From Texas to the Taylor

Jeff and Michele Wheeler relish tranquil getaways and rich friendships at their riverside residence 

By Beth Buehler

Building a custom mountain home is like assembling a team that you hope is Super Bowl or Stanley Cup worthy. The outcome is a bit of a gamble until the certificate of occupancy and keys are in hand after the players have given it their all. In the case of Jeff and Michele Wheeler’s home at Wilder on the Taylor, they drafted professionals who celebrated meeting a holiday deadline yet felt a bit melancholy upon wrapping up the project.

“We conducted many interviews for our local project team and felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work with all on the team. They seemed to understand our vision and worked hard to make our dream a reality,” Michele says. 

The result is an interior and exterior masterpiece that allows the Dallas couple to truly relax, savor the surrounding beauty, and enjoy the pastimes at this 2,200-acre historic ranch community located between Almont and Crested Butte.

“My favorite memories working on the Wheeler residence are without question working with the design/build team that was assembled including homeowners Jeff and Michele Wheeler, owner’s representative Steve Cappellucci, principal architect Chris Touchette, interior designer Sara Potoker, and landscape architect Margaret Loperfido,” says Mike Wright, owner of Wright Angle Construction in Crested Butte. Spring Creek Landscape Company also was involved in the landscape design.

“Everybody involved was excited and invested in the project from the beginning, which developed into great working dynamics. When the project concluded and we had our final bimonthly owner, architect, contractor (OAC) coordination meeting, we all had a sense of sadness that we were disbanding the group,” he says. “Another memorable moment for me was when we made the big push to get the home done, furnished and decorated for Jeff and Michele’s arrival just before Christmas and walking in with Michele as she saw it for the first time. I won’t soon forget her tears of joy.” 

Another key to success was the Wheelers’ trust in the recommendations of their project team. “They were responsive and open to new ideas in the design of their home,” emphasizes Sara Potoker, owner of Ansley Interiors in Crested Butte. “It was truly delightful through the entire project; I loved the team!”

Discovering a Special Place

As CEO of Jackson-Shaw in Dallas, the developer of Wilder on the Taylor, Michele has been involved with the property since the ranch was purchased in 2007.  What started out as occasional work stays at Wilder transformed into admiration for the whole Valley and the purchase of a 35-acre riverfront homestead to build a getaway. 

“We were looking for a lake house but found the mountains more appealing at this time of our lives. It also was a homecoming of sorts for Michele as ranching has been part of her family history,” Jeff notes. “We have multiple pieces of art that have been in Michele’s family for many years. It was important to include those so that we continue the legacy she grew up in. To those, we have added meaningful pieces to us that remind us of this area—the river, ranch wildlife and all that we have come to love and cherish over the past 10 years.” 

Many of the home’s living spaces also feature enviable views of the Taylor River and the mountain on the water’s south side. Others rooms provide glimpses of sunsets, wildflowers and livestock grazing in the hay meadow. “We love sitting in our breakfast nook watching over the landscape of flowers and hummingbirds,” Michele says. “We stressed the need for the use of natural products to enhance and incorporate the look and feel of the beauty seen outside.”

Mixing Clean Lines & Natural Elements

The transitional mountain design by Basalt-based CCY Architecture features contemporary elements including extensive use of glass and clean lines while acknowledging the Rocky Mountain ranch heritage with just enough timber, stone and natural wood elements. A large glass wall in the great room provides a bird’s-eye view of the Taylor River while a gorgeous stone and steel fireplace provides an interior focal point.

The kitchen has quarter-sawn white oak cabinets and natural stone surfaces all fabricated by local craftsmen, and flagstone flooring flows from the outdoor covered terrace into the interior. Frontier sandstone that closely resembles the native geology was selected for fireplaces, floor paving and site walls, and blackened plate steel details were used on fireplace surrounds, entry door hardware and kitchen ventilation. The walls are finished with clay plaster, giving them an organic texture and natural tactility. 

The expertly handcrafted wood pieces by Cappellucci, who owns Spring Creek Timberworks, are another uniting visual force. He created the breakfast nook table, large dining table and powder room vanity top from one slab of Claro Walnut. He also transformed a solid block of walnut weighing more than 800 pounds into two living room end tables.

Embracing the Surroundings & Lifestyle

The Wheelers wanted to pay respect to the historic cabins and barn structures at Wilder and make their house a natural extension of the ranch’s heritage. Situated below the tree line, their rough-sawn, timber-framed home defers to the land through its low-slung, elongated footprint that references the agricultural buildings on the ranch and maximizes panoramic views. 

The house is divided into two sections, unified with a single-pitched roof that covers the outdoor terrace with a flagstone firepit and big views. One section serves as the Wheelers’ living space with an open living/dining/kitchen area, powder room and primary suite. The other is a guest wing featuring two spacious bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. 

Potoker describes the home’s architecture as mountain transitional and encouraged the Wheelers to use a warm neutral base color and add pops of color with rugs, furniture textiles, artwork and accessories. One of her favorite features is the openness of the home. “It entertains beautifully being big enough for Jeff and Michele’s guests, but when it’s just the two of them the home is intimate,” Potoker says. “The summertime exterior entertainment space is wonderful.”

 The Wheelers appreciate the option to escape Texas heatwaves and spend time hiking, biking and “taking in all the beauty and majesty that surrounds this entire area,” Jeff says. “In the winter, we love to ski and have fallen in love with the Crested Butte ski area.”

 The tranquil nature of Wilder and the Taylor Canyon is a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of life in Dallas. “Wilder is a growing community of like-minded families focused on preserving, protecting and perpetuating the historical ranching of western Colorado,” Michele says. “It has become a second family for us, sharing in the memories and milestones of our friends and neighbors.”