People often wish life—and love—were like softball: in which you yell “mine” and everyone backs off. Dan Pierce called dibs on his wife Sara when the two met years ago at Carroll College’s softball weekend, a pre-finals week tradition, where they ended up on the same team.
“I don’t even know if Sara knew it, but I was smitten from day one. I remember, after that weekend riding home with my buddy, I was like, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ We hadn’t even dated yet,” he says. “It just took me another four years to convince her.”
Persuading Sara to marry him proved a simpler task than convincing her to renovate the Rattlesnake house that is now their home. She was at least willing to date Dan.
“I walked into the house,” Sara laughingly recalls, “and was like, ‘No.’ All I could think was, ‘You really want to buy this house?!?’”
The answer to her rhetorical question was yes. Dan yelled “ours” and over the next two years, from their computer screen, they watched as the house was put on and off the market until the asking price dropped to within their budget.
“We knew it was going to be a project,” Dan says, given the outdated features and design, including plaid carpeting. “But I could see the potential that it had.”
Sara remembers, “The layout didn’t feel right to me, but once we talked about it and laid out what we wanted to do with the house, it became easier to imagine.”
On Valentine’s Day this year, Dan and Sara and their three children, Elaina, 13, Sophia, 11, and Henry, 10, moved home.
The two-story, five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath house features a spacious main-level master suite, two living areas, a recreation room, laundry rooms on the first and second floors, a garden room, two fireplaces, a kitchen equipped with a gas pizza oven, a fenced backyard that backs up to a public green space, and a three-car garage. Here are some highlights from the renovation.
The first thing they saw upon entering the house was the first thing to go: the spiral staircase.
“There was this curved stairway, and when we looked underneath it, it was pretty clear that someone had put a lot of time and effort into it, but it didn’t make sense for us,” Dan says.
While the old staircase didn’t fit their aesthetic, neither one had any ideas what to do. They asked their contractor Michael Kane, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remodels, for ideas and he went on to design and build the new one using rough sawn fir.
“It’s beautiful, and we’re both very pleased with what he came up with,” Sara says.
The Kids’ Rooms
Their children weren’t particularly interested in the renovation until it came to their rooms. After they bought the house, Dan and Sara watched as their kids ran up the spiral staircase and yelled “mine” on their choice of bedroom—based on size and amenities.
“Henry was really excited to put his basketball hoop up because he’s got the room with the tallest ceiling. Elaina, our oldest, has the biggest closet, and she was really excited to get her closet organized,” Dan explains. “Sophia, our middle child who loves nature and animals, was really excited because I promised her a window bed since she got the smallest room with the smallest closet, and now she can look out into the park and watch the deer and birds.”
For the Pierce family, a real splurge came in the kitchen—with a gas pizza oven.
“It was a fireplace that was decommissioned, so we couldn’t have kept it as a wood-burning fireplace. We could have done a gas fireplace but we only had enough room to vent one gas chimney out,” they explain. “But we could do a gas pizza oven.”
Dan grins as he explains what was involved: “I had to order special parts from Italy to make it work.”
The pizza oven gets regular use, however. Each week, the family gathers for pizza night, which if Dan has his way involves his favorite pie: fig and prosciutto.
“We’ve been making it in the oven for eight years or so,” he says. “It’s kind of our family thing to do. Everyone gets involved. We make our own crust, too.”
The kitchen also ranks high as one of Sara’s favorite rooms in the house because that’s where her homegrown veggies ultimately end up.
“I spend a lot of time in the garden. I love my garden.”
Although she hasn’t won any awards (yet), Sara has earned high praise from her family for her jams.
“She makes incredible huckleberry jam,” says Dan, extolling his wife’s canning.
Earlier this year, they ran out and bought their first jar of jam in six years. As Dan explains it, it was a minor trauma. “We actually ran out. We had to use store-bought jam until we got the next batch in.”
Interior Design, Landscaping & Construction
While Dan had been the one who initially recognized the house’s potential, it was Sara’s final touches that transformed the house into their home.
“That was the part I had problems with,” he says. “I couldn’t picture the floors, the posts, the paint color and the rock.”
Sara concedes the choices were daunting at first but credits Rocky Mountain Remodels and interior designer Laney Hensel from Sway Interiors with making the process fun and fairly effortless.
“There are so many choices, and Laney said, ‘These are good choices. Which choices do you like out of these?’ She made the world smaller,” she says.
For the exterior, Dan and Sara turned to Doug Shryock at Wild Rockies Landscaping. “They did every square inch of the yard, and we gave them a general idea and let them run with it,” Dan says, pausing to non-verbally express awe in what Shryock and his team did. “Just wow.”
In fact, the entire team was praised for making what is often seen as an arduous undertaking a rather manageable one. “They were top-notch,” Dan says.
“And we were lucky,” Sara adds with a laugh.
It would seem that luck had little to do with it. They yelled “ours” and people backed off because, in point of fact, the house was always meant to be the Pierces’ home.