Home & Design September 24, 2013

Dreams Meet Reality

Four Valley Dream Homes Revealed
Creativity. It is the source from which innovative design, functional simplicity and vibrant living spaces are born. The “Dream Homes” in this issue are all remarkable in their creativity. They remind us that the keys to finding or building a dream home are as much about creativity as they are about size or shape, location or budget. They are about creating dreams come true.








A Cabin in the Woods








The water features, designed by Eggers  Associates, add to the natural splendor of the home.

Few folks think about cabins nestled in the woods. For such places are usually associated with ponds in New England or the north woods of Wisconsin, not Sun Valley. But that’s the great thing about the heart of Idaho, it’s full of surprises.

When Alan and Mary, who are ski instructors in Minnesota, were searching for an ideal Western town for a second home, the Gem State hadn’t even crossed their minds. They were, after all, in search of something that would feel like their old cabin in the north woods of the Badger State.

“We stumbled into Sun Valley never even considering it as a place to call home,” said Mary, who asked to keep the couple’s last name confidential. “But that changed pretty quickly.”

After eight years of searching for the perfect place, the alpine-sports addicts were about to build in Montana and had even hired an architect, Candace Miller. But shortly after arriving in Sun Valley for their first visit, those plans came to a screeching halt. “We absolutely fell in love with the town and the community,” Mary said, citing Ketchum’s two terrific independent bookstores, Iconoclast and Chapter One, as huge selling points.

“Sun Valley was the one place where the summer had as many great possibilities as the winter does,” Mary enthusiastically explained. “There are endless possibilities of things to do around here.”

After deciding that the Wood River Valley was the right place, they jumped in whole hog trying to find a corner of it to call their own. And when they found their dream spot, nestled in an aspen grove in Rainbow Bend, tucked by the bike path, well within earshot of the Big Wood River, they knew it instantly.

The next challenge was to find the right team to build their somewhat-unique-for-Sun Valley dream home. Since Candace already did work in Idaho, she jumped back on board and was soon joined by Chad Brown of Dembergh Brown Builders and interior designer Jennifer Hoey Smith. The project was off and running.

“It was a really enjoyable experience. We called them our ‘Dream Team:’ Candace, Chad and Jennifer,” Mary said about the process of building their home, which included Chad sending them shots of the progress at the end of each week.

“We would get so excited for Fridays,” she said. And as for the finished product, she and Alan couldn’t be more pleased with their 4,600-square-foot home. “It has that cabin-in-the- woods feel. We love it,” Mary happily stated.

“It was an absolutely gorgeous location and we really tried to capitalize on the natural elements of the site,” Candace said about an architectural design that included cutting very few trees and incorporating the surrounding colors, which are a mutated palate of grays and lots of browns. “The site lent itself to accept a cottage-style home very nicely.”

“The details really shine on this house,” Chad said, about a project that relied heavily on the use of reclaimed material. “It was just a heartfelt, fun team project and it’s really reflected in the work.”

BY Mike McKenna  / PHOTOGRAPHY Kevin Syms

Modern Harmony

John and Peggy Baker’s modern mountain “Harmony House” has the feel of a village. It was designed as three separate buildings, nestled against the hillside to make it feel cozier and less imposing.

“It was a challenge stepping into the steep hillside trying to disturb as little of the slope as possible, while retaining natural landscaping,” said builder Jim Bishop. “We excavated very cautiously and tried not to over-excavate, especially going down three levels.”

The result is a cedar and steel home with a mix of pitched and horizontal roofs. A drive-through covered car entry under the living room links two sides of the home, which offers fabulous views of Trail Creek, Bald Mountain and the remains of one of the world’s first ski lifts on Ruud Mountain.

“The idea was to have a house through which you could look up and down the Valley,” said Ketchum architect Michael Blash.

The master bedroom suite, which features blinds that roll to the floor at the push of a button, sits on the third floor of the 12,000-square-foot home. A patio outside its sliding door offers a great spot to watch the sledding hill John and Peggy create each winter for their three children.

Cimarron  Lofting’s state-of-the-art, mahogany and steel spiral staircase adds a unique element to the Baker’s home. The three-story home is served by an elevator, but it’s a two-person spiral steel and mahogany staircase crafted by Cimarron Lofting in Hailey that takes visitors’ breaths away. Stair treads seem to float inside the steel sheet paneling, while a chandelier designed by Kirkland, Washington, craftsman Charles Loomis dangles through this architectural masterpiece.

Blash used a contemporary take on a Craftsman-style home inside with patented steel beams rather than rustic log beams, stone walls set off by molding and floor-to-ceiling windows. Custom-designed cabinets feature veneers, which allow mahogany and walnut grains to wrap across drawers.

The Montana slate in the fireplace is tight and precise. Even the laundry room is clearly not an afterthought with its architecturally clean lines. Latticework or trellis on the ceiling of the master bath softens the ceiling and brings it down. The mahogany trellis is repeated in the entry, in some cases to cover mechanical gadgetry.

Thomas Riker and James Dolenc, interior designers from Chicago, added contemporary touches that echo the Western surroundings, such as a large-scale equestrian painting in the entry above a tabletop carved from a tree.

At Peggy’s request, a built-in spice rack overlooks a commercial oven in the kitchen. A trough of river rock sits under the sink in the master bath, while another vanity sink features a see-through fish tank.

A hot tub that can hold 10 people is embedded in the hillside. There’s an outdoor chess board, as well as a furnished lanai with an outdoor barbecue that provides an extension of the inside patio room, thanks to sliding doors that disappear. The stone retaining wall in the room, which is set off by sculptures of five climbers ascending it, goes all the way down.

