Family-Friendly Fireclay Custom Build
Lifestyle Medicine Physician and mother of two, Pam McGrogan discusses building her family's forever home with partner, Matt McGrogan in Western Colorado.
Keep scrolling for our full interview with Pam!
Meet the McGrogan Family
All photos by Matt McGrogan // Architect: Bruce Barth
The McGrogan's are a family of four recently transplanted to Western Colorado from Northeast Ohio for both work and outdoor opportunities. I am a physician originally from Alberta, Canada and my husband Matt (originally from Ohio) is a very talented chef and photographer, as well as the most amazing and supportive partner and stay at home dad to our two young children, Elizabeth (5) and Finnian (3).
Where do you call homebase?
We are located in a rural part of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, an area on the Western slopes of the Rocky mountains known for tremendous outdoor opportunities including everything from hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, rafting, etc. We plan to take full advantage of our new home by exposing our kids to as much as possible in this region.
Speaking of, tell us about your new home! How did you get started?
Just after we had decided to move to the area we came out to look for possible housing and toured around with a realtor. We didn't know at that time the exact location of the valley we wanted to be in and so he started showing us almost every possible home that was available for sale. Researching a hot housing market online across the country was not very helpful since the houses around here move quickly. Several of the houses we had been interested in had already been sold by the time of our visit and the vast majority of the houses we viewed in person were underwhelming and more of the "Mountain Ranch" vibe which is definitely not our style. He did take us to see one more modern house that we fell in love with immediately but it was only a two bedroom and wouldn't work for our family size. We wound up changing tactics almost immediately and got the name of the architect (Red House Architecture, who we used for our build) and told the realtor to start showing us possible properties. We stumbled upon our plot of land quite by accident as it was about five lots over from one he took us to look at initially.
The moment we stepped out onto the property and saw the potential with the views and privacy, we knew it was the one. As another good omen, about 200 yards into the property was a stone shaped like a seat which had the best view of Mt. Sopris which dominates our skyline.
The first time we brought the kids out to the property, they immediately gravitated toward the stone seat and declared it "theirs", it was obvious they felt connected to this land as well. Our living room now sits on the exact location as the stone seat and we saved it to use in our future landscaping.
What was it like to take on a new construction project?
This was our first new construction home and will likely be our last! We had a lot of fun designing it, but we planned from the beginning that this would be our forever home. We were involved with every step of the process, from the overall concept of the house all the way down to door stops; it was like having a full-time second job during our year and a half design/build process. I wouldn't have changed the process at all despite all of the stress.
We did work with a professional architect for the design of the house but we very much wanted to have our hand in every aspect of our home and so we did not work with any professional designers except for Fireclay Design Consultant, Emily and a kitchen cabinet designer.
I can see how professional designers are drawn to this type of career, it was a lot of fun being able to stretch our creativity to try and make something that will be a reflection of us for years to come.
What were your goals when designing your new home?
The most important thing for us in the design of our home was to think about our children and how they would be able to live and grow with the space. We wanted to make sure that we also injected some fun into each of the spaces without making them feel dated. Our ultimate goal was to have a home that would allow us to entertain all of our family and friends in a comfortable setting for years to come.
Tile shown: Dusty Blue Hexite
What design style represents the vibe of your home?
Each area has its own slightly different aesthetic, however the general vibe we were going for in the entire house was a bit of a cross between Minimalism and Mid-Century. We wanted our Master suite to be serene and calming, we have a steam shower and so I knew right away that a dark tile in this area would be the direction I wanted to take.
The main guest bathroom is airy and bright white, meant to be clean and rejuvenating for our visitors.
Our children's bathroom and kitchen backsplash add a touch of whimsy and playfulness to our home.
Tile shown: Tusk 3x6
The feature wall in our first floor bathroom allowed us to express a sense of drama in our most hard-working bathroom. This is the area that every guest will see and so we wanted it to be something unforgettable.
Wow! That's a lot of Fireclay!
We have Fireclay in so many areas of our home! Our kitchen backsplash is the focal point of our house and seen from the entrance which makes it a stand out feature.
As mentioned, we also have Fireclay in each of our four bathrooms. The only place we have tile that we did not use Fireclay for was our mudroom dog wash station and I'm already seriously considering ripping out that tile to use more Fireclay down the road.
