Local arts maven Kathleen Fox Collins takes us on a tour of what is certainly one of the most interesting and unusual homes in Colorado Springs. It was designed in the 1950s by the husband-and-wife architectural team of Gordon Ingraham and Elizabeth Wright Ingraham(Granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright) for the Mitguard family near the bluffs in Palmer Park. Constructed in 1956, a whole series of renovations and fantastical, mind-boggling embellishments were later added by the home’s owner, Don Vail. While the structure itself is an interesting example of local mid-20th Century modernism, its Vail’s finish work inside and out that gives the home its amazing character.

After we posted this tour the first time early this year, Jon Mitguard, who lived in the house as a boy, posted the following comments:

I won’t go into the whole history but I’d like to clarify a few details. The main omission in this story is that practically all the built in wood work, including the kitchen, guest bedrooms, and wild siding was designed and built by Don Vail, my step father. He was a practicing architect and model maker in CS but in retirement he totally transformed that house beginning in the 80s. As you found there was nothing untouched and not much space left open. Don built pretty much all of the built in features you point out including the Address feature. He was unconventional and was into unconventional materials, Don tried out lots of things, he liked ply wood and used very high grade ply, “The same they use in Highway signs” he’d tell me”. He also had an incredible leaning to create very detailed and time consuming features that most of us wouldn’t even dream of much less execute with countless hours with a jig saw. Again Don Vail built nearly everything that was pointed out in the video.

It was Don’s mission to try and reunify the house after couple other additions that had been done with out the benefit of cohesive design. Over all he did a great job and he created some really fun imaginative spaces. I am not surprised you took out some of the built in features and am glad to see the living room opened up again. I am also glad you enjoy, and kept the guest room as is, it is pure Don Vail down to the last detail. By the way that material is Cork laminated on plywood and finished with Varathane and polished (unconventional again). Many of the other details you attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright are to me, classic Don Vail. He would be the first to admit the FLW influence, but he made that influence his own for sure.

The first frame of the video shows the West elevation where the Room just to the right of the exquisite peaked feature is one of the above mentioned additions done the 60s. We always called this the “new room” and it was completely left out of the filming. It never fit with the design of the house but we used it a lot. Don’s goal was to finally bring that portion into harmony with the rest and he literally worked on the plans for this right until his passing in 2000….

The basement was added later but not much. It had three rooms and a bathroom back then. Don Vail completely gutted these to make the “captains room” and the other bedroom as well as reconfiguring the bathroom.

I also wanted to point out another innovative feature of the original home. There are Heat registers at the perimeter of the living room in the window sills. the ducts going to these are channeled through the slab floor which creates a warm floor.

Kathleen Thank you for loving the house; I am very moved to see this and get to go through it again.

.

 

2 Responses to Home Is Where The Art Is

  1. Ronwell Q. Dobbs says:

    Beautiful!

  2. Michael A. Berniger says:

    What a great video! Thanks.

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