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Steamboat Magazine

The Zen Den

05/24/2021 12:01PM ● By Suzi Mitchell

The house, which sits on a triangular-shaped lot, affords a strong street presence. The exterior incorporates clear vertical cedar siding, manufactured gray weathered barn wood, charcoal-gray stucco and raw hot-rolled structural steel.

Story by Suzi Mitchell
Photography by David Patterson

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – As the sun rises over Steamboat Springs, Donna Garth is situated in the same spot she chooses to spend most mornings: her yoga room. Downstairs her two dogs wait patiently for her to complete a daily ritual she cherishes even more after moving into a new home that embodies her lifestyle. 

Donna Garth spends time daily in her yoga room. She visualized a strong connection with the outdoors in her home’s design.


Garth, a longtime resident of Steamboat Springs, had no intention of building a house until happenstance led her to a challenging downtown lot in 2016. A good friend and neighbor showed her the almost triangular shaped space along Soda Creek, which – after hopping through many hoops – would become her sanctuary. 

To help her navigate legalities and undertake the design and build, she enlisted the team at Gerber Berend. “Donna’s challenging site was not unlike what we now see for vacant infill lots in Old Town,” says Jeff Gerber, principal of architecture at Gerber Berend. “Much of the lot area was in the creek, which after removing setbacks left a very small triangle to work with.” 

“It’s funny – I could see Jeff (Gerber) molding my ideas into his brain when we first looked at the site,” Garth says. “He took my thoughts and made them better.” 

Everything about the house, which Garth refers to as her “zen den,” stemmed from years of globetrotting. “I bought things that spoke to me, with no concept of when or where I would use them,” she says, laughing. An intricate light fixture, which hangs in the powder room, caught her eye in Montenegro. An ornate rug hauled back from India covers the tiled hallway between the garage and entryway. 

The Tierra Hotel in Patagonia inspired this wave-effect fir wood ceiling.

A photograph taken inside the Tierra Hotel in Patagonia sparked Gerber’s inspiration for the wave-effect ceiling in the open plan kitchen and living space. Natural daylight and staggered rows of elongated light fixtures afford the space a continuous soft glow. 

A custom-made rotating island bar top is made of stained, solid white oak with a live edge.


The overall design plays on the elements: fire, water, air and earth. “I wanted to feel like I could still experience the outdoors, indoors,” Garth says. A custom spiral inlay in the concrete of the enclosed patio mimics shapes seen on snails, rams’ horns and turtles’ backs. The tile used throughout the home is reminiscent of a rainforest and in places resembles bamboo. The concept is most apparent in the bathrooms, which were built to imitate an outdoor shower experience with waterfall-effect glass doors. 

Textural features combined with soothing and rich finishes create an earthy ambiance in the master bathroom.


Garth’s three daughters, who are scattered across the country, fill the home’s three second-floor bedrooms during holidays and family gatherings. Raised in a military family that was always on the move, Garth relishes her riverside base. “I love seeing new places, but when a vacation is over, there is nothing better than walking through my door.”