Home & Design July 24, 2008

Intown Living & Loving It

City Living with a Mountain View

Downtown Ketchum is alive with sidewalk cafes, delis, movie houses, art galleries and high-end shops that create a big city walk-to-everything lifestyle luring more people to choose intown living. Whether in a penthouse, townhouse or hillside home, many locals are now experiencing urban living in the mountains.

“Townies,” as they affectionately call themselves, are a tad different from other locals. Townies are the folks that have chosen to escape the huge city, but can’t resist living within one. They don’t mind (too much) the sounds of people on the street or the trucks delivering their loads. It’s the city’s breath that awakens them and lulls them to sleep when they are not escaping to nature that is much nearer than they have ever had before. It is a land hold that they do, a position they take that definitely can cost a lot more than fleeing to the suburbs, but is worth it for the ability to chart a day lived on foot, filled with stops with friends and friendly merchants who sell you The New York Times to read over a cornetti at Cristina’s Restaurant and Bakery. Pick up fresh flowers from Ketchum Flower Company then mosey over to Atkinsons’ to pick up some things for later. Stop in at The Community Library for a book on CD to listen to on your hike. When you come back tired, drop by CIRO’s for a meal to go and, if the weather is nice, enjoy it al fresco in one of the city’s pocket parks where you can greet old friends or observe tourists.

Evenings are full of possibilities. Experience a theater opening, concert, lecture or a movie, before heading to any one of many gourmet restaurants serving everything from prime rib to paella. It’s all so easy and so social. Lives are rich and full in a small town with the advantages of a big city and the beauty of the wilderness.

It’s a life spent out of your car and in touch with community and those who live it, love it.

Mountain Perch: The Best of Both Worlds

The site is magical,” muses Jake Peters. “We’re in the mountains and we’re in the middle of town.”

Jake and Trina Peters’ beautiful mountain home is snuggled so well into the hillside on the edge of northeast Ketchum it is barely viewable from anywhere. The contemporary glass and concrete house is accented with untreated white Atlantic cedar that blends right into the rocks of the soft brown hills. Glass walls open to gorgeous views of town, Baldy and Dollar from every room while the back of the house has a great view of Kinder Peak. Their backyard is 16 acres of Idaho wilderness.

The couple designed and built their home with Arizona architect Marwan Al-Sayed whose major theme is light. Besides the glass walls of the house, there are additional skylights and even opaque windows within the interior of the home that open it to light. The living room, dining room, and kitchen area are one large spacious sunlit area but can be made into more intimate spaces by sliding moveable walls to separate the rooms. From the center kitchen island, you can see the dining room and living room and the expansive mountain and city view from both.

The couple have always enjoyed the perks of urban living and wanted to continue a cosmopolitan lifestyle after leaving their high-powered jobs in Boston to raise their now eight-year-old daughter Katie in the mountains. When they discovered Ketchum, they found what they wanted.

“We like the social interaction,” shares Trina Peters, elaborating that homes in town are closer together with smaller lots so most everyone walks and knows each other, creating much more of a community feel. Being in the center of things also makes it more convenient for friends to pop in for a play date or a drink before walking to dinner at a local restaurant.

“You get the best of both worlds here,” says Jake Peters, “because now we have zero time to get to recreation and zero time to get to the city to get done whatever you need to get done.” Jake can walk to his job in town. Trina can walk to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts where she serves as president of the board. And Katie can walk to school.

For an active family, central location is a big plus. “If you’re organizing some recreational activity, like a bike ride,” Jake continues, “everybody comes to you. All rides start at your house because you live in the center—whether we head up to Galena Summit or out Trail Creek.”

In fact, the Peterses appreciate the importance of good central places for families to gather so much they decided to create one for everybody in the middle of Ketchum—Leroy’s—the ice cream shop in the pocket park next to Sturtevants. “Leroy’s is wonderful. We’re excited about it,” adds Trina enthusiastically. “It’s a nice place for people to go and hang out. You sit outside and eat ice cream and you’re helping out the schools.”  All profits go to local schools and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.

