Q + A

the voice of laura schaeffer

Meet Laura Schaeffer, the award-winning mind behind some of Colorado’s most well-known residential projects. As the founder of her self-titled firm — one of the leading residential firms in the area — Laura has developed a unique architectural identity that addresses both historical preservation of a space and the essential connection between the home and its residents.

What’s your story?

I’m a Colorado girl who grew up in the Southwestern Colorado town of Montrose. I have lived in Colorado my entire life, except for a year stint living in Seoul, South Korea and traveling around Asia. After I returned to Colorado, I worked for a firm in Boulder for approximately three years and then founded my design studio in 2014.

How has your architecture firm evolved since launching in 2014?

Since I launched my firm in 2014, I have evolved to partner with contractor Joel Smiley and we do the majority of our projects together. It has been a natural evolution to work together and I really enjoy collaborating with the same craftsman for each house. Joel is a fantastic builder and I always have confidence in the execution of the designs as well as in his creative contribution during the design phase.

What’s your secret weapon?

Connection to the outside. Through well-designed space planning that opens up to the exterior, you can extend your living space. In Boulder, we are often limited in the size or shape of the house due to zoning, but luckily with our Colorado climate, we can extend the usable space outside. We often put heaters in the ceiling of patios which makes a very comfortable three season space.

Is there a project, building or home you are most proud of? Why?

We recently completed a project that was a new modern addition behind a historic home. In order to not overwhelm the existing house while still bringing light into the new space, we created a seam skylight that wraps up the wall, onto the roof and all the way across down the other wall. The skylight delineates the historic house from the new modern addition and produces a dynamic light quality throughout the day. Light is always a driver in my designs and this project really uses light as one of the building materials.

When you need a dose of inspiration, where do you go or what do you do to get inspired?

If I need inspiration, I will take a step back from the architecture and do another creative activity. Baking and wheel thrown pottery are creative adjacent projects that help me relax and create something with no pressure.

In your opinion, what makes a house a home?

The touches that we design specific to the clients. Our projects incorporate a lot of built-ins that are a creative use of space and are tailored to the clients’ interests and use of the space. From the living room built-ins to closets and the kitchen cabinets, we make sure that each space is designed to make the clients at home.

Which ignites your spirit more—a project that revolves around a contemporary new build or reinventing a historic home?

I love designing modern spaces inside a historic home. The historic homes come with their own style and character which we then layer with modern design. It is a fun design challenge to see how we can unlock the magic of the old while making it fresh again.

If you could recommend any pivotal books, podcasts, leaders, social media influencers etc., what would you recommend?

Creative follows that I love to see in my feed include @smittenkitchen for cooking and baking, @doublempottery and @roselinepottery for beautiful, bright pottery, and @marypatettinger for inspiring paintings of the Colorado landscape.

What is one of the greatest misconception people have about your industry?

The biggest misconception that people have about architecture is that you must be great at math to be an architect. While math is a component to creating a building, it is far more important to be creative, be able to listen and to have empathy for how the homeowners will best use the space.

Finish this quote: In design…

In design, great design is transparent. I want to create bespoke spaces that, once complete, feel totally natural and work so well for your family that you couldn’t imagine it any other way.