How did you come across Fireclay?
We first heard about Fireclay Tile when we started seriously researching the interior design of our house and ordered a subscription to Dwell magazine. They had a major feature on Fireclay and I immediately went to the website and knew that it was exactly what we were looking for to put the finishing touches on our home. We originally were only going to use Fireclay for the kitchen and our kid's bathroom backsplash, but we had such an outstanding experience working with our Fireclay Designer, Emily, that we added on almost all the other areas of the house that contain tile to the project.
There were so many options to choose from but we knew right from the beginning that we wanted the small diamond pattern for the kitchen backsplash, choosing our color combination was the hardest part.
In the kid's bathroom we also strongly considered the picket braid and the Ogee Drop in straight set but knew at once the Hexite was the way to go!
Tile shown: Dusty Blue Hexite
With so many bold patterns in your new home, how important was tile on your design to-do list?
To be completely honest, we hadn't really thought too much about tile until the article in Dwell where I saw what could be done with the new styles. We both grew up in households where tile was more for function and the style was a bit of an afterthought. But now with companies like Fireclay, the most amazing patterns and colors are available and so it felt more like finding the perfect piece of artwork to put on your walls. Our tiled areas feel like galleries that have captured our personalities.
Tile shown: Loch Ness Scalene Triangle and Daisy 3x9
Did you install the tile yourselves? Any challenges faced?
We used a professional installer to set all of our tile, and so the only hitch we had was a lost box of 5 square feet of Dusty Blue Hexite to go in the kid's bathroom. I have to say that Emily and the rest of the Fireclay team handled this as smoothly as we ever could have imagined! Within hours of this discovery, we had an e-mail with a pre-paid shipping label to send a piece back to the factory so they could color match and expedite the additional tile to finish off the area. I highly recommend the customer service of Fireclay, they truly went the extra mile to ensure that our home came together with personalized attention. We felt like everyone was invested in our project from conception right to completion of the grout.
Tile shown: Dusty Blue Hexite
What did you enjoy the most about your Fireclay Tile experience?
We took full advantage of both the samples and rendering programs. The samples were of great importance when it came time to choosing our colors in multiple rooms, especially the Dusty Blue in the kid's bathroom and "just the right black" in the master bath. We went back and forth with different color combinations for the kitchen backsplash before settling on Chartreuse as the highlight. The renderings were crucial for us since we were able to see exactly what our individual rooms would look like with the colors and patterns we had under consideration. Having that individualization with the cabinet sizes, appliances and everything else in the room in the right place made it easy to pick what we loved and not have any surprises or concerns about what it would look like when finally installed.
So... Would you do it all again?
Designing our home was definitely one of the greatest challenges we have undertaken but also one of the most rewarding. I know that when I look at every area of our house I will know we had input in the design process. Mindful decision making was our goal, to try and consider every possible variable ahead of the build so we could visualize the final outcome. At times it was overwhelming, it definitely felt like a second job in the evening scouring websites and magazines for ideas. Working with Emily allowed us to put some of those design decisions in the hands of someone we trusted. She took the time to learn about us and our lifestyle and how we wanted the spaces to look and feel. The suggestions she made were spot on and she was easily the person who wound up making the biggest impact on the look of our home outside of our architect and us.
Tile shown: Diamond Escher in Chartreuse, Dolomite, White Wash, and Akoya
Have any advice for others taking on a custom home build?
Have an open mind, be willing to look at new designs, easily my favorite tile in the house is our Loch Ness Scalene which was what Emily came up with when I asked for a "feature wall" in our first floor bathroom. The color and pattern hadn't even been on my radar despite spending hours looking at Fireclay's website. Also, be curious and invested in your design and build process, ask as many questions of yourself as your architect/designers. Lastly, try and give yourself breaks every once in a while, for most people, building a home will be the biggest financial risk they take on and it can be very stressful to have your money on the line, healthy stress relief is an absolute must to get through a custom home build!
What Fireclay product would you use if you were to take on another project?
Even though we have finished the majority of our forever home, we loved working with Fireclay so much that we are planning on coming back in the near future to put in a feature wall behind our wood-burning stove. I have my eye on some of the handpainted collection!
Tile shown: Harvest in a custom colorway
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