When less is more
April 28, 2017
Architects Jack and Rebecca Weise decided to rethink their lives. For starters, their to-do lists were too long. They needed more freedom, and wanted to spend more quality time together as a family. Taking a clear-headed look at their priorities, they opted to put their 2,800 square-foot home on the market.
In exchange, they designed a 1,900 square-foot home for a small lot in Longmont’s Prospect neighborhood. Before moving in December, they tossed out about 80 percent of their “stuff.” Their modern, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home is a streamlined reflection of that original intention for a lifestyle that made more sense.
“It’s a less-is-more mentality,” Rebecca said. To get the most out of every square inch, she explained how the storage space was designed to be useful, aesthetically beautiful, and integrated in the architecture. A sliding barn door hides the laundry area; the powder room has a pocket door.
Or she could be describing the mudroom, which includes a rod for coats tucked underneath the stairs, and “lots of hooks—we love hooks,” she said. All belongings have a designated space, which makes clean-up easier.
“It’s a streamlined system,” Rebecca continued. “There’s a place for everything, and…you develop the habit every day of taking 15 minutes in the evening [to tidy up]. It’s a discipline that anybody can adopt.”
Both Jack and Rebecca are fourth generation quilters, and though they only picked up the hobby a couple of years ago, they pursue it with singular passion. The new home’s quilting studio is outfitted with a custom-built sewing station (with two machines), as well as a nine-foot ironing board.
Going big with the quilt studio meant downsizing elsewhere. “Basements are dark, uncomfortable spaces,” Jack said, and they felt yard maintenance was too much of a time drain. For the new house, they scrapped both.
They also shrank their possessions by taking snapshots, and storing memories in photo albums. Three years’ worth of 11-year-old Isaac’s Lego obsession have dwindled to a single model of the Death Star, which is showcased on his wall-mounted dresser (so vacuuming underneath takes just a matter of seconds).
Jack graduated from Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, where the design philosophy stressed quality over quantity: “Quality materials and quality construction,” he said, while describing their new home as high-end, constructed with a production builder’s mentality. Quality finishes like white leather custom kitchen chairs, in other words, are mixed with budget-conscious decisions, such as vinyl windows.
Their architectural influences include Scandinavian design elements, as well as the mid-century modern aesthetic. “Minimalism [in general],” explained Rebecca,“where everything is efficient and well thought out.”
“Natural products,” Jack continued, such as “wood and stone and steel…where everything is very intentional.”
They designed extra deep floor tresses, which hide the home’s mechanical system. “So no dropped soffits—just very clean lines,” Rebecca said.
They’re also inspired by the limitations placed on construction by local building codes, where Jack’s specialized knowledge has become a cornerstone of their business. Rebecca said they both have “engineering brains,” and Jack added that they’re known for their high quality construction documents and level of detailing. “[Building codes] are just another parameter that inspires creativity,” he said.
They hired Markell Homes as their builders because “their team of subcontractors and finish carpenters are the highest quality—if there was ever an issue, they took care of it,” Jack said. They installed a 4’ by 10’ dining table with a quartz countertop where Isaac does his homework or plays video games while Jack and Rebecca prepare dinner.
“We shop daily,” Rebecca said. “It’s more cost effective because not a lot of food goes to waste.”
Groceries are placed in an energy-efficient refrigerator made in Germany. The gourmet kitchen also has a gas stove and double ovens, and a 9’ by 10’ sliding glass patio door that leads to a small, maintenance-free yard.
The outdoor space is about 450 square feet, and uses state-of-the-art synthetic grass by Denver-based Turf by Design, a pet-friendly product (with deodorizing infill) that looks and almost feels like real grass. The yard is enclosed by a low wall, and the space feels like an outdoor room—one without any sprinkler hassles, Jack points out. There’s no mower in the two-car, tandem garage either.
The family shares a driveway with a neighbor who has an easement on their lot. This efficient use of space is one of the reasons that attracted them to the neighborhood, with its “new urbanist” features such as narrow, tree-lined streets and numerous parks, accompanied by shops and other mixed-use amenities.
Rebecca attended the University of Oregon with classmate Sarah Susanka, the architect who authored The Not So Big House. Released in 1998, the book marked a sea-change in the American dream ideal—or the biggest house on the block isn’t necessarily the best, especially if it means spending all your free time maintaining a yard.
The philosophy means the Weises get to spend more time quilting or traveling, another passion their new lifestyle supports.