Home & Design September 14, 2016

Creating a ‘Forever Home’

Sandra and Bob Swan’s Northwood Retreat

The 8,300-square-foot home sitting under a hundred 50-foot aspens on the banks of the Big Wood River in Ketchum’s Northwood neighborhood isn’t just Sandra
and Bob Swan’s dream home. It’s their “forever home.”

It’s a home that someone else built 26 years ago. But, rather than tear it down and build anew, the couple elected to have Lloyd Construction rebuild the interior. That
enabled them to keep the aspens that would have been necessarily cut down with the construction of a new home. And it enabled them to have their “new” home done in three months, rather than the three years that Lloyd Construction president David Lloyd estimates it would have taken to build a house from foundation.

“It’s so cool what they’ve done,” said Chase Gourlay, who oversaw the project for Ben Young Landscape Design. “They said, ‘We can make this work,’ instead of putting everything in the back of a dump truck.”

The Swans spent Bob’s career moving from city to city and were in the market to buy a ski home they felt comfortable retiring to. But they didn’t like the touristy feel in the crowded villages at the base of ski hills they visited in Colorado, Utah, Montana and New Mexico.


The great room is the hub of the Swan household.

When a friend invited them to visit Sun Valley, they fell in love with the town. And their love only grew when they returned in summer to attend the Allen and Company Conference.

They found their dream property in Ketchum’s Northwood neighborhood. “The location was perfect, being so close to town. And the property was perfection,” said Sandra Swan. “But the former owners hadn’t touched the house in 26 years. The master bedroom had pillars, a platform on which the bed sat and even a mirrored ceiling above the bed. All the cabinetry looked alike. And the bathrooms had dated-looking red tile. I sent my decorator some photographs and said, ‘Can we make this work?’ And she said, ‘Absolutely.’”

The new home, which uses what Swan calls “the bones” of the former home, is a stunning home made of stone and copper siding. Twelve-foot fir doors usher guests into an entryway, in which the original redwood paneling has been lightened with sanding and staining. A skylight boasting geometrically placed beams is one of many in the home.

The focal point of the great room is the living room with fireplace. The sunken TV room to the left features a flat-screen TV mounted on metal panel with quarter-inch bolts that offer an industrial feel. A low-slung bar features a grey buffatine countertop that is repeated in other places in the house.

The dining room is partially ringed by a low-radius wall, which offers intimacy in the case of a dinner party and openness during bigger parties when guests want to use the entire great room. Touch control lighting covers everything from all-on to party mode.

Just off the dining room is a round room covered in cowhide. It used to be ringed by bookcases reaching to the ceiling but now serves as a game room and a place that guests love to savor their morning coffee while watching deer browse outside.

A door leads off the dining room into a small preparation room and the kitchen, which features a commercial refrigerator and freezer and a pantry with pullout drawers behind cabinet doors—just one example of the organization and functionality that plays such a big role in the house. A drawer built into the side of the sink holds sponges. And windows on two sides give the feeling that the kitchen is an extension of the outdoors.

“It’s a kitchen attuned to nature. You feel as if you’re outside, even behind the windows,” Lloyd said.

Out in the hall is a 10-foot-tall wine room behind closed doors.

The Swans installed a floating wall in the master bedroom to add intimacy to the bedroom, which they felt was oversized. A herringbone stone pattern in the bathroom floor matches the stonework in the steam shower. There, a glass shower built into the stonework of the home’s exterior allows the Swans to commune with birds as they shower. Each of the bathrooms features an entirely different look, thanks to unique mirrors and other types of artwork. But they retain common threads, as well, such as cabinetry and sliding doors made of recycled barn wood. Floor-to-ceiling windows boast motorized blinds.

The guesthouse, approached via a covered walkway, features overhanging steps that look as if they’re floating. A circular portal dominates the front of the home. And the guesthouse is self-contained with a fully equipped laundry. It features a sunken TV room and living room with a fireplace and wraparound couch. A pool table sits behind in one corner, its pool sticks forming a secondary door for one of the energy rooms. A bright red ski chairlift hangs in a little nook, designed so guests can swing on it without banging into the wall.

A spiral staircase leads upstairs to a sitting area above the kitchen. And, as with the main house, bedrooms and bathrooms are decorated very distinctly, while carrying the common barn wood theme. The guesthouse sports one thing the main house does not—an infrared sauna.

“My husband’s one of nine kids, so the guesthouse is perfect because we can accommodate family and friends,” Swan said.

Outside, patios feature a variety of stonework, including that of sandstone quarried in India. Barbecues feature patina that matches the copper on the house. The fire pit boasts a metal and teak back. And a sunken hot tub sits where the Swans can see Baldy once the aspen drop their leaves in fall.

“I put everything I liked into this home,” said Swan. “I said: ‘It’s going to be here forever—it’s worth it.’ It’s the first house we’ve ever bought that we knew we’re going to keep for the rest of our lives. Absolutely, it’s our dream home.” 

This article appears in the Fall 2016 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.