Home & Design September 29, 2011


What really makes a home—or a business, library or backyard for that matter—special isn’t its size or how much it costs. What truly makes a place special are the details, the elements, both big and small, and how they flow together.
     And the details of any home can essentially be broken down into what are considered the four classic elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire. One element is solid, one mobile, one fluid and one combustible. In honor of this, we offer up a handful of ways to improve the elements of your special place.

EARTH: Color and Texture

The first elements any of us notice about a home are its color and texture. We notice the floors and the walls, the wainscoting and the windowsills. And they speak to some part of us. They says something to those visiting, and about those residing. Color and texture are very important.

That’s why John Sweek and his crew at J.E. Sweek Architectural Coatings decided to open up a showroom on Warm Spring Road in Ketchum. “It’s a convenient place to visually put things together. We can mock up stuff and explore how to make it work on any budget. It’s a huge benefit,” Sweek explained.

Specializing in wood finishing, plaster, stucco and all kinds of painting, from floors to ceilings, inside or out, Sweek’s crew prides itself on executing the needs and desires of their clients.

The first elements we notice are color and texture.

“We provide alternatives for specific interests, and we have a deep enough knowledge base and experience that we can meet just about any need,” said Sweek, who first opened up J.E. Sweek Architectural Coatings in 1992.

Whether you want stucco exterior walls and plaster inside, you’d like French polish or waxing and glazing in the foyer, or maybe you’d prefer gilding and patina adding some dimension throughout the place, Sweek’s team can make it all happen. They literally color the earth around you—or as Sweek so eloquently put it, “We harmonize perspectives.”



AIR/EARTH: Stairway to Heaven

Technically, what the crew at Hailey’s Cimarron Lofting does is considered an element of the earth. But that’s just part of it, for they also work in the element of air—they build stairways and handrails that aren’t just functional, they’re art forms.

“A stairway is the biggest architectural element in a home, most of the time, so we see it as a two-story sculpture,” Bill Amaya said. Amaya’s been doing carpentry in the Valley since 1978 and founded Cimarron Lofting in ’98. The company’s impressive resume includes one-of-a-kind stairways all over the West.

“We pretty much don’t repeat a design … ever. It’s all very customer-centric stuff. The clients are always involved in the design,” Amaya explained, adding that his team’s building experience coupled with the state-of-the-art technology they’re tapped into makes almost anything possible.

Technology is actually a three-headed monster for the company. It begins with a highly detailed drawing program that can sketch almost anything imaginable. The next step is digital fabrication by the “robot,” as Amaya calls the tool. Finally, they have one of the world’s most accurate digital measuring devices. “We can take accuracy into a house, which isn’t very accurate,” said Amaya, admitting he’s a bit of a techno geek. Because of the top-notch technology and the years of experience, Cimarron Lofting is doing some of the most original stairway work in the country, made of all kinds of elements from wood to metal, glass to stone. They are literally taking the earth-bound element of a residence and carrying it to new heights.

“We can take any idea, reel it in,” Amaya explained, “and make something tangible.”

AIR/EARTH: Stairway to Heaven

Courtesy Cimarron Lofting



AIR: Life’s Soundrack

One of the best parts about being home is that it’s the one place we can actually control the soundtrack of life. Home is where we tap into the soothing sounds of music or a favorite movie, where we want to feel the roar of a sports crowd while sitting on the couch or enjoy the giggling of kids playing interactive video games.

It’s these elements—the airwaves that please our ears and the visual waves that please our eyes—that the team at Soundwave in Ketchum focus on. “We provide an experience for people,” says Liam Grant, the company’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Sound is part of the experience of the home, so expanding and improving the sound improves the experience.”

Soundwave has had an electronics shop since 1996 and prides themselves on their knowledge and customer service. “The customers are the captains of the ship,” Grant said, pointing out that most rooms are oriented towards things like fireplaces that don’t get used nearly as often as televisions. “It’s not just a black box on the wall. It’s an ever-changing media outlet.”

Home is the one place we can actually
control the soundtrack of life.

One of the goals of any low watt project Soundwave takes on, from installing a TV to redesigning a media layout to putting in a home theatre or installing outdoor speakers, is to help future-proof your home. “It’s important to have a long term plan,” Grant said, about the technological elements that are ever-changing. “You don’t want to get something that needs to be replaced, but rather can be expanded on.”

Soundwave is even specializing in Sonos systems, which allow you to play music from a handheld device like your iPhone in any room in the house—giving you full control of the airwaves.



AIR: Technology at Fingertips

What makes modern technology so much fun is that it brings everything to our fingertips—and it does so in the blink of an eye. We never see the text arrive at the phone or the email fill up the inbox, the photo show up on Facebook or the movie arrive at the screen. It’s as invisible as fresh air.

