipated the treasure trove of history her purchase would unearth. “I wanted to live on the sunniest street in town, so I went knocking on doors until finally someone would sell me a house,” she says of her search a decade ago for a house in downtown Steamboat Springs.

That willing someone was former Olympic skier Jim “Moose” Barrows. The home had been in the Barrows family for 50 years, having attracted locals like bees to a honey pot for the family’s famed hospitality. Pougiales jumped at the opportunity to be the next person to sweeten the space in this Old Town cottage.

One of the early lots to be sold by Steamboat founder James Crawford in 1902, the location originally served as a small dairy farm owned by Katie Schaller. Since then, the property has changed hands eight times, morphing from a utilitarian house with a cow barn into a family home that served as a bunkhouse for hundreds of out-of-town school children. Moose’s mother, Maureen Barrows, was an elementary school teacher living with her growing family in California. On a trip to the Midwest, a fortuitous overnight stop in Steamboat resulted in a job offer that brought the Barrows to the Yampa Valley. Before long, they bought the house on Maple Street and their home earned a reputation as a sanctuary for rural youngsters needing a downtown base.

“It was a big welcoming house” reflects Barrows. “We would all squeeze in, and folks could sleep where they found a spot.” What the house lacked in size, it made up for in ambience.

While the home remained relatively unaltered, Barrows began renting it out in 1994 before remodeling the kitchen in 1998. “The last time it had been touched was my parents in 1958. They bought what was titled the Kitchen of Tomorrow from Yampa Valley Electric,” Moose laughs. It lived up to its name: today, that refrigerator still works perfectly on his own ranch.

By the time Pougiales bought the property in 2004, she says it was in need of a makeover. But as part of Steamboat’s historic preservation program, the home is protected from change by strict limitations. “I had very tight parameters to work within,” Pougiales says. Known locally for her integral role in the recent LEED-certified expansion of Colorado Mountain College’s Steamboat campus, Pougiales designs under the premise of combining innovation and preservation. Within that mindset, she embarked on remodeling her historic home for a modern Steamboat lifestyle.

Preservation guidelines dictated overall appearance of the façade, hence the home’s telescopic design. Internally, Pougalis wanted to create a visual journey between past and present. The concept evolved into a glass connector between the historic shingle portion of the home and the newer stone addition, reinforced by a transparent second-floor walkway.

Conscious of utilizing the lot’s elongated shape, Pougiales added a carriage house with a garage and living space overlooking Butcherknife Canyon. During the lengthy remodel, the secondary space provided refuge for her family. Adjacent to the garage, another smaller structure became storage for all things integral to an outdoor-focused Steamboat family. Maintaining the property’s link to local heritage, a retired Burgess Creek chairlift hangs strategically facing the sunset.

Immediately upon entering the house, Pougiales’s whimsical nature beguiles visitors. An area that once housed a herd of dairy cows is now a naturally-lit aviary warmed by a rotating Wolf stove imported from Germany. Tile work in honey onyx replicates Oz’s famous Yellow Brick Road, ushering guests into a modern kitchen where shaped concrete countertops mimic the Yampa River. Glimmers of the tile’s warm hues continue upstairs into the master bathroom to create a distinctly spa-like feel. “Tiling in the house was an intricate affair,” recalls tile craftsman Todd Pollart. “The end result was totally unique.”

Not until construction began did the extent of the home’s historical content truly surface. Squirreled behind walls and stashed in the attic, meticulously preserved antiquities were uncovered. These findings became paramount to the interior design of the house.  

Local artist Jan Cohen designed concrete countertops and a nook tabletop for the kitchen that incorporate found treasures, including an 1892 world fair coin, an early 1900 Prang watercolor paint set, intricate utensils and a 1919 postmarked card from Denver. When vintage linoleum was lifted, issues of the 1926 Denver Post were exposed. The pages became integral to a downstairs bathroom remodel when local wallpaper installer Jan Seiler painstakingly pasted the newspaper clippings to create a montage of the era’s topical happenings. Adorning the walls of a below-ground den, miniature shelves showcase a hand-painted doll cup and a jar of Daggett and Ramsdell Cold Cream from the turn of the last century. Floors are made from reclaimed boxcar wood planks from Utah, while Pougiales’ sensitivity to combining old and new is evident with exposed steel beams forming the focal point of an otherwise traditionally-styled media room.

Perhaps the greatest sense of time travel can be felt on the second floor. Modern trinkets adorn the sloped ceilings of both original bedrooms, but small windows and creaks in the floor leave a tangible hint of days gone by. A claw-foot tub curtained by fabric nods to a bygone era, but walls covered with high school handprints mark the present day.

Like the indoors, Pougiales has been equally fastidious in planning the outdoors. Grassy areas more attuned to herds of cattle or rambunctious youngsters have become Pougiales’s Zen garden. A trickling water feature and reflecting pool is a magnet for summer’s feathered friends. Sitting around her fire pit as the sun drops slowly down behind Sleeping Giant, it’s impossible not to think of those who have been there before, enjoying exactly the same view.

“The house has always been a gathering place,” Pougiales says. Like Maureen Barrows’ students before her, Pougiales’ children are all beginning to fly the nest too. Life on Maple Street could become a little quieter; but given its track record, that is highly unlikely. “The house has been a whirl of activity, an abundance of moments shared with so many people.”

Suzi Mitchell was born and raised in Scotland, and moved to Steamboat Springs in 2002. She is a freelance writer publishing on both sides of the Atlantic, and is working on a series of children’s books inspired by an enchanted childhood and her own offsprings’ antics.

Craftsmen & Craftswomen behind the remodel: 

Architect: Cynthia Pougiales, Thira Inc.

Builder: Jeff Cure

Structural engineer: Luke Studer

Landscaping: Kinnikinnikk Landscaping            

Electric: Midwest Electric

Woodworking & Building: Scott Graham

Metal work and glass bridge: Storm Mount Metal, Certified Welding

Concrete countertops: Jan Cohen

Custom wallpaper: Jan Seiler

Tile: Todd Pollart             

Flooring: Wall Designers

Upholstery: Nelson Upholstery