Shaun and the Ski Trip

Fowler Hilliard

We first met our architect and builder, Shaun, at a friend’s kid’s birthday party. He was working as a commercial facade architect, working on skyscrapers and the like, but he was also starting a design-build firm focused on building interesting houses in the mountains for under $1 million. That caught our attention. Frankly, we didn’t consider building since we didn’t think many builders were interested in building mountain homes in that price range – at least in Summit County – particularly anything other than boring spec houses. We also liked Shaun and his wife, which counted for something. We filed the information away for later.

“Later” came on a multi-day backcountry ski trip that Shaun joined, which included two nights at Fowler-Hilliard, a backcountry hut near Camp Hale. There, we talked some more about his firm and the houses he wanted to build. He generally explained that, if we wanted a house that looks like all of the other houses in Summit County, it probably wasn’t the right fit. He also described some of the techniques he was using to keep costs down on his projects, like framing wall panels in the Front Range and transporting them to Summit County by truck. He invited me to stop by a project he was building in Summit Cove to get a sense of what he was up to and what he was about.

After talking things over at home, we decided that we were interested enough in the prospect of building that it made sense to check out his project and ask some more questions. My parents had built the house I grew up in, assisting a contractor friend with a fair bit of the actual construction, and it meant something to grow up in a place they helped design and build. And, at least if Shaun could produce what he promised, we could build for about what we would need to spend to buy a house that suited us. The main difference would be the timeline. So I agreed to check out Shaun’s current project: the A-Frame.