The Nifty Fifties

Why the Krisana Park Modern Home Tour is not just another house tour:

I grew up near, but not in, the Eichler-style, mid-century Krisana Park development and went to Ellis Elementary, the recipient of benefit bucks raised by this weekend's seven-home tour. In those days, the Bruggenthies greenhouse still stood across the street from Krisana, where the Virginia Village Branch Library now thrives in its structure reminiscent of a greenhouse roof. And, as my friend Mary recalled, there was a kidney-shaped sign on Florida Avenue designating the Krisana Park enclave. All you really had to do, though, was open your eyes and notice the curving lanes and redwood-sided homes with their sleek, horizontal lines, building-hugging landscaping and glowing window panels under the eaves to realize that those few blocks of homes were really different.

They still are: I was lucky enough to take a preview tour with some of the Krisana Park neighbors the other night, and found that the iconoclastic district has remained a world unto itself: hipper, more private and wonderfully malleable compared to the surrounding tracts. The people who live here run the gamut: There are youthful hipsters and enthusiastic first-homers, architecture lovers, artsy people and designers, not to mention folks who've been in the 'hood for fifty years.

I was struck, more than anything, by how differently the homeowners dealt with a layout that repeats itself endlessly along each street. The homes are small and compact, mostly without basements, but have lots of secret storage and a wonderful inside-outside feel augmented by floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors leading out to parquet patios. To live in one, though, you really must live sparely (or keep a big shed in back).

On the tour, you'll lose track of the repetitive nature of these houses. They are all so much the same, yet all so unique. A wall comes down in one, a tasteful addition turns another into a kind of maze, another sports an incredible babbling brook of a water feature in the back yard that appears to go under the house in grand, Fallingwater style. One campy home not only boasts a wild tropical back-yard garden planted with painted flora that have no business growing in Denver, but also devotes an entire glass-roofed conservatory to a jungle of cacti and succulents. One of its resident Chihuahuas — a yappy, pink-collared bit of fur -- sat perfectly on a leopard-skin pillow as folks trooped through the house, which was furnished with vintage chairs. And on a stand in the bedroom sat The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste. Loved it.

Another home is an ooh-aah Parade of Homes stoop in miniature, with breathtaking, Asian-themed designer touches throughout. One is a Zen minimalist sanctuary. The kitchen in another is tiled with an impeccable mid-century period mosaic. And the home of theater folks Dana Miller and John Ashton is downright cheeky, furnished humorously with Miller's wall hanging decorated with used dog toys, plastic-fruit window swags, Oaxacan animal carvings and Ashton's Lego houses.

One disclaimer: I saw these homes at twilight and under a full moon, when it was possible to enjoy the effects of lighting and natural mystery. You will see them in plain daylight. But Miller caught the spell, too, and is already mulling doing next year's tour in the evening. Break out the martini bar!

The tour runs from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, September 10; check in at 1388 S. Edison Way. Tickets are $10 to $12; call 303-300-3547. -- Susan Froyd

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun