Tucked next to the abrupt southern aspect of Dollar Mountain and in the shade of mature cottonwood trees growing next to Trail Creek sits a modern-contemporary home evoking the enduring imagery of Sun Valley itself. This unique property’s elements dictated the home’s design and build, presenting challenges during an unprecedented time. The project brought together a remarkable group of talented people to complete this structurally distinctive and comforting addition to a classic Sun Valley neighborhood.
The homeowners always knew they wanted to retire in Sun Valley; having visited since the mid-70s, they’ve grown attached to the active community and the ample opportunities to play in the mountains. They searched for the right property, ultimately falling for a modest plot near the heart of downtown Ketchum. The property sits near the historic McCoy Canal, hand dug in 1883 and that still feeds water to the iconic Reinheimer Ranch, running right through it. The canal sealed the deal, allowing the homeowners to realize the unique opportunity of designing a home over a water feature. They searched for an architect “without an ego.” They found this qualification in Marc Corney and Jill Payette of Red Canoe P.A, whose work was cut out for them.
The property presented challenges other than the canal. It is in an avalanche zone, a riparian overlay and a 100-year floodplain zone. “The house could only go where it went,” explained Marc and Jill. “The constrained situation dictated what we could do. It was quite the puzzle.”
With the skilled involvement of several structural engineers, and site-specific studies, it took over a year to gain all necessary information before planning the eventual 3,800-square-foot residence could begin. Ultimately, the foundation was raised, and the avalanche impact zones of the house were appropriately reinforced and unnoticeable. The only indicators are two windows in the first-floor master bedroom made of specialty impact glass.
The homeowners first envisioned the project as a vacation home. They shared a rental where they would eventually retire, but then COVID altered their plans as it did for everyone. With the option of spending more time where they pleased, the home’s design changed to accommodate a full-time family lifestyle. The combined non-egotistical chemistry of Red Canoe and the clean, inviting style of Jennifer Hoey from Suede Studio filtered through and lent insights to the actualizing talents of Lloyd Construction. Together they produced an effortless unrestricted flow to the four-bedroom and three-and-a-half-bathroom house that simultaneously kindles feelings of warmth and coziness.
As Toni Damalas, general manager at Lloyd Construction, eloquently notes, “It feels like the house is giving you a hug no matter where you are in it. There are no cold corners. Every edge is warm and texturized.”
The clean yet lived-in element is achieved through the open floor plan, the placement of soft angles and large windows, and the employment of naturally minimalistic materials. Exposed, distressed beams are spaced along the ceilings, and the floors are reclaimed wood, as is much of the exterior. Centered in the main living area is a staircase that surrounds the Montana moss rock fireplace. Lichen clings to some of the rock, and if one knows where to look, they’ll find an intact bird’s nest still nestled in one rock’s depression.
The homeowners wanted nature’s organized simplicity to be felt inside and outside the house. A beautiful window-encased bridge does walk over the McCoy Canal. However, mysteriously, the water that normally flows over ninety days a year has run dry this summer—a disappointment that the homeowners and neighbors alike hope to rectify with the city’s help or by redesign. Regardless, a special piece of Ketchum trails highlights the home’s backyard. Part of an Adams Gulch bridge provides passage over the canal, as the Ketchum trail crews were removing bridges. They now bring another uniquely Sun Valley element into the home through a series of fortunate events and creative donations. Although they may not last as long as if made with new materials, that’s hardly the point.
Happily, highlighted by all involved was the unpretentious communication and seamless cooperation between each contributor at every development phase.
“As a team, we enjoyed the process,” reminisced Payette. “Everybody was happy with the outcome.”
The outcome was simple, functional elegance resulting from working with the landscape and not against it, professional details that transformed a challenging property into something exceptional, and creative and patient construction and material sourcing problem-solving. The home on Snowbrush Lane is a true local accomplishment.