There is an age-old irony that groundbreaking pioneers in art and architecture never attain the respect or reverence they deserve until their deaths. Thus is the case with perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks of mid-century modern architecture still standing today, thanks to the dedication of three men.
The Sculptured House atop Genesee Mountain in Golden, Colorado is easily considered a modern day Sleeping Beauty. A bit radical even for its time, the Sculptured House, known to many locals as the Sleeper House, the Spaceship House, and/or the Clamshell, was designed by the late Charles Deaton, a renowned architect and all-around, multi-faceted idea guy.
True to its given moniker, the Sculptured House was born out of a small-scale, plaster sculpture crafted by Deaton; the floorplan was drafted afterward. In a 1964 interview, he said the design for the house is rooted in his idea that curved buildings provide a natural setting for curved people and curvilinear designs make people feel less confined.
Construction on the House of the Future began in 1963. Once the home’s pedestal was anchored into Genesee Mountain using steel beams, builders tackled the clamshell crafted from a set of steel substructures wrapped in mesh wire. Following a layer of concrete, the final layer featured a coating of walnut shell-infused Hypalon and white pigment. The cost of the project to date totaled upwards of $100,000 to $120,000, a pretty penny in the mid 60s.
After the exterior was constructed in 1965, Deaton soon found himself devoid of funds to complete the interior of the project. Construction came to a halt and he closed the book on the revolutionary residence.
Having experienced a short-lived fame revival, the house is perhaps best recalled as the setting of Woody Allen’s 1973 sci-fi cult classic, Sleeper. Beyond its pop culture celebrity, the Sculptured House became nothing more than a dilapidated haven for various wildlife, teenage boredom and vandalism.
The house lay dormant for over 30 years at the time of Charles Deaton’s death in December 1996. Additionally, the first incarnation of his vision, the original plaster mold of the house was accidentally knocked over and destroyed at his funeral service.
Cut to the scene where Prince Charming wakes the sleeping princess. John Huggins, a Colorado native and Internet software millionaire, was fascinated by the proverbial house on the hill since he was a child. In 1999, he purchased the Sculptured House for $1.3 million with the intent to restore and complete construction.
Working closely with Deaton’s daughter, Charlee, and her husband, architect Nick Antonopoulos, Deaton’s former protégé, Huggins succeeded in completing the home according to Deaton’s original plans. Huggins was faithful to Deaton’s design while adding modern creature comforts. The finished product included a 5000-square-foot addition originally drafted by Deaton, featuring a five-car underground garage, caretaker quarters, media room and massive patio, among others.
To coincide with his modern creation, Charles Deaton went so far as to design much of the furniture he would display in the home upon build out. Huggins and Charlee Deaton also took extra care to have his furniture designs fabricated, including platform beds on spring shock absorbers, to replicate his full vision.
Huggins since sold the Sculptured House in 2006, but spent a great deal of time selecting the right buyer. Its present owner, fellow native Coloradan Michael Dunahay, says he has no plans to ever sell the house. He is honored to be given the responsibility of maintaining its historic integrity and preserving its legacy for years to come. [photos: Kevin Joesph and Don Crossland]