A Conversation with Zane Levin

You’ve likely seen Zane’s work before. He’s touched years of projects showcased in Summit County’s Parade of Homes and fills our new construction portfolio with stunning homes. His eye for clean lines and love of mountain design perfectly translate in his architectural work.

Born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Zane moved to the Flatirons in Colorado to begin his studies at CU Boulder in environmental design. Knowing he wanted to pursue his passion of architecture, he attended CU Denver, earned his Master of Architecture and moved to Summit County to fulfill his dreams at Pinnacle Mountain Homes, overseeing and managing the architectural design of new construction projects.

After intensive studying, Zane passed his licensing tests in 2019 and moved into his role as Pinnacle’s in-house architect, where he is now empowered to lead and run projects. With his license, Collective has been able to expand its offering to include architectural design on new construction and remodels.

Here, we get to know Zane, what inspires him and how the architecture process and his strong relationships with clients are key components in building the homes of their dreams.

What made you want to be an architect?
My parents are artists and my grandparents were engineers, involved in construction. I definitely inherited their traits and took interest in both career paths. Architecture really stood out to me as it lands somewhere in the middle of the two. My love of creativity, paired with logical and strategic thinking, lead me to think architecture would be a great fit.

Can you remember the first space that had an impact on your architecture career?
The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver has always been an inspiring building to me. It’s dwarfed by the Denver Art Museum and sits in its shadow but it’s different and beautiful. Most of the building is made of board-formed concrete, which displays a unique texture.

How would you describe your style?
Leaning mountain contemporary. Homes with sleek, hard lines, rectilinear windows and flat roofs are some of my favorite to design. I also love the mountain modern look with more gables, shed roofs, and slightly more traditional mountain forms.

How do you begin the design process?
The lot and the surrounding environment influences and dictates a large portion of the home design and helps guide the basic home layout. Right off the bat, we focus on sun angles, surrounding views, the slope of the lot, and access onto the lot – via driveway, garage, or how you approach the front door.

We’ll put together an initial site plan, based off those key elements to share with the clients. Then together, we’ll create a general layout with adjacency of the specific rooms; the master bedroom, kitchen, etc.

What do you show along the way to explain the project to clients?
We’re in contact with our clients every step of the way, from initial floor plans, to the 3D model, to site plans, to final construction documents. After we create the basic, conceptual layout and floor plans, we begin to hone in on room sizes, windows and specific spaces. Once the client loves the plan and wants to move forward, we create a 3D model to look at building forms, roof lines, and how the windows and doors look on the exterior.

Then together, we look at and choose exterior materials, including siding, colors, exact window sizes and patterns. We apply materials onto the model so the client can see an exact replica of their new home. We layout interior beams, the fireplace, stairs and railings, but when it comes down to interior details and finishes, we hand things off to the interior designer.

Can you introduce us to the architecture team?
Coulton and Josh are our architectural designers. They manage the day-to-day on all of our projects and handle a large portion of behind the scenes work; from drafting to coordination with our structural engineers to making models and sourcing materials. I oversee and help along the way with all of that, checking in with them when they have questions, or diving in to help draw when needed.

Dave, our VP, supervises all projects on the front end up to the point of construction and handles all client relations. He takes care of the coordination items having to do with construction; utilities, budget estimates, schedule, etc. and reviews everything with clients to make sure they’re happy throughout the process.

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How important is relationship when designing a client’s home?
It’s so important. From the start we work to establish great relationships and trust with our clients. We want them to trust our opinion and be confident that we’re designing them a home they’ll love for years to come. We take the relaxed and easygoing approach, which makes for an all-around easier and more fun process. We really want our clients to enjoy the process and be excited about their project every step of the way.

What do you expect clients to provide?
Inspiration images are great. We encourage our clients to create a Houzz account or start a Pinterest board to get some ideas going. We talk through the overall style they’re looking for, what they like and dislike, how they’ll be using their home, how many beds, baths, stories, or cars they’d like in the garage. We ask if they want a more secluded, woodsy feel or big mountain views which helps us in window positioning and orientation.

What role do you have during construction?
Once we’ve wrapped up the plans, we hand the project off to our sister company, Pinnacle Mountain Homes, or to the client’s chosen contractor for construction. The clients work directly with the contractor but if they have any architectural or detail-oriented questions, we’re still always here to help. Typically, we constantly coordinate with both the construction team and the clients in order to provide a smooth construction phase.

Do you ever try to nudge clients out of their comfort zone?
We’re always trying to push the envelope towards progressive design. If clients are leaning towards outdated styles, we work with them to provide more modern or contemporary suggestions all while making sure they love our input.

What are you currently working on?
A handful of new construction projects, all single-family custom mountain homes, and a handful of remodels. We’re throughout the design process constantly; always seem to be starting something new when we’re upon completion for another.

Since remodels are relatively new to Collective, how do you compare them to your new construction projects?
Our remodel projects are all different in size and scope, from a fireplace addition to a four thousand square foot home renovation and addition. They definitely present their own challenge; working on a building that already exists and turning it into a home that feels fresh and new. It’s exciting to take on different types of projects. We typically work on additions, an extra garage with a bedroom above, for example. Sometimes we move a few walls to open up a room or add walls to create new spaces.

Many of our remodel clients are those who own short-term rentals. They want to keep their home up to date and relevant for those looking to book lodging in the area.


Do you have a current favorite project?
Not one specifically. I love pieces of each. Every time there’s something unique and creative to a project, I get more excited. For instance, adding a small climbing wall to the bunk room or showcasing sharp exterior lines, flat roofs and unique deck situations are all things across different projects that have me excited right now.

How do you influence sustainability in your designs?
We are constantly thinking about passive sustainable practices. We take into consideration the orientation of the house and where the windows are located so that natural light can heat the house in the winter and keep it cool in the summer. We’re always pre-wiring homes to have solar or have the option to add solar in the future. We also include electric car charging battery ports in the garages fairly often.

What do you like best about your line of work?
I love seeing people excited about the final product. For some, we’re building their dream home. For others, it’s their legacy project that they’ll able to pass down to their children, and their children’s children. It’s all about helping our clients meet their goals through architecture.

What made you want to be a part of the Collective team?
Collective and Pinnacle Mountain Homes have an incredible understanding of the market, and what good design looks like. We’re always working on unique and exciting projects and have amazing clients.

What sets Collective apart from other architects?
The fact that we are design-build. We have architecture, interior design, construction, estimating and lodging all under one roof. We have a really good understanding of where the market is, what things will cost overall, and what’s trending. Overall, because we employ experts in so many areas, we make a great team, and are able to design, build, furnish, manage, and rent some truly incredible homes!

Collective Design Group is an award-winning interior design firm serving Vail Valley, Summit County, Winter Park and surrounding areas.

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