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A Market for Modern


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As Boulder becomes more sophisticated, so will its appetite for high-end architecture.

That’s what Mod Boulder Realtor Sean McIllwain theorizes. Friendly and with a hint of Southern drawl, McIllwain has seen a shift during the five years he’s been in real estate and during the last couple of years he’s focused on modern homes.

“We are seeing more and more modern homes: new homes in older neighborhoods. Spec homes are more modern looking. Entire planned developments, like Holiday in North Boulder, are more modern,” he said. “I think if you dig in and look, it’s there. The landscape of traditional homes is dotted by modern homes.”

McIllwain—like a handful of other “modern home realtors” in the Denver/Boulder area—has set his sights on the mid-century modern era as well as late 20th century and early 21st century homes. He’s attracted to the box-like shapes, the simplicity, the open spaces, the light and the indoor-outdoor flow.

“Everything about them, I love,” he said.

He’s increasingly found homebuyers who are attracted to the same thing; though, he says potential buyers often start out interested in the ultra-modern aesthetic but end up opting for something a bit more like the “atomic ranch” style. Colorado is not known for its high-end modern design, but there are stunning examples of mid-century modern and contemporary buildings for buyers who are attracted to the aesthetic. Historic Boulder even planned its 2009 spring tour around some of these—from a contemporary mountainside beauty by Arch 11 to a classic Haertling.

“There is this incredible legacy of Hobart Wagener and Charles Haertling: world-class examples of mid-century modern architects in a sleepy 100,000-population town,” he said. “And frankly, I’m seeing some very impressive contemporary designers: Vast and Harvey Hine and Arch 11 are doing really amazing homes. As we get more sophisticated, more sophisticated architecture comes right with it.”

Boulder County “modern” spans the gamut. Neighborhoods like Chautauqua in Boulder, around Louisville and through Longmont are filled with little mid-century modern treasures from local architectural icons Haertling and Wagener. Planned developments like Prospect and Holiday were designed with a very modern aesthetic.

Shannon Stanbro calls herself a “mod home matchmaker.” She’s a realtor who works solely with buyers to find mid-century modern homes. Stanbro says mid-century modern is coming into its own—overcoming its repute as Brady Bunch kitsch. She drives through the Chautauqua neighborhood, pointing out examples of Wagener, who is one of the Boulder area’s most prolific mid-century architects, tucked in between bungalows, ranches and craftsman-style homes.

“I really think there is a timelessness to them,” she said. “There are people who look at these homes and say, ‘This is crazy.’ But the bulk of my clients are artists and they want something more interesting. They specifically want the style and design.”  

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email no info send march17th/09

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