Steamboat Living: Bringing the outside in |

Steamboat Living: Bringing the outside in

Personal touches shine in Priest Creek home, from wine and bunk room to Broadmoor-esque guest suite

If ever a home reflects a personal touch, it’s that of Mike and Toni Hennessy in Priest Creek Ranch.

It helps that the 9,245-square-foot home is the fourth Mike has built, following two in Colorado Springs and one in Chicago. But it’s the attention to detail that helped it become the Wall Street Journal’s Home of the Week.

“We used to come up here skiing and camping all the time and fell in love with Steamboat,” Mike says. “We wanted to bring that camping feel indoors.”

The theme shows in the hand-carved front door leading into a strikingly real, cast-concrete aspen grove left of the foyer. A giant stone stairway, lined with 40-year-old vine clippings from their earlier home, leads to a balcony with an aspen-themed steel railing.

If the outside beckons with its openness so does the home, with its entrance, kitchen, living and dining rooms distinct but connected. “It lives very comfortably,” says broker Chris Paoli. “They did a great job creating warm spaces in a large home. Everything flows together.”

In the large-timbered great room, where floor-to-ceiling windows face the Flat Tops and pecan flooring adds a warm ambiance, a buffalo head rides herd over a stone fireplace, designed specifically for its perch.

“It’s stuffed with straw, a technique they stopped using in the early 1900s,” Mike says of the heirloom. “It was hanging in my room in Chicago where I grew up and has been in every house I’ve ever built.”

If the mount has seen plenty over the years, so do the Hennessys from their home.

Extra thick, European-style windows take advantage of every cardinal direction, with double hinges opening from the side and tilting-in from above. A large deck, with stone fireplace and transparent glass railing, connects the living room and kitchen, offering unobstructed views of Alpine Mountain Ranch’s vast open space and the Yampa Valley beyond.

Another stone fireplace nestles in the main floor’s master bedroom, where morning sunlight streams over Mount Werner, and Priest Creek gurgles into a patio-side pond below a private deck. His and her’s walk-through closets lead to both a master bath and a domed, wooden door back to the great room. “We use it quite a bit,” Mike says of the nook. “It’s a great shortcut.”

But they didn’t take any shortcuts with decor, from Mike’s well-appointed office, where a bookshelf harbors 1900s tomes signed by his great grandfather, to the kitchen’s half-bath, whose old-fashioned, top-flush toilet and vessel sink on top of a cast-concrete tree trunk are accessed by a sliding barn door. “We wanted it to look like an outhouse,” Mike says. “It’s part of that same outdoors theme.”

A mudroom du jour, complete with boot dryers, floor-to-ceiling gear cubbies, hose bib for mud and snowboard benches leads to a four-car garage, providing easy grocery unloading to the open-aired kitchen.

Flanked with granite countertops and soft-hued, wooden cabinetry, the kitchen abuts a door leading to a second barbecue deck area, complete with a round, European Rosenthal table retro-fitted from its original ‘70s charcoal to natural gas. Its shape matches the main dining room table inside.

“We like to host parties,” Mike says. “A round table helps everyone converse easily.”

So does the 1,500-bottle wine room downstairs, accessed via a mineshaft-themed, rock-walled stairway, whose entrance is guarded by a metal, barn-style door echoing the aspen theme.

“While I traveled for work, my wife wanted the feel of a smaller home, so this lets her close off the downstairs if she wants to,” Mike says.

Complete with veins of Fool’s Gold and a pick-ax nestled in a rocky crevice, the stairway opens to a game room and perhaps the home’s crown jewel — a cave-like wine cellar. Rock walls house nooks for storage and lighting, as well as a tasting cavern with another round table, topped with a copy of “The Encyclopedia of Wine.”

The oldest bottle in the climate-controlled, 55-degree cellar? A 1921 Chateau Mouton Rothschild from Pauillac, France. “A friend in Switzerland has a similar wine cellar, only his is all natural,” Mike says. “I wanted it to be like his.”

A wet bar, pool table, big screen TV and mirror-lined exercise room round out the game room, with a hot tub on the below-deck patio outside. Adjacent is another marquee part of the home — the bunk room, featuring four queen beds with individually drawn drapes and secret tunnels connecting their backsides.

In keeping with the home’s personal flair, the same moose painted looking through a window in the half-bath upstairs appears in a meadow on the changing room wall — not an uncommon sight on the 300 acres of open space abutting the home.

Off the game room is another garage and workshop, complete with a dog-washing station and restored 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster with LoveJoy license plates. A greenhouse, whose saplings will earn a berth in a larger garden outside, faces south off the corner.

If it all hints of Gatsby, don’t overlook the “Broadmoor Room” upstairs. The guest suite is adorned in the same blue and gold motif — from drapes and paint to bed canopy — as the heralded hotel in Colorado Springs, complete with a Norman Rockwell artist’s proof above the fireplace. “We were married there, so wanted to capture that feel,” Mike says.

The room and fireplace is finished in Burmese teak. “I was in Japan in 1974 when Burma was being taken over, and an acquaintance wanted to sell a boatload of teak to raise money,” Mike says. “So we got a stack 12 feet wide by 35 feet tall by 48 feet long and sold half of it in San Francisco, which paid for all the rest. I’ve used it in every home I’ve ever built.”

If it meant an extra step in the building process, so be it; it’s all part of not cutting any corners and, above all, enjoying the process of building a home in Steamboat.

“Everyone just gets so serious all the time,” Mike says. “Steamboat’s a place to have fun, and that’s exactly what we wanted: a house for fun.”

Sidebar: Beta

Architect: Joe Patrick Robbins

Builder: Amaron Folkestad

Broker: Chris Paoli, Colorado Group Realty;

Specs: 9,245 square feet, 36 acres (plus 300 communal), dual four- and three-car garages, five baths, three-plus fireplaces, radiant heat, wine cellar, heated driveway, pond, stream, hot tub.

Cell 970.819.1432/

Photo captions: Eugene will email once photos are selected.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User