Home & Design September 1, 2015

The House on the Hill

Creating Intimate Spaces in an Expansive Setting

If ever there were a Valley home made for elaborate parties and impromptu gatherings, the Selby residence on Wedeln Lane in Sun Valley would be it. Here, extravagant New Years’ Eve fêtes and intimate Sunday suppers have been hosted; musicians have improvised on the great room’s polished baby grand; and screenings of not-yet-in-theaters film projects have been held in the 15-seat cinema downstairs. Under this roof, a swath of guests spanning L.A.’s upper crust, New York’s brooding art scene and ranchers hailing from Big Sky country have converged to raise a glass and share a drink. 

There is nothing diminutive about the Selby residence, a mountainside home-away-from-home to Southern California entrepreneur Rick Selby and his wife Kim, a once-competitive ice skater-turned-actor and producer. Indeed, the 17,058-square-foot home (all roofed enclosures including the guest house and garages) is visible from nearly every open expanse in the Sun Valley Village. But despite its physical magnitude and grandeur, the home’s interior is endowed with genuine warmth that fosters a sense of intimacy, no matter the size of the guest list. 

This is in no small part thanks to the craftsmanship of architect Doug Burdge, founder and owner of Burdge & Associates Architects. One of a shrinking number of artisans who still maps his designs by hand, Burdge has garnered praise in recent years for his “rustern” aesthetic, a term he coined to describe a hybrid of rustic mountain home with traditional, hand-hewn alder accents and a modern, open floor plan—the very style executed with such grace and skill in the Selby dwelling.

When Burdge came aboard the 33-month project in late 2010, his first item of business was to design a great room around the mountainside vistas. “On property like, this where you’ve got a bird’s-eye view of the Valley’s most recognizable landmark, you’re not doing your job if you’re not trying to incorporate a view of Baldy into every room. When you walk through the front door, the ‘wow’ has to happen.” 

Rick and Kim Selby Sun Valley home. Photo by Tim Brown.

And Kim Selby knew precisely what the “wow” required: a giant, single-paned window that would offer an unobstructed view of Baldy and frame it as a piece of natural art. 

In close collaboration with Selby, project manager Alan Khedari located a factory in Rochester, New York, that could manufacture such a large pane of glass. At 11 by 15 feet, the 2-inch-thick tempered pane is the largest manufacturable, shippable and warrantable single pane of glass available in the United States. Made in Rochester and shipped cross-country, the pane and 30-foot transom unit was one of the last items to be installed in the house.

Recalling the entire process from daydream to its realization, Selby giggled and gave a “what’s-a-girl-to-do” shrug. “It’s a running joke in our family that Rick gave me an unlimited budget and I still managed to exceed it.” 

A key driving force behind the finished design was the Selbys’ holistic approach to good health, a key consideration in the layout of both the main-floor kitchen as well as the downstairs gym.

Rick and Kim Selby Sun Valley home. Photo by Tim Brown.

“The first thing Rick and Kim do every day when they wake up is exercise,” Khedari explained. “They wanted a full-sized gym to accommodate their routine.” The space also needed loads of natural light, views of the surrounding mountains and easy access to the adjoining outdoor hot tub and cold plunge. 

And, because nourishment is a fundamental part of the Selbys’ daily family life, the kitchen design in many ways fueled the house’s design as a whole.

“Kim is an incredible cook and spends a lot of time there. She loves to nourish people and to feed her friendships,” Burdge recalled. “For guests, a kitchen is often the focal point. It’s a place of comfort. It’s where everyone always wants to be.”

Inspired by the open floor plans typically seen in beach and warmer climate residences, Burdge designed a multi-functional living space that would flow effortlessly from the front door entrance through the great room and past the bar. Complete with an oversized island for flatware and silverware storage, a comfortable seating area that opens out onto a west-facing patio, a dining nook and banquette that could comfortably seat 12, and a back service kitchen, the finished kitchen is three times the standard size. 

“When you’re working with a home of this scale, the challenge is to curate a space that can accommodate a range of foot traffic without feeling overwhelmingly large,” Burdge explained. “Once you’ve designed the great room, the trick then is to divide the house into a series of small houses. No matter the overall size, intimate spaces are needed in every home.”

Rick and Kim Selby Sun Valley home. Photo by Tim Brown.Rick and Kim Selby Sun Valley home. Photo by Tim Brown.Rick and Kim Selby Sun Valley home. Photo by Tim Brown.

From the upstairs library overlooking the great room, to the living area and dining nook directly off the main floor kitchen, to the secret panels and passageways in each of the children’s loft bedrooms, there are points of intimacy sprinkled throughout the residence. A person could get lost simply cataloging the incalculable detail that render the house a home: the gold leaf detail inlaid in the coffered ceiling above the bar, the carved Art Deco wooden banister that curves suggestively up the grand spiral staircase, and the slabs of powder pink onyx Selby hand-selected for the lady’s master bathroom. 

On an evening in July, Joseph Itaya, a dear friend of the Selby family, was dining with Selby, her daughter and other friends. Itaya reminisced about the many happy times they had shared at the house: “Just think of the stories that have happened under that roof—man, that house!” he exclaimed, lightly drumming the table for emphasis. “Talk about a soul, you know? Really, it’s just an extension of Rick and Kim and the kids. They bring people together.”

From the system of slate-lined outdoor waterfalