What is home, exactly? A place of safety, peace, beauty? Ask 1,000 people and you’ll get 10,000 answers. For those who design and build their own homes, the process brings with it some introspection: what is it about a home that brings us joy? In the following pages, we present four distinct and stunning homes. They all began in the mind’s eye as one of those hazy but lovely dreams that can’t quite be grasped. With time, perseverance, and guidance from talented architects and builders, those visions have come to life.
IN THIS SECTION
SILVER CREEK RETREAT
A Small Hunting and Fishing Cabin Provides a Unique Getaway
BY KATE WUTZ / PHOTOGRAPHY JOSHUA WELLS
Tucked along the banks of Silver Creek is a tidy log cabin shrouded in mystery. The small hunting and fishing lodge is remote and serene, not the type of cabin you’d find just wandering the stream; it’s hard to get to, impossible to stumble upon and the owners would like to keep it that way. Which is why Riley Buck, general manager and partner in Pioneer Cabin Company, has a hard time talking about it without giving too much away.
“It’s a retreat,” Buck said, explaining why the owners didn’t wish to disclose their names or the cabin’s exact location.
Pioneer Cabin Company is exactly the company to go to for a building constructed in the middle of nowhere. Buck was the project manager on this hunting and fishing cabin and oversaw the entire construction process, from pre-construction and land planning to design, architecture, and finishing. “We take the entire project from cradle to grave,” he said. “The theme of going remote is one of our specialties.”
The cabin is more of a studio than a one-bedroom, with an efficient 486-square-foot floor plan that houses four bunks, a bathroom, a full kitchen and a gas stove. Buck described it as “charming,” an ideal little cabin in the woods for those who like to be outdoors.
The location, however, was both a reward and a challenge, Buck said. Though seclusion is ideal for a hunting and fishing cabin, it’s not always amenable to getting materials out to the construction site. Buck has had similar projects before, and the company typically combines several techniques to make building in difficult areas easier to manage. Occasionally, the company will build the entire structure off-site. “We’ll build it in our yard and put it on the back of a truck,” he said. “Sometimes, in extremely remote cases, we can lift pieces up and fly them in using a helicopter.”
When it’s possible, though, the company prefers to build everything onsite from start to finish, as was primarily the case for this cabin. The structure itself was built with reclaimed and weathered wood from barns and other older buildings.
One aspect of the property that was pre-built was the power shed, a 120-square-foot building that houses a solar panel, a power inverter, a charge controller and a battery bank—everything needed for the house to be independent of the municipal power infrastructure.
“All of the power for this is completely off the grid,” Buck said. “The owners liked the idea of going green and having their own power system.”
Going green has a fringe benefit in this case. Attempting to connect the remote cabin to existing infrastructure would actually have been more expensive than simply installing an independent system, Buck said. In case of inclement weather blocking the sun’s rays, the solar-powered system is backed up with a propane generator. As Buck reminded, “When you’re going off-grid, redundancy is key.”
And despite the challenges of building this remote home, Buck said he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. “Being passionate about the outdoors,” he said about himself, “it’s a pleasure to work in these areas.”
A CASTLE ON THE CLIFFS
The Dream Home of a Southern Country Boy
BY KATE ELGEE / PHOTOGRAPHY MARK WEBER
Set against the cliffs of the Snake River Canyon, near the dusty, rural plains of southern Idaho, towers a somewhat wondrous structure—a 10,000-square-foot medieval stone “castle” with turrets, a waterfall and a commanding view of the river.
“We call it the ‘Redneck Riviera,’” Mississippi-born owner John Shaw said. “It’s our dream home.”
Before moving his family to Hailey in 1997, John, winner of multiple world shooting championships, opened the Mid-South Institute of Self Defense Shooting in Tennessee, which now trains U.S. Special Operations Forces. But in his off time, John said he’s “always been a duck hunter.” And when he came to Idaho to hunt along the river near Hagerman, he spotted a 300-acre piece of land that was perfect for his private duck club—the Hagerman Wings Farm— and the “redneck” palace of his dreams.
