Home & Design September 26, 2017
Architect Profile: Janet Jarvis
A love of craftsmanship

For architect Janet Jarvis, a love of craftsmanship is deeply rooted. She spent her childhood on a ranch in central Idaho watching her dad devote long afternoons to mending the barn, crafting outbuildings, and creating something new.

“I loved putting things together and seeing something happen,” said Jarvis, the principal architect at Jarvis Group Architects in Ketchum. For over 25 years, Jarvis and her design team have been working to help clients’ visions for their mountain homes become tangible. Jarvis’ clients span from coast to coast, with as many East Coast as West Coast clients looking to plant roots in Idaho’s scenic mountains.

Janet Jarvis

Janet Jarvis at her latest project site. Photo by Dev Khalsa

When putting pen to paper for design, Jarvis leans toward the warmth of old materials: reclaimed wood and stone, elements that she says warm up the space and turn brick and mortar into a cozy enclave. Drawing from her Scandinavian roots, Jarvis is drawn to incorporating light colors and simplicity with clean lines, but when it comes to designing a home, the client is her guiding principle.

“The biggest guiding principle I have is to listen to the client,” she said. Jarvis works with clients from New York to Idaho, making a key component of each project to communicate vision.

“Each vision is so unique and different. We create the house for the client rather than create a house that is our style,” she explained. “Everyone has a different vision of what they want their ideal mountain home to be.”

And for each project, it begins with the land.

“The most important thing for us is that the house fits the site,” Jarvis said. “Every site is so different. We spend a lot of time studying the land and working to fit the house to the particular site.”

The Wood River Valley is a montage of landscapes that makes up the mountain community with steep peaks, rolling plains, lush forests, and high deserts with thick vegetation. For Jarvis, this makes for an exciting dance of crafting a home that effortlessly blends with and complements the land.

This process could entail initiating studies to understand the view corridor: where the light hits and at what time of day; how to angle the home for the best views; and collaborating with landscape architects to create inside and outside spaces that
flow effortlessly.

“We spend time staking out the preliminary design, re-evaluating it, and walking through it with the client at certain times of the day, like when the sun sets. All spaces are so unique: hillside, flat, riverfront. The home should complement that,” she said.

The Wood River Valley is celebrated for its pristine landscapes and fantastic recreational opportunities, but one thing
clients may not always realize is the potential threat of earthquakes, a structural challenge Jarvis always keeps in mind.

“When you put earthquakes and extreme snow loads together, you open yourself up to a lot of structural challenges that aren’t always understood by everyone,” Jarvis said. “If you want a wide-open floor plan, you will be using steel construction at some point to make the spans work. It’s important to be cognizant of this aspect of our Valley when you are designing the house.”

But these elements make the job even more thought-provoking and exciting for Jarvis.

“You have so many hours of thought and planning that go into the design of a home, and it is so gratifying to see a final, finished product that started with the seed of an idea,” she said.
“I love the orchestration of the whole project. It is like being a movie director seeing something happen as a result of the process.”

When she isn’t busy orchestrating home design, Jarvis soaks up the many perks of life in Sun Valley: hiking, skiing, and enjoying the outdoors.

“I grew up skiing and still continue both cross-country and downhill skiing whenever I get a chance,” she said.

But her favorite passion is to travel.

“My husband and I love to travel,” she offered. “We recently returned from Patagonia. I have been able to travel a lot, both for work and for pleasure. One of my favorite trips was to Scandinavia, because I was able to explore my roots and heritage.”

Taking the time to ski or travel is an important effort for someone as busy as Jarvis. With anywhere from six to eight projects going on at any given time, in places as nearby as Jackson Hole or as far away as Pennsylvania, her days are full. She can tackle it all, however, thanks to her dedicated team.

“My success is due to my incredible staff. They are amazing,” she said. “Principal architect Mark Deagle has been with me for over 30 years. We all work well together as a team; that is so important to me.”

This article appears in the Fall 2017 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.