Cabin turned Craftsman: Novel home arises from abode of famous novelist |

Cabin turned Craftsman: Novel home arises from abode of famous novelist

John F. Russell

The iconic, two-story Craftsman-style home that Susan Handloff and Bert Halberstadt built at 173 Maple Avenue downtown rose from humble beginnings.

At its heart is a simple log cabin, one of three constructed by Steamboat’s most famous author, John Rolfe Burroughs, upon his return to Steamboat in 1945 after spending four years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.

The 70-year-old structure, with its storied history, inspired their vision for the home they eventually built around it. “I was driving down the street and fell in love with the cabin and the tree outside,” Susan says.

While she describes the cabin, which had been added onto with a garage and second bedroom, as a mess, it was a mess that many people in town once called home. “It seems like almost anyone who came to Steamboat rented the place at one time or another,” she says. “It was kind of like a ski bum rental property.”

Not any more. Before moving forward with the building project, the additions were torn down, and the structure of the original cabin was restored. The foundation was reinforced with new concrete, the cement-chinked walls were painstakingly refurbished one log at a time and the original wooden ceiling beams were refinished.

The cabin, which originally contained five small rooms, was transformed into the couple’s master suite, complete with large walk-in closet and large en suite with double shower, his-and-her commodes and European-style sinks.

To maintain the cabin’s historic designation, the main structure couldn’t be altered. Windows were rebuilt but their placement in the room could not be changed.

The cabin’s original front door was removed and repurposed into a frame for a one-of-a-kind stained glass window created by Puerto Rican artist Jorge Torrella. It was placed to the right of the home’s new front door.

The master is located just off the front foyer, and a long hallway leads from the entryway into the new portion of the home, which includes a large kitchen, dining room and living room on the first floor. The rooms are designed to flow from one to the other, much like Burroughs’ prose, creating an open area for entertaining guests.

Two sets of large French doors lead out from the living room onto a deck that wraps around two sides of the home and offers views of Howelsen Hill, Emerald Mountain and downtown Steamboat Springs. Susan says that the home is perfect for hosting intimate dinners or parties for up to 100 guests.

The centerpiece of the kitchen, built for entertaining, is a huge center island with a countertop made of African mahogany. They rub it with mineral oil to maintain its rich surface. Soapstone counters are used in the rest of the kitchen, and rectangular tiles are laid horizontally and in a herringbone pattern, with small multi-colored rainbow tiles accenting the backsplash design.

Gorgeous hickory wood floors anchor the home, and a staircase off the kitchen leads up to the second floor, where there are two guest bedrooms, a large shared bath, a TV room and Bert’s home office. Sloped ceilings and craftsman-style windows keep the upstairs cozy.

All rooms showcase their eclectic collection of art. There are masks created by Puerto Rican masceros and a series of silk screens by famed artist Omar Quinones — collected during the four years Susan lived in Puerto Rico. Other artwork includes mixed media pieces, sculptures and paintings from artists in Israel and New Zealand, where Bert’s children live.

The entire 2,200-square-foot home has a gracious feel to it, and its rare blend of history and the latest in sustainable design make it special and uniquely Steamboat — a hybrid project that was part restoration, part remodel and part new build.

And now, two years after moving in, Susan and Bert love being full-time residents. “We came here for the skiing,” Susan says. “And the tennis,” Bert adds. “For us, it’s an ideal community.”

Strings tour

The Handloff/Halberstadt residence at 173 Maple Avenue will be featured on the 2015 Strings Kitchen and Garden Tour, which will take place from 9 am. to 3 p.m. July 19. Other featured homes are located in Strawberry Park, the Sanctuary and Anglers. There will be live music at each home, as well as Master Gardeners on hand to answer questions. Tickets for the self-guided tour are $40 in advance and $45 day of. VIP tours, which include a gourmet picnic, are $75.

Design details

Jamie Letson, owner of Letson Enterprises ( served as the project’s general contractor.

The cabinetry throughout the house was built by Schroll Cabinets ( in Laramie, Wyo. The cabinets were designed by Al Rosenthal from Alpine Design Kitchens in Steamboat Springs (970-879-6962).

Laurie Beulow from Interiors with Altitude (970-870-9222) did the home’s tiling and countertops.

The home was designed by Steamboat Springs architect Rob Hawkins (, who lives two blocks away in a restored cabin of his own. Bert and Susan said they wanted a house that was appropriate for Steamboat. “It’s a very arts and crafts, Craftsman-style,” Susan says. “Rob knew what we were talking about. We wanted the dimensions to be appropriate for the neighborhood and our pocketbook. Rob was easy to work with because he had a similar vision as ours.”

The chandelier over the dining room table is constructed of branches. The lighting throughout the house was sourced by Nancy Schwanke with Light Works of Steamboat (

The home was the first built under the city of Steamboat Springs’ voluntary Green Building Program ( All of its appliances are Energy Star rated, its water fixtures are low flow and the roof on the porch is constructed of local beetle-kill pine. The home is served by a computer-controlled Heat Recovery Ventilation system.

“The Dog House,” which was a separate building used by John Rolfe Burroughs as his writing cabin, was moved off the lot and eventually ended up at the Hayden Heritage Center (, where it will be preserved as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

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