“There’s 160 acres of corn and we flood half of it, like they do down South,” John said, making him the first and only person in Idaho to use this technique.
The 14th-century-style structure, although seemingly set outside of time and place, somehow blends into the velvety, sagebrush hills and rocky cliffs of the Snake River Plain. “It’s made entirely of lava rock gathered from around the canyon,” said John, who used only a self-taught knowledge of architecture and construction (with some help from a draftsman in Boise) to build it. They were able to find all of the sand needed for the mortar down on the banks of the property. What isn’t made from stone is fashioned in stunning natural wood, such as vaulted alder ceilings and walnut floors.
John’s wife Beverly took over the interior decorating of this man-cave-turned-mansion. She brought in antique furniture from Italy, France and Belgium, including refinished Victorian beds and crystal chandeliers. Along dark stone hallways lit by candlelight, one finds Romanesque statues peering from the corners, bottles of dusty fine wine, and one of John’s many hunting trophies paralyzed in attack—a Cape buffalo from Tanzania, a white-tailed deer from Mississippi, and a prowling mountain lion from Mackay, Idaho, among them.
While he treasures the intricate and Gothic details inside, John particularly loves the views and stunning landscape around the home. The lower level of the house opens up through double French doors onto a patio overlooking the Snake River. He can grab a drink at the downstairs bar, wander over to the waterfall and pool (also with a built-in bar and swim-in hot tub), or head to the boathouse for a crackling fire and a BBQ to watch the sun set across the water.
Although John is now semi-retired, his son, Houston, has opened up the Shaw Shooting School on a section of the family’s 300 acres. An offshoot of John’s Mid-South Institute, Houston’s school focuses on training both military elites and civilians in self-defense shooting. The school has over 300 steel targets, 18 different ranges, and all eight stages—varying geometries of target shooting challenges—of the World Pistol Speed Shooting Championships. John stops by occasionally, but more often he prefers to sit up in the tower with an afternoon cocktail and watch the ducks come in. “It’s peaceful,” he said.
Between their Hailey home in Flying Heart Ranch and the Hagerman château, the Shaw family has established solid roots in the Gem State and has brought to the banks of the Snake River a unique and striking dream home—an architectural masterpiece of the Old World made with raw Idaho materials and a Southern country touch.
A 1970s Farmhouse Is Modernized for Family Living
BY KATE WUTZ / PHOTOGRAPHY RAY J. GADD
After the Beaver Creek fire burned through Greenhorn Gulch in August 2013, Mimi and Corey Griswold had an epiphany. Though their house was not damaged in the fire, they realized that if they were to continue living on the horse property that was the original Greenhorn Gulch Ranch, they would have to commit to doing some significant work on the 1970s farmhouse.
“There’s no better place in the valley to live,” Mimi Griswold said recently. “The fire made us realize we just had to find a way to make this house work.”
Joe Marx, owner of Idaho Mountain Builders and general contractor for the remodel, said the house was “…a scraper. A buyer would look at it for the dirt. But the transformation of the house is a cool story, and it doesn’t happen here too often. It’s an incredible Cinderella story.”
Arriving at the Griswold home, one first notices the serenity of the horses grazing and nuzzling around the corrals. And despite the fact that the house went through a six-month, major renovation that made it a modern family home on the inside, the home still retains the look, feel and spirit of its farmhouse roots.
Mimi and Corey live in the home with their three active children. The family purchased the house in 2010, and, at the time, it had five bedrooms, five baths and 3,592 square feet.
The most distinctive part of the renovation, which expanded the house to over 4,000 square feet, Marx said, was opening up the floor plan to turn what was a divided and isolated living space into a “hub” of sorts with the kitchen at its center. The newly finished kitchen has plenty of space for casual dining and flows directly into a recreation and television room, creating a place where the entire family can spend time together. Marx also added a large mudroom, a space that was desperately needed. Between the horses and the family’s passion for hunting and fishing, the home needed a room for cleaning up the mess that comes along with those activities.
