Top Architecture Styles in Boulder, Colorado

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Luke Martin
Luke Martin
I am Luke Martin, a writer who loves homes. My words are about creating comfy and nice living spaces. Let's explore ideas for decorating and making homes cozy together. Join me on this journey to make your house a special place to be.

Close your eyes and imagine a home with the Rocky Mountains in the background. What do you see? A Swiss-style chalet? Perhaps you envision a log cabin reflecting the pioneer days. Now picture a traditional American Bungalow. In what surroundings do you see this house?

There is an intriguing mix of popular architectural styles in Boulder, Colorado, and Boulder architects are helping to spread these trends as more prospective homeowners find patterns that are near and dear to their hearts.

Here are some of the top architectural styles in “the People’s Republic of Boulder.”

The Bungalow

The English first developed the Bungalow in India. The word “bungalow” is a derivation of the Hindustani Indian word “bangala,” which translates to “of Bangel.” The British first built Begalas in India during the mid-1800s for the many visitors coming to the country from their homeland.

The heat is sometimes overbearing in India. Consequently, the architectural design of the Bengalas compensated for the environment. The original plan was a single-story, low-set building with low, overhanging eaves that provided shade for large wrap-around porches.

The First American Bungalows appeared at the turn of the twentieth century. They were very similar in design to India’s, and some modifications included a half-second floor with dormer windows. By 1930 this design was prominent across the United States, particularly in sunny, warm states. At one point, a company sold mail-order Bungalow kits. The company shipped precut lumber, nails, and all the hardware required to an address where builders could construct the house from the enclosed instructions.

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American Bungalows in Boulder

Between 1900 and 1950, the American Bungalow was the favorite architectural style in Boulder. The homes were small and simple to build, and the general population could construct them quickly. Entire neighborhoods consist of American Bungalow construction. Boulder lost its “hometown” boundaries in the 1950s. Small communities succumbed to urbanization, and the Bungalow gave way to larger, more modern housing, often in multi-leveled, multi-residential structures.

In the twenty-first century, the small American Bungalows of the past ooze charm and are in demand; however, they are not currently a popular style for new construction. New construction since the 1950s has varied. Like all things, tastes and fashion in housing and commercial architecture come and go.

Modern Design

Between 1950 and 1970, a “modern” style of architecture became popular in Boulder. Open floor plans with large windows characterized these homes. In addition, the visual style incorporated natural materials with linear shapes to further the perception of “open space.”

This style of home gave way to a ranch design. Like many things, the retro “modern look” has once again become popular. Unfortunately, they are hard to find. Interestingly, these “retro modern” homes are valuable, like the American Bungalow. It is a sign of prestige and affluence to own and renovate one of these homes in Boulder to its original elegance.

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The Ranch style of architecture sought to fuse the feelings of the wild west with a modernistic flair. There are two primary designs of ranch-style architecture. One is the raised ranch. The prominent feature of the raised ranch is that it is two stories. However, the bottom story contains living space half below the grade. It includes a garage, usually a laundry room, and may also have a bedroom, bathroom, and family or recreation room.

Many people confuse a split-level ranch with what is called a “raised ranch,” which will have three or more levels defining it. It may or may not have an underground component to the bottom floor. It was not a unique architectural style unique to Boulder, yet was widespread across the country during the late 1960s through the 1980s.


A-frames were initially a popular architectural design for vacation and ski homes in the 1960s. The easy construction and adaptability to temperature changes in Colorado have made it a sought-after design over the years in Boulder. As a result, the design’s popularity grew and, with a few minimal additions, became a favored choice.

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The name comes from the eaves descending to the ground on two sides, forming the letter. Inside, the space is generally spacious. However, a wood-burning stove or fireplace forms a focal point within, while a loft accessible by a ladder provides a suitable sleeping area. Below, the kitchen, living room, and family space are wide open to allow heat dispersion. While spacious overall, open concepts of the bottom floor don’t give much room for individual space or kitchen design.

Often, construction companies added a balcony off the loft bedroom, making the general appearance from the outside similar to the Swiss chalets in Europe. The steeply pitched eaves keep the snow weight distributed safely during winter.

The Boulder Look

The eclectic architecture in neighborhoods creates “the Boulder Look.” In addition, the ethnic mix of residents in homes constructed in various styles develops a diverse nature that contributes to freedom in new construction design.

New home construction in Boulder utilizes aspects from several motifs. The building materials tend to be natural wood and stone locally sourced while popular exteriors outside of the city limits transition to mountain log exteriors with more modern interiors.

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Newer urban homes and commercial spaces increasingly build around nature and technology. By combining new and old with sleek and rustic, a distinctive “boulder look” emerges, while incorporating an architectural style within Boulder that emphasizes sustainability and natural informality.

Building Concerns

When considering new residential or commercial construction in the Boulder, Colorado, locale today, builders must address several concerns. In addition to the annual snow loads and summer sun above, foundations must be strong enough to withstand the ground heaving from winter freezes. In addition, before construction, builders must consider the following partial list:

  • Green building applications
  • Alternative building materials
  • Healthy interior spaces
  • Technology
  • Energy requirements


The historical influences available in Boulder allow a multitude of design options both inside and outside. In addition, the location of Boulder on the plains at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains opens both prairie and mountain design options. The Indian cultures, the pioneering influences, the religious immigrants, winter sport (ski) chalets, and the modern impact of technology can all come together cohesively.

In short, there is no “top” architectural style. Instead, just like the people who make up the city’s population, a combination of historical and environmental factors come together to create the top architectural styles in Boulder, Colorado.


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