Remodeling challenges ignited the creativity of this Colorado couple as they renovated their “tree house” in the Rockies.

By Sarah Wolf
October 31, 2018

Amy Purdy and Daniel Gale didn't know what they were getting into when they started remodeling their Colorado home. "We thought we were just cleaning up a few things," Amy says with a chuckle, “but it ended up turning into a massive, complete overhaul that took two years. Once you start getting into it, it just goes deeper and deeper.”

Built in 1971, the three-story house was ready for new insulation, updated wiring, and fresh surfaces that combine rustic elements with Scandinavian flair (Amy’s fave combo!). After firing their original contractor and starting over with a new one, Amy and Daniel had to get creative with their budget— and get to work themselves.

Overcoming obstacles is nothing new for this family. At age 19, Amy’s legs were amputated below the knee because of bacterial meningitis. Rather than let such a tragedy sideline her, Amy became one of the world’s most recognizable disabled athletes: She’s a world-class snowboarder, Paralympic medalist, second-place finisher on Dancing with the Stars, and a renowned public speaker.

She can now add accomplished DIYer to her list. She and Daniel accented rooms with shiplap and barnwood, designed floating shelves in the kitchen, repaired and repainted the deck, and scoured shops for accessories that look way fancier than their price tags. She leaned hard on her sister, Crystal Norris, an interior designer.

“People run into a lot of challenges when they renovate their homes,” Amy says. “It’s important to share the challenges with other people—that’s how your story is relatable.”

Amy and Daniel took on a house renovation that spanned almost two years. They knew when to hire someone for a job (insulating between the ceiling joists, for example) and when to jump in with their own four hands (dressing up the island with wood planks). “Things I knew we could do, we did do,” Amy says, “but we also just wanted to get the job done right.”

The steel ceiling beam in the kitchen replaces a load-bearing wall that used to delineate the kitchen. Amy and Daniel liked its industrial look so much they left it (and the ceiling joists) exposed. The couple cut wood planks in a fun pattern to rough up the clean lines (the gorgeous waterfall-style Cambria countertop) of the island.

The sofa (from Crate and Barrel) and rug (local shop Authentic Rugs) were pricey retail purchases but well worth it for the heavy use they get and the coziness they bring to the room. Amy and Daniel converted the stove to burn gas (rather than wood), scooted it to the corner, and vented it out the wall (instead of the ceiling). It warms the whole house.

In a happy accident, the TV stand—a Wayfair find—was meant to be the room’s coffee table but it was just a hair too long. “It’s actually great as a TV stand,” Amy says, “and it matches the flooring perfectly.” Amy and Daniel had no luck finding a simple, not ornate, staircase railing, so they came up with their own bright idea. Just $60 worth of electrical conduit and two cans of flat black spray paint saved about $500 over using pricier wood balusters.

Amy and Daniel didn't like any of the stains they tested, so they combined vinegar and steel wool to create a concoction they then brushed onto new wood (including the staircase) to age it in minutes. 

For one wall in the master bedroom, Daniel applied peel-and-stick wood planks from Stikwood in a large-scale checkerboard pattern. The wood backdrop turns the room into a rustic retreat. Because the space is small, Amy didn’t want to crowd the nightstands with lamps, so she had an electrician wire for pendants on either side of the bed.

Amy and Daniel worked their magic on this tired little powder room, lining one wall with cedar planks, painting the wood vanity almost black, swapping out ugly knobs with hardware from Anthropologie, and injecting a dose of glamour with a marble sink and quartz-surfacing countertop. A Target mirror and Wayfair sconce fit right into the scheme and helped balance the budget.

The sitting room is in demand as a cozy spot to read and lounge. Amy snapped the photo of a lifetime while visiting an African nature preserve: An elephant appeared while she was drinking coffee outside, and she instinctively grabbed her camera. She had the image enlarged and printed on canvas.

Painted red and marred by loose and broken boards, the deck had seen better days, but it was too expensive to replace. Next best thing: Swapping out the worst floor planks for new ones and replacing rotten railings with chicken wire panels. Black stain applied to the floor and select railing elements instantly modernized the deck. “It’ll get us by until we decide what to do next with it,” Amy says. The deck wraps around three sides of the house, and it’s the only way to get to the front door. “It feels like we’re in a tree house,” Amy says.


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