“It’s a big room with lots of storage and extra laundry space,” Marx said, adding that special consideration was given to the large, striking cabinets that line one side of the room.
From the kitchen, one moves easily into a dining room, which leads into a more conventional living room. The dining room and living room combination is an ideal space for casual entertaining or quiet enjoyment of the space, with a fireplace and beautiful, but comfortable, furniture.
Mimi didn’t want the home to feel too formal and worked closely with Marx to help prevent a staid atmosphere. “He and I just did it as we went along,” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to keep the whole farmhouse aspect of it.”
Marx said the house, now finished, shows off the spirit of Greenhorn Gulch and the history of the property. “We kept the charming farmhouse feel. It’s not a majestic lodge. It’s sort of old, Idaho cool.”
A VISION OF TRANSPARENCY
A Contemporary Home Seamlessly Blends
the Inside and Outside Worlds
BY ADAM TANOUS / PHOTOGRAPHY TIM BROWN
When Brad and Mary Wirth sold their Ketchum home of 40 years and asked architect Michael Doty to help them design a new house in the Lower Broadford area of Bellevue, they began with just a few premises.
They didn’t want a big house. They wanted it be one story, simple in aesthetic and to have a living roof. And there was one more certainty: They wanted a window in every room and floor-to-ceiling windows wherever possible. This was to let in the stunning light and views of the surrounding seven-acre property, which includes an expanse of grassland meadow, a small pond and a cottonwood-lined slough meandering about.
“We’ve tried to make the house very transparent on the western exposure, opening it up to the meadow and addressing the pond,” Doty said, describing the project.
In fact, the entire house articulates around the pond, with the living room centered on it and two master suites cradling it from the sides. From the front door, one enters the large, airy living room. Floor-to-ceiling, triple-paned windows let in the full beauty of the backyard meadows and pond. The room has a clearstory above with a strip of windows all the way around it. Light streams in all day long, but at ever-changing angles, so the texture of the light is never quite the same. As Doty put it, “With the clearstory, there is a lifting of the room.”
The fireplace and television are contained within a high wall of horizontally aligned quartzite stones, called Oakley stones (from Oakley, Idaho). The same stones are used on the exterior of the house, complementing sections of grey, paneled metal.
“We like to have some continuity of materials in and out,” Doty said. “I think it provides a familiarity. People can process what they are seeing.”
The floor of the living room, comprising six-inch-wide and 36-inch-long porcelain tiles, is another instance where a theme is carried from inside to outside. Open the large glass doors to the deck outside and one sees that the deck planking—concrete pavers line up perfectly with the indoor tiles. The whole room seems to flow out onto the deck and into the great wide open.
The dual suite bedrooms, on opposing ends of the house, also showcase the yard with equally expansive windows. Doty engineered exceptionally thin mullions—the vertical support structures where the windowpanes meet—into the design so as to minimize obstructions to the outside world. From the bedrooms, one can also see across into the living room, a design that provides elements of connectivity and transparency.
The irony of this contemporary design is that there is remarkable detail that, in the aggregate, creates an impression of simplicity and a peacefulness of space. For instance, Doty included thin aluminum trim to marry the walnut wood and concrete materials of the fireplace bench. He employed long linear forced air vents that enable large volumes of air to be moved at a slow rate, so one never hears the heating or cooling cycles. Or there is also the fact that the raised horizontal design elements between the exterior metal panels all line up with the door jams and window frames. The effect is to present clean, simple lines to the entire house.
Achieving the effect is not easy, Doty admitted. “In our world, simple is difficult. Chaos certainly wants to rule the day, and it wins more than its fair share,” he said. “So, it’s a challenge, to get something that is truly simple yet is engaging and has that appeal. People might not be able to tell you what it is they like … but they are attracted to it.”