“What’s really cool about this house is how you can get out at every level. It’s comfortable. It flows. And even though the kids’ bedrooms are on the other side of the house from our bedroom, it works,” explained Peggy, who is clearly delighted with the finished product. “The entire house is exquisitely detailed from top to bottom. Clean modern lines right down to cabinetry.”

BY Karen Bossick  / PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Brown

A Forever Home

The American Institute of Architecture Idaho awarded  this home  the “Best Use of Wood” for 2012.

It was their dream property in a built-out Warm Springs neighborhood. But, given a compact 1.7-acre lot, it was going to be a challenge to get all the amenities Robert and Laura Wright wanted in their forever home.

Ketchum architect Mark Pynn solved that by flipping the house, designing a reverse floor plan that put the living room, dining room and kitchen upstairs where high ceilings and a beautiful view of Bald Mountain could be maximized, while three bedrooms, a rec room, laundry and heated garage were placed on the bottom floor. And the results have been impressive.

The 3,300-square-foot home won a 2012 award for “Best Use of Wood” from American Institute of Architecture Idaho.

“We call it the ‘cost-effective Craftsman house,’” said Pynn. “The home has a tight footprint—there’s not a lot of square footage. But it’s very cost effective and very efficient in terms of space. The living space offers the appearance of a large home with a very rich finish.”

The home, which features red cedar shingles, wraps around an outdoor patio with a five-man hot tub and outdoor fireplace. The Rumford fireplace, made of Montana slate, was designed so that the chimney could be used for a fireplace in the first-floor master bedroom and the second-story living room.

There are three terraces upstairs, including a large one that looks out over neighboring houses towards Bald Mountain. The placement of terraces at different corners ensures the Wrights can find sun or shade, regardless of the time of day.

The Wrights wanted the romance and quality of woodworking associated with the early 1900s Craftsman-style. Nowhere is that more evident than the staircase in the center of the house, which expresses beautiful carpentry and the natural beauty of Douglas fir and American cherry hardwood.

The staircase guides visitors upstairs, bypassing the private living quarters downstairs. It leads to the great room, which features vaulted ceilings created from energy-efficient structural insulated panels with natural American cherrywood veneer.

The garage is disguised with the same panelized natural cedar shingles as the house.

A rec room with a pool table for the couple’s three children is tucked behind the garage. The wall between it and the garage can easily be removed should the Wrights decide they want to convert the rec room to a second car garage after the kids grow up.

And the master shower features a 6-by-6-foot-8-inch mosaic of Ketchum’s downtown and Bald Mountain that Laura Wright drew, laid out and cut.

“It adds a nice personal touch,” said Robert Wright, who works for Microsoft.

“Mark [Pynn] helped us find creative tradeoffs that fit our budget without sacrificing quality,” Robert explained. “We’re going to have that house the rest of our lives and we’re going to be happy with it. It’s not the most grand or luxurious house, but it’s a quality house that will stand the test of time. It’s aesthetically pleasing but also unique. We’ll never see another house like this.”

BY Karen Bossick  / PHOTOGRAPHY  Fred Lindholm

Curb (and Community) Appeal

With the help of Alpine Aquatics, the water features at the Martin house are home to koi and trout.

There are some homes that connect to more than just the owners. Some houses are somehow able to touch those who regularly pass or live nearby. They almost become like old friends we rarely speak to, but still care deeply about.

The dovetailed log home that shares a block of Walnut Avenue in Ketchum with The Community Library is just such a place.

Known for the massive evergreen that rises high above it and has long sparkled with thousands of lights each winter, some locals refer to the home as the “Christmas tree house.”

“It seems like everybody knows this house,” Devon Jolley said. Devon was the project manager for Sawtooth Construction, the lead builders for the home. He explained that the task seemed a bit daunting when they first began rehabbing the nearly 10,000-square-foot home that had been essentially abandoned for years.

“When we showed up, it was a very nice home that had been let go. The place was in tough shape,” Devon said, about the damage years of neglect had done to the home and grounds. “Even the tree was in rough shape.”

Luckily, the new owners of the home, Gary and Susan Martin, wanted to fix the place up. And, as Devon said, “They wanted to do it right.”

As soon as the team of architects and designers, landscapers and painters began to descend upon the home, neighbors and passers-by started praising their efforts.

“Everybody knows that house. It has a certain mystique about it,” Gary said, explaining that he and his wife have received compliments about the remodel all over town. “People are very excited to see it put back together.”

Perhaps the biggest challenges of putting the home back in the spotlight—or at least the Christmas tree lights—were the electrical elements. The squared-log walls of the home are each roughly a foot-and-a-half thick, making running wire awfully tough. But it does give the sweeping home, which looks a lot smaller from the outside, a very unique style and feel. The thick log walls basically look the same on the inside as they do from outdoors.


Longtime local “Sparky,” Mel Speegle of Advanced Data and Electric, was tasked with tackling the power issues. “The Magician,” as Devon called him, was able to overcome all the challenges the home provided. The largest—or, at least, most important—one being to get the lights on the tree restored.

“It’s incredible what it looks like now from what it was before,” Mel said, as we toured the home he’d spent a year working on. “They’ve really done a nice job and the people around here appreciate it.”

Thankfully, the “Christmas tree” will once again light up the night sky in Ketchum, making all those folks who have their own special relationship with the house that sits beside it happy.

“It’s a very special place,” Gary said. “We knew it needed to be restored to its happier days. It’s been gratifying to be a part of it and to know others appreciate it.”

BY Mike McKenna  / PHOTOGRAPHY Ray J. Gadd

This article appears in the Fall 2013 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.