Trina Peters loves being just a few steps from the library so she and Katie can walk there often to check out books. “Also, we’re close to the ski hill and the Nordic Center,” she adds. “We can watch the fireworks from our backyard, walk to the concerts, or ride our bikes to the River Run concerts rather than deal with all the traffic. Just being close to everything is the nicest thing for us about being in town.” >>>

Penthouse Privacy in the Heart of Town

Hidden atop the 511 Building smack in the middle of Ketchum is the spectacular penthouse of Lynn and Tom Knudson and their 18-year-old daughter Coco. All you might notice from the street are some long horizontal windows above and shops below, but what the Knudsons can see is a 180-degree panoramic view of Baldy and the surrounding mountains.

“I like to be connected to the heart of town,” says Lynn Knudson, enthusiastically. “I like to be a part of the center and be able to help the town through my awareness.”  It’s easier to be a civic-minded citizen like Knudson when you can just walk to the city council meetings.

“Ask me an opinion and I will have one. I like to be involved and I also like my privacy. No one really knows we’re up here because you really can’t see it.”  She loves being “right here and yet being so private.”

“I can walk to Atkinsons’, to the doctor, to the movies, restaurants. I’m a big advocate of town living and walking around town.”

The Knudsons had always fantasized about living in a penthouse but never thought it was affordable. Architect Jack Smith designed the commercial space in the modern building while the Knudsons designed their dream home above. They were among the first in Ketchum to build a penthouse when they discovered how economical it can be.

“We kind of started the ball rolling on penthouse living over a commercial area in 1991. One of the reasons was we discovered that you can build a home over a commercial area for less per square foot than a normal home. It’s cheaper to build than a house anywhere else.”   

Another benefit at the time was that work was just steps away. Lynn Knudson owned a shop right downstairs—Cocobianca. The artistic entrepreneur has created several successful and stylishly original clothing stores in Ketchum including Déjà Vu and Torso.

Lynn Knudson’s artistic nature is also reflected inside her home which boasts a phenomenal collection of art and furniture.

Besides many of her own paintings and collages, she has surrounded herself with collector’s art from well-known friends like artists Julie Scott, Tina Barney, Amy Taylor, Carol Glenn, and William Morris, among others.

The furniture is collector art, too. Knudson particularly likes the modern, yet now classic, lines of designers Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames. The home bursts with color like the bright red Saarinen womb chair or the fuschia mohair Bertoia Bird chair. Probably the most well-known and loved chair in the world is the Eames lounge chair which appears in their bedroom in white leather as well as in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Whimsical dining table chairs are fashioned of multi-colored dyed aspen branches by artist Don King, of Challis, whose work appears in the Boise Art Museum. The sculpted square base of the dining table, like their canopy bed, was designed by Knudson herself and fashioned out of rusted steel rebar. To Knudson, collecting is not only fun but also practical.   

“My philosophy is I love living with my art and I love collecting furniture that is going to be worth more than I paid for it. All furniture decreases in price except collectibles.”

From the living room, sliding doors open to a 3,500-square-foot deck full of graceful tented gazebos. It’s a veritable outside living room, dining room, and sleeping area complete with hot tub and breathtaking mountain views for summer parties.

Being centrally located has also given the Knudsons an opportunity to give back to the community. They have held black-tie fundraisers with runway fashion shows in the lower part of the building for a variety of causes including breast cancer awareness and the local animal shelter. Their central location is a convenient spot for the town to come out and party while contributing. “It’s fun to do stuff that has an impact and gives the community a chance to gather.”

Intown living “keeps you involved,” declares the energetic Knudson. “You have the pulse of the community at your fingertips. We just love it.” >>>

Living the Good Life: Designer’s Latest Home Choice is Town

Life is good, downtown,” says architect Jim Ruscitto, who shares a gorgeous duplex home on the corner of 5th Street and 1st Avenue just west of Main Street with wife Suzy.

Ruscitto moves frequently, going forward to expand on his imagination, adventure and challenges. He has been in this most recent incarnation for less than a year, but already he senses he will have a hard time sticking to his usually scheduled moves.

“I build a house about every four years so I can experience a varied lifestyle within the Wood River Valley,” he says. He moved to his new home from Warm Springs. “I always look forward to the new adventure in lifestyles. I’m enjoying the downtown living experience so much, it will be a while before I get the itch to move.”

Ruscitto, whose partner is a contractor, chose this spot for its proximity to downtown and the sloping lot which allowed maximizing views to the west and of Bald Mountain.

“Although my architectural practice is varied, I design buildings from cottages to log lodges. I personally prefer contemporary design,” he explains. “Strong horizontal roof lines accented by concrete and stone exterior materials and lots of glass to bring the dramatic view indoors with the floor level cascading down the slope of the property was the overriding design motif.”