CREATING YOUR OWN DREAM HOME
BY DANIELLE FLAM & SV MAG STAFF
1. Communicate Vision
Find an architect with experience and knowledge that can be trusted and also someone with whom you can communicate your thoughts and dreams. The client needs to be able to speak from the heart to a good listener who will evaluate their needs, creating a plan that will make what was a dream, a reality.
— Jim McLaughlin, McLaughlin Architects
2. Site Visits Are Essential
Take your lifestyle into consideration and communicate it. If you plan to purchase a lot to build on, get the architect to visit the lot with you to see if the property works with the house you envisage. Sun Valley is such a great place to live! Everyone is focused on the outdoors here and you can integrate the outdoors into interior living with the right design.
— Jeff Williams, Williams | Partners Architects
3. Source Local Craftsmen
Sun Valley offers versatility. We have the luxury of creating one-of-a-kind products, and the pleasure of using worldwide materials and tremendous craftsmen, but teamwork is essential. Try to communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
— Jim Bishop, Bishop Builders
4. Assemble Your Team Early
The best projects begin with a good team working together from the outset. Hire a good team—an architect, builder, interior designer, landscape architect and landscaper. The best projects start off with everyone working together. Don’t bring people in later, introduce them all in the beginning so that you can convey what the aesthetic is up front.
— Kurt Eggers, Eggers Associates P.A.
5. Ensure Your Architect and Builder Work Well Together
Architecture is a multi-phased process, including the following phases: programming, design, design development, construction document preparation and construction administration. Every project has challenges and keeping the architect involved to help solve those challenges with creative thought, throughout the project, will help create the best outcome. And it is essential for the client, architect and builder to be able to work together in an honest, respectful, supportive and collaborative manner throughout all phases of the process.
— Mark Pynn, Mark Pynn Architect
6. Incorporate Outdoor Spaces into Your Design
The weather is hard to beat! I do a lot of outdoor living spaces as spring, summer and fall promote outdoor living, with few bugs and perfect temperatures. Starting with the design team is key. It’s important to have a design team that works well together and understands the desires of the client as well as the local environment.
— Dean Hernandez, Gardenspace
7. Set A Line-Item Budget
Spend time hashing out your budget on the front end. We have strong relationships with subcontractors and work closely with our clients to maximize value so that the final product is what they envisioned for their dream home. The process is deeply personal and should be fun. Choose a team that you relate to, trust and that makes the process enjoyable.
— John Lee, Lee Gilman Builders
8. Build from the Bottom Up
It is important for the landscape architect or landscaper to have a clear vision directly from the homeowner so that onsite decisions can reflect their overall design plan and preferences. And don’t forget the importance of a well-engineered irrigation plan. Metering issues from a faulty clock or overwatering in one area to compensate for a poorly designed sprinkler system can be costly, but all too common problems. We spend so much time outdoors. Build from the bottom up so you’ll know your system can adapt to future changes in use or maintenance. It can save money in the long run.
— Gunnar Whitehead, Whitehead’s Landscaping
9. Plan Ahead For Future Needs
Think ahead and build for the future. Don’t assume because you don’t want it now, you won’t want it later. Wire your house with this in mind. With the right audio-visual setup you can live in a beautiful remote place like Sun Valley, and still conduct business across the globe and enjoy state-of-the-art entertainment. And use technology to simplify your life, not complicate it. Rely on your team to guide you through this process. It’s not just about building your dream home, it’s also about enjoying it!
— Michael Malko, Soundwave
10. Work with the Materials You Love
Because the Sun Valley lifestyle involves contrasts, we work to achieve harmony between those contrasts—a blend of creativity with strong business sense, traditional and modern styles, and a juxtaposition of rustic and refined materials. Find a team that can draw upon these vast resources and create custom designs that match your vision.
— Jennifer Hoey Smith, Jennifer Hoey Interior Design