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Disappearing Act

Friday, December 6th, 2013

By Lauren Walser
Photos by Deb Cota and Walter Chatham

It’s tempting to call the Stealth House invisible, but at 10,000 square feet, it’s more like what New York- based architect Walter Chatham calls an “elephant under the tablecloth.”

Designed by Chatham, the two-story house perched high above Aspen, Colorado, was built for a private art collector who wanted a family-friendly house that took advantage of the site’s panoramic views, without interrupting the natural beauty of the mountainside.

“We wanted to make something that would disappear as much as possible,” Chatham says. By burying the house in the hillside and creating a low roofline with deep overhangs to prevent glare from the windows, Chatham minimized the home’s visibility. 

Cor-ten steel, dark brown stucco, and thin-sheet copper also help it to blend into its surroundings.

Obscuring the house was one challenge. Maximizing the views from the inside was another. “The trick was arranging the house so that it could take in
the full view, which I did by curving it,” he says. Chatham arranged for principal rooms to look out onto the valley, while others like storage and utility spaces are against the hillside. “You don’t get the entire view in every room, but you get some of it in all of the rooms,” he says.

Chatham credits its owner, who he says had the vision and aesthetic sense, to ensure his house was a hidden oasis. “The world is filling up with ‘look-at-me’ buildings standing with other ‘look-at-me’ build- ings. I don’t think people have thought this through like they should.” If they did, he adds, they might realize that sometimes, good design can be hidden in plain sight. 

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