Nestled high on Hastings Mesa just 20 minutes from Telluride, Colo. and hovering 8,500 feet above sea level lies a property of musical legend: Music Gardens Ranch. A visit to the ranch leaves no question as to its namesake. Hidden among its net-zero sustainable living features and custom treasures is a fabled recording studio that has been dubbed “Studio in the Clouds.” John Denver, Prince, Otis Redding, George Benson, Dierks Bentley, Neil Young and Jewel have recorded in the studio.
“There’s no place like this anywhere in the region as far as sound quality,” reveals homeowner Alan Bradbury, who built and completed the 90-acre sustainable retreat in 2012. “It was designed by a rocket scientist to be acoustically perfect.”
Bradbury is right about one thing — there is nothing else like it in the area. The “Studio in the Clouds” quite literally elevates the music producing process, thanks to a mixing room, sound studio and live performance room capable of accommodating a 60-person orchestra. No wonder some of the music industry’s greats have recorded here. The legendary space is equipped with the latest in audio and recording technology, including Avid Pro Tools 10HD, Mogami audio cables, Genelec 1032 studio speakers, Manley, Millennium, Neve and Grace Design professional studio recording equipment, API, and Tube-Tech gear. Air is also circulated throughout the studio, providing negative ions, which keep the air oxygenated and humidified.
Above the recording studio resides the sound engineer’s apartment. The home devotes an entire level to accommodating the musicians or guests with three bedrooms, a full kitchen, large living spaces and deck. “Although the retreat has been set up primarily for private use, it can easily be leased by recording groups for extended periods,” says McCarthy.
Beyond the “Studio in the Clouds,” Bradbury’s property offers an extraordinary combination of custom craftsmanship, eco-conscious building, acreage, and access to Colorado’s unbridled nature and recreation. When he listed the ranch in September with Karen McCarthy, affiliated with Coldwell Banker Distinctive Properties in Telluride and a Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Property Specialist, its uniqueness and $12 million asking price naturally garnered headlines. The price, says McCarthy, not only reflects the inclusion of the studio’s recording equipment that possesses a mixing board that was designed by Peter Gabriel, but also reflects the current interest in the Telluride real estate market coupled with the property’s musical pedigree and cutting-edge sustainability.
“I can say with certainty that it is one of the area’s most extraordinary and unusual properties,” she notes. “The owner went to great lengths to make sure that the ranch was net-zero energy and would be able to produce its own energy and food onsite. Food is produced in the 1,200 square-foot greenhouse, chicken coop and the property has agricultural grazing rights. Additionally, the property uses a gravity-fed water system from a nearby spring. Almost all the materials are reclaimed or recycled materials. And then the grounds and the valley views in all directions are simply stunning. Everything has been brought into harmony with nature.”
Bradbury, who is an accomplished musician, arborist and landscape designer, purchased the original property on the mesa in 1983 and built the home in 2012; today it stretches over two parcels of land comprising approximately 90.5-acres in Placerville — a small mountain community of fewer than 1,000 people. One parcel includes the 11,672 square-foot primary house, attached 1,200 square-foot greenhouse/solarium, a 720 square-foot shed, a 1,280 square-foot barn, a 480 square-foot caretaker’s unit, a small writer’s sanctuary, a three-car garage and the “Studio in the Clouds.” on 41.19-acres. The second parcel of 49.33-acres includes a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home with 2,407 square feet of living space.
The lengths to which Bradbury went to pursue sustainable living are among the property’s highest achievements. “I would never have had it in me to be in a house this size that wasn’t somewhat ‘eco,’” he says.
He diligently worked alongside a team of contractors, which included Gary Gross of Construction Services of Telluride, for seven years to build a property that has 96 electric solar panels, 46 hot water collectors and a 13,000-gallon tank of near-stream temperature to supply two miles of in-floor heat tubing. Passive solar energy is also gained through the windows in the greenhouse and energy loss is minimized through efficient insulation.
When it comes to constructing the massive main house, Bradbury and his team made sure to minimize the home’s carbon footprint by hiring local labor whenever possible and using salvaged or recycled materials. The home’s flooring is made from 60% recycled material and the roof is 97% recycled. Among Bradbury’s finds? Copper-clad windows, beams, timbers, spiral staircases, doors, railings, a pyramid skylight, acoustic wall-coverings from a home theater, electrical parts and boilers were salvaged from a nearby 15,000 square-foot masterpiece that had been demolished.
Thoughtful placement of many architecturally unique items — like the pyramid skylight gracing the octagonal tower room at the top of spiral stairs — ended up contributing to the home’s true bespoke feel when combined with a few luxury splurges, such as exposed timber, metal and sustainable pine siding, low VOC paints and a wide mahogany and nature-inspired-glass door imported from Brazil.
In the spacious primary residence, the main level has been opened up to encourage socializing around a living room, dining room, fireplace and large eat-in kitchen. Five bedrooms and six full bathrooms give everyone a sense of comfort and privacy, as a large owner’s suite offers an attached office/library and private decks with access to the warmth, humidity and greenery of the greenhouse. An entire level accommodates guests or the recording musicians with three bedrooms, a kitchenette, large living space and decks. It also provides access to a trout pond, multiple springs and a 2.5 mile-trail system traversing the wooded mountainsides, canyon and pastures.
Music Gardens Ranch hits all the high notes for a private, sustainable mountain retreat completely off the grid and away from it all. “It’s one of those Telluride properties that come along once-in-a-lifetime,” she adds. “It can never be replicated. There is only one.”