So there’s something magical about it to us laymen—all we know is that we enjoy (and quite frankly need) the end result. And it’s in the end result that the crew at Maestro Technology Solutions takes the most pride.

“I refuse to let my guys take shortcuts,” explained owner Kyle Baysinger, who bought out his business partners in 2009. “We execute the same way no matter the level of the client.”

Maestro, founded in 2004, has become so accomplished in its execution that they don’t just do residential applications of all sizes, they also handled the A/V (audio/visual) at high-profile projects like the Craters of the Moon National Monument, the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley and most notably at Ketchum’s Community Library. Maestro helped spearhead three major projects at the library, including installing state-of-the-art wiring for internet access—a project they donated and help raise over $10,000 worth of free labor and product for. So besides being thorough, they’re also beneficent.

“We put in a solution that isn’t just going to last for now, it’s going to last for a long time,” Baysinger said, expressing a theme for his business.  Although their real company motto already has an air of magic in it: “Making the technology in your life into a masterpiece.”

AIR: Technology at Fingertips, Photo: courtesy Soundwave and Maestro Technology Solutions

Courtesy Soundwave / Courtesy Maestro Technology Solutions / Courtesy Soundwave



WATER: Nature’s Tranquil State

The element of water is usually the most overlooked in a residence. Showers, baths and pools may be spectacular, but water is seldom enjoyed in its more natural state, like ponds and waterfalls. Places where fish or waterfowl would feel at home.

It’s just such watery places that the folks of Alpine Aquatics focus on. Kevin Lenane is a resources and fisheries biologist, as well as the owner (along with his wife, Fran) of Alpine Aquatics in Hailey. They specialize in the element of water. “We do water resource management. We’re here to help,” Lenane explained as massive trout and coy swam around the main water structure at his shop in the airport industrial center.

But Alpine Aquatics does more than simply manage water—and educate folks about its rights—they can install and maintain (in an ecologically friendly way) everything from bubbling pottery vases to gurgling fish ponds and fauna friendly streams to roaring waterfalls. Heck, they’ll even store the fish in the winter for you.

“We give the clients what they want and we create things that offer tranquility, harmony and something you can relate to,” Lenane said. “We put [water features] in your living space.”

The element of water is seldom engaged in
it’s more natural state at home.

Since water, especially in high desert spots like the Wood River Valley, is such a precious resource, Alpine Aquatics practices “green” ways, using only natural products. “It’s all about balance. We pride ourselves on low to no maintenance,” Lenane said, explaining a proper alignment of aquatic plants is usually the key. “Copper is the hardest product we ever use. We’re doing good for the ecological system.”

Of course, as an aquatics-based biologist, Lenane never forgets that, “water is a living organism.” And indeed it is, which is why we’d be wise to incorporate more of this element into where we live.

WATER: Nature’s Tranquil State, Photo: courtesy Alpine Aquatics

Courtesy Alpine Aquatics



FIRE: Magic For Your Home

Fire is usually the most striking element in any home. There’s a magic about fire that alights something within us. We like to start it, stare at it, toast marshmallows or our buns by it.

That’s one of the great things about fireplaces—be they in the living room, office or backyard—they not only entice us spiritually, they keep us warm as well. “What we do is bring heat or aesthetic into a home with the use of fire. We’re kind of a destination for all things fire,” said Travis Zerba, co-owner of Fireplaces Etc in Hailey.

One of the biggest challenges of adding the element of fire to a residence is deciding which form works best. Fireplaces for both inside and out can burn wood, gas, pellets, charcoal or ethanol, or they can be electric. “They all have their pros and cons. It’s about finding the right thing for the customer,” said Zerba, who explained that their large showroom, “helps people get a visual concept of what they want.”

There’s a magic about fire that alights something within us.

The team at Fireplaces Etc also prides themselves on their environmentally responsible practices, customer service and on keeping up-to-date on trends, products and codes. “It’s a really fun time to be in the business. There’s such a huge variety now, so many options and ways to meet any aesthetic,” said Zerba, whose family background (his business partner is his brother, Luke Andrews) before opening the shop in 2000, was HVAC. 

“Our background gives us the ability to really analyze and fulfill a customer’s needs. We can figure out a way to make it work and make sense. We basically treat people the way we’d want to be treated,” Zerba said. And since the element he deals in is fire, warm, dry and staring in a blissful wonder is apparently how the staff at Fireplaces Etc would like to be treated. 

FIRE: Magic For Your Home, Photo: courtesy Fireplaces Etc.

Courtesy Fireplaces Etc.















This article appears in the Fall 2011 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.