Charles Deaton's masterpiece. Photo courtesy the Kentwood Company.
Charles Deaton's masterpiece. Photo courtesy the Kentwood Company.

Foreclosure? Even the "Sleeper House" feels the pinch

Nobody and no property, it seems, are immune from the housing crisis. According to this report in the Denver Business Journal, one of Colorado's most distinctive residences was headed for foreclosure this spring, and then it wasn't.

Built in the 1960s by the late, visionary architect Charles Deaton for his own family, the Sculptured House on Genesee Mountain has been a source of wonder and speculation for motorists heading up I-70 from Denver for generations. Featured in Woody Allen's 1973 movie Sleeper and inevitably linked to futurism and UFOs, it's often referred to as "the Sleeper house" or the "flying-saucer house" -- although its designer had something quite different in mind.

"I wasn't trying to be streamlined or futuristic," he told Westword in 1991. "I was going to do a piece of sculpture for its own sake. It became long and low and flat because of the internal planning, and also to be part of the mesa. I like to think that it grew here, like a very friendly, cooperative mushroom."

Deaton never occupied the home, which was purchased by software tycoon John Huggins in 1999 for $1.33 million. Huggins poured in additional funds and drew on the services of the Praxis Design team of architect Nicholas Antonopoulos and designer Charlee Deaton (Charles' daughter) to complete a planned extension. The place now has 7,000 square feet of living space and a four-car garage.

In 2006 Huggins sold the place for $3.4 million to Vacation Solutions founder Michael Dunahy, whose $3.1 million mortgage on the place is currently being reworked. It remains a premiere spot for charity events and has never escaped its space-age connotations; there's even a YouTube video of the interior set to Jetsons music.

Alas, my story on Deaton predates the advent of our online archives. But for more on his intentions, read the excerpt from that article after the break:

Back in the mid-Sixties, the neighbors didn't know what to make of the strange creature rising on the mesa.... Naysaying engineers and contractors had plenty of reasons why it wouldn't work: the wild shape of the thing, the materials involved -- lumber, glass and steel are usually supplied in straight-line specifications for rectangular houses, the way the good Lord intended them to be used -- and the way the house seemed to float, impossibly cantilevered, off the side of the mountain.

Deaton confounded them all. Since the plans didn't conform to any standard architectural scale, he prepared a special set of rules for the contractors. And wherever standard building processes wouldn't work, he improvised or customized....

Like any good piece of abstract sculpture, the house offers new surprises depending on the angle of approach. From the back it looks like a beached leviathan, long and sturdy, sheltering its occupants from the prevailing winds; a small porthole and two large, tear-shaped windows -- cut into the sculpture "as one would cut into a melon," Deaton says -- look out on the road and the mountains.

From the side it takes on the aspect of an ingeniously folded pancake that's about to spin into space, humming "klaatu barada nicto." Keep watching the skies, earthmen.

As for the frontal view -- well, there you have a yawning, glass-enclosed cave, the water-carved recesses from Deaton's beloved Kiamichi Mountains, a sense of motion and shelter together. It's "the house that smiles," rooted in the mountain and skimming the heavens.

"I wanted the shape of it to sing an unencumbered song," Deaton wrote in an article published in 1966. "In building this house, I believe I have committed an act of freedom. I am out of the box, off the streeted grid."

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