With a starring TV role and twins now on the way, the Academy Award–winning actor invites AD into the incredible mountain home she shares with husband Philip Schneider and their beloved pack of rescue dogs
“I have been looking for land since I was in my mid-20s,” says two-time Academy Award–winning actor Hilary Swank. “I find nature to be my happiest place, and animals are my other happiest place. And to be with both of them is everything to me.”
The completion of her new home nestled in the wilderness of the southwest Colorado mountains was a dream come true for the star of ABC’s Alaska Daily, who is currently expecting twins with husband Philip Schneider. “We found this 168-acre piece of land that was just magical. It just called to us and we couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was great that we were in the middle of nature. We can’t see our neighbors, no one for miles—we just had [it all] right there.”
Swank’s desire was to build a dream home that was sustainable and blended into nature. She wanted large-scale windows that would frame the expansive views of the mountains, and a place where they could grow their own food. She also cared about their rescue animals having space to roam freely.
“The dogs, much to my dismay, are allowed back in the house after they’ve been in the outdoors with the mud and the snow,” says designer Mark Zeff, who has worked with Swank on four of her homes. (Her first New York brownstone was their initial collaboration, followed by a New York apartment, an LA home, and now this Colorado retreat.) “The house is very honest and unpretentious,” Zeff continues. “There are some bells and whistles, like a movie theater, but the way they live and the way the house is designed is very conducive to the connection that they have with these dogs.”
Swank and Schneider found the land in 2016 and broke ground in July 2018. Flash forward almost two years later, and the onset of Covid delayed the completion of the project. The couple finally moved into the finished home in August 2020.
Ultimately, the house is a modern and gorgeous exercise in sustainability, reclaimed materials, and environmental upcycling—it literally camouflages itself into the Colorado terrain. “We felt it was really important to use the materials of the land and to be as sustainable as possible,” Swank explains. “[We got into] the ground, and [found] all this rock. I mean, people pay thousands of dollars for this rock. And we thought, Hey, let’s utilize this.”
Swank’s architects, Jodie and Bruce Wright of One Architects, Inc., found local masonries to build the home’s stone walls. “They took each rock and they put it on a stump of wood and they [chiseled] it to fit to the next rock, and the next rock, and the next rock,” Swank recalls of the family of artisans. “Having their energy in that rock as the foundation of the house is a really beautiful feeling.”
That thoughtful intention informed the rest of the home. “One of the things I didn’t want to see was cars in the carport,” Swank says. “When you drive up and you look out the window and see cars, it just takes you out of [the experience].” To preserve the emphasis on nature, and to draw a through line into the house, a bedrock wall was added to the entrance grounds. “It’s unexpected,” Swank notes. Zeff agrees: “We made a big move by using stone and building that stone into the house concept…. So it’s almost like this stone wall was always there, and we built this new house around it.”
The expansive wall is incorporated into the interior walls of the house, which seamlessly blend into the mountainous landscape. The masonry creates the perfect framing for the immersive windows that invite the outdoors in. “Growing up in a trailer park the way that I did, one of the very important things to me is light. I have to be in light,” Swank says. “The windows were custom made for the house. That was another expense that we really went for because we wanted to see the view uninterrupted. It’s our artwork.”
Following the light is one of Swank’s favorite parts of living in this house. “We watch the sunrise and it’s downright magical,” she muses. “But I think it is sunset in the summer—when all the windows are open and you really have that in and out of nature feel—[that] is magic.”
One of Swank’s favorite rooms is the dining room, which opens out to an indoor-outdoor area that features one of the house’s many fireplaces. “I think what’s unique about the house is the outdoor space,” Zeff shares. “The idea of an outdoor courtyard for a mountain house, you just don’t think about something like that.”
“We didn’t want it to feel like a log cabin,” Swank concludes. “We wanted it to be light and livable.” Mission accomplished.