Designing this duplex reflects not only his passion for the contemporary, but also a vision of life in the Big Apple.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of an urbane downtown New York-style loft apartment where the living, sleeping, dining, etc., is all open and seamless with few walls and views in all directions,” he says. “In my loft, the fireplace is freestanding and floating in front of a window wall so that I can sit in my living area looking at the flames dance in my fireplace while scanning the mountain view that engulfs the space.”

The master bedroom is also open to the living space.

“In the morning, you awake to views through the living space of the morning sun bathing the trees and rock cliff of Bald Mountain. It’s a great visual alarm clock.” >>>

A Nest in the Theater District

Across town, Colleen Daly begins her day walking to yoga class at the Y, then a quick stop at The Coffee Grinder before taking a few more steps to her job as director of The Community Library. Daly is fond of saying that she lives in the “theater district” of West Ketchum since she’s just a few blocks from two movie houses and the nexStage Theatre. What’s not to love?

But there are reasons she chose downtown living beyond convenience—environmental, social and experiential reasons. Daly recycles, owns a hybrid car and now saves even more gas-burning miles by walking most anyplace she needs to go.

“I wanted to be able to walk to the library, and I wanted a space that worked for giving dinner parties, one of my favorite things to do. I’ve since found that living in the heart of Ketchum means I am able to experience the community in a completely different way than I would just driving through.       

“There’s a lot of vitality here. It’s very busy starting around 7 a.m. People are rolling into town, getting coffee, walking from shop to shop, and then, of course, there’s the tourist element. I see the changing installations in the art galleries and shops, depending on where I walk. It only takes 10 minutes to reach the library, but on foot I have different experiences of community and see different people than I would in my car. I love Ketchum. There’s a lot of energy.”

Daly has taken an 872-square-foot apartment built in the ‘70s and made it into an elegant townhouse that seems spacious and airy because of her design choices and economical use of space. She worked with contractor John Majors, a longtime local. “He made it all happen,” says Daly.

The glass-paneled maple front door built by Blake Barrymore is a signature element announcing entrance into a special place. The glass is frosted to let in light while maintaining privacy, a theme seen throughout. A large frosted window on the stairway lights the living room above while blocking an unwanted view of the parking lot.

Upstairs, the living room, dining room, and kitchen open into one welcoming space with high ceilings and sliding doors out to a tree-filled courtyard. Warm yellow walls enhance beautiful paintings by Daly’s book club buddy, artist Abby Grosvenor. The home has modern, clean lines which open up the space and an added touch of cozy in the rose-patterned chintz chairs and wicker end tables that double as extra storage space. The Pottery Barn sofa changes with the seasons—a white summer slipcover is changed to a rustic winter cranberry red on Thanksgiving Day.

Daly, also a well-known book and magazine editor, has spent time in Europe studying and writing which influences her design choices. “I like the Norwegian aesthetic of simple wood and glass without embellishment,” comments Daly about the frosted-glass paneled maple shelves in the kitchen crafted by local Jack Donnelly. The 8-inch- high maple baseboards were inspired by an Italian country house she lived in.

The Norwegian aesthetic is combined with an efficient and environmentally sound use of space in the sleek, half-sized eco-fridge—perfect for one person—made of brushed aluminum and accented with sculpturally-curved handles. The Fisher & Paykel dishwasher is space-saving, too, with only two drawers. (Downstairs is another space-saving device that serves as both washer and dryer in one.) The two tall, pull-out pantries and all the drawers have handles from Rocky Mountain Hardware.

Daly designed the mottled sage green concrete center island (crafted by local Brian Dirksmeier). The kitchen side of the island has ample storage for Daly’s multitude of cooking equipment (she loves to cook) while the dining room side of the island serves as her office with lots of drawers to organize paperwork.

An important atmospheric element here is the choice of lighting. A striking blown-glass pendant light hangs over the modern maple and burnished aluminum Italian dining room table. Several gem-like cobalt pyramidal pendant lights hang on long wires over the central island. There are under-cabinet and interior cabinet lights in the kitchen and curved pale yellow sconces over the stairway. All lights are dimmable—perfect stage lighting for Daly’s dinner parties.

“I feel happy coming here to my pretty, simple nest with my cookbooks and my dishes,” Daly says warmly. “It’s a place to have friends. It makes me happy.”

This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.