For this creative NoCo metalsmithing duo, an epic remodel offered the unexpected opportunity to put their makers’ mark on history.
It began as a downtrodden purple-hued barn-like structure whose simple Monopoly-piece silhouette Amy Sasick describes as resembling “every child’s first drawing of a house with a chimney, front door and a tree.” Never ones to shirk a creative challenge, entrepreneurs Amy and Stefan Sasick, founders of custom metal fabrication company Raw Urth, set about transforming the unlikely Bellevue building into a nurturing place to raise their two children, Addie and Manny—a bona fide home that infuses their artful pursuits into everyday life. And as the Sasicks dug in, in a twist on the familiar saying, the walls did talk, revealing a serendipitous story with surprising connections to the couple’s own journey.
That journey, involving equal parts ingenuity and modern-day alchemy, began in Texas with Amy and Stefan in their early twenties. Amy was bartending at a popular Dallas eatery by night and working in commercial real estate by day.
The restaurant’s higher-ups noticed Amy’s incandescence early on, promoting her to its corporate headquarters in Austin practically overnight. (“They asked me on a Tuesday and I was there on Friday,” she says). During her executive debut, she hired a landscape company to realize her design for a new outdoor dining patio and Stefan turned up as foreman. “It was love at first sight for me and for him,” she says, smiling. With an immediate bond and sharing an unmatched work ethic, Amy joined him in the landscape business. They worked side by side, eventually started their own company and built the foundation as partners in both life and work.
With Amy at the design helm and Stefan running crews, their business boomed. The challenge? They couldn’t find a source for the unique steel elements they wished to incorporate into their landscape designs. With typical resourcefulness, they set out in a borrowed camper for New Mexico’s Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu (of Georgia O’Keefe fame) for a blacksmithing workshop where they could learn the age-old craft and produce the desired pieces themselves. They found the various metals infinitely malleable, fusible and exciting, and wondered just how far they could take their newfound skill.
With a hunch (and young children in tow), a visit to the International Home Builders Show in Las Vegas confirmed a lack of hand-crafted metalwork in the kitchen and bath industry. They returned the following year, bringing their own hand-forged range hoods and attracting long lines around their makeshift booth. “You’d walk down the home show aisles with all the perfectly polished booths and then come to ours that was a hundred percent handmade and you couldn’t even wedge into it,” recalls Amy, who muses “We were so rinky-dink, but rinky-dink rocks, because rinky-dink is real.” Finding themselves perfectly positioned to fill the market gap for custom, handmade metal wares, including range hoods, fireplace mantels and surrounds, countertops with integral sinks and just about anything that can be imagined, the Sasicks recognized the need for a permanent home base.
PLANTING ROOTS near family made sense, so when a relative offered them the use of a vacant old outbuilding, they set up shop in NoCo’s lush Pleasant Valley. Although living conditions were rudimentary, it offered a place to work and camp out while looking for more permanent digs. And fruitlessly searching the local housing market for a year and a half, their homely purple “camp” began to look more appealing. Far from newbie remodelers (they’d flipped 12 homes in four years to support their entrepreneurial lifestyle), the Sasicks opted to buy the structure and make it their own.
“This was the most blank slate we’ve ever had,” recalls Amy of the crumbling ceilings, breezy walls and roof-to-ground icicles caused by constant heat loss in the winter. “We knew it had potential.”
Astonishingly, their first act—removing the dreary exterior finish—exposed multiple layers of history. Beneath what the couple described as “nasty, chunky purple stucco” was white clapboard siding. The discovery confirmed local lore (and historical records) of the structure’s prior life as a rural church starting in the 1920s. But the next revelation felt even more remarkable. “We assumed that was the original siding on the building,” explains Stefan. But when an “over-zealous demo helper” began removing the clapboard siding, it exposed the shell of an even older barn building with large painted letters reading Blacksmith Shop on one side. Further research, along with evidence of original livestock brands burned into the wood siding, confirmed the surprisingly resonant discovery of a succession of earlier blacksmiths on the property dating back to the 1880s. Additional investigation revealed a simple timber post-and-beam structure supporting the roof and vertical barn boards consistent with “pole barn” construction from that era.
And while Amy and Stefan relished its provenance—especially the metalsmithing—they knew the remaining structure required significant upgrades to become a habitable home. With typical optimism the resourceful pair turned their handcrafting expertise—along with assists from family and friends—to reconstructing the building with clear deference to its past.
To shore up the structure, steel columns replaced timber posts while sagging roof joists were swapped out for custom scissor-style trusses fabricated from glulam beams and steel rods, restoring the interior to its former soaring two-story glory as a single-room church. Later additions that had carved up the interior were removed in favor of an open-plan kitchen, living room and dining room space that feels both gracious and light despite the original structure’s compact dimensions. A new second-floor loft where a long-vanished hayloft may have been maintains the airy feel and draws the eye up through the grandly detailed space. A second floor, built over the shop where Amy and Stefan started their blacksmith business, houses a serene master suite along with a workout room and bedrooms for the kids.
The Sasicks clad the exterior walls in locally milled, vertically oriented, beetle-kill siding, leaving the newly re-engineered steel structure exposed on the interior, both as a visible record of their own artful intervention and to gain much-needed insulation space. Tapered patinated steel panels give the fireplace chimney sculptural appeal, and the duo chose high-performance Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) to quickly reassemble the roof and reduce heat loss.
The original barn siding—salvaged and reinstalled on the interior walls—serves as a reminder of the structure’s past, while lending an earthy, authentic vintage feel to the space. Amy and Stefan agree it’s the most “beautiful, aged and aromatic wood” they’ve ever seen. And in a Where’s Waldo-type spirit, some of the letters spelling Blacksmith Shop can be spotted on the interior walls along with original livestock brands and special collections of books and artwork.
While the project proved epic for the family, the extraordinary finished home blends elegant minimalism with curated richness. The design and reconstruction have clearly been a labor of love for Amy and Stefan and kids—proud of imparting new life into the storied structure while weaving in the next hand-crafted chapter. “There’s still so much to do,” says Stefan reflecting on the home around him. But daughter Addie is happy with the current status quo. “The house feels like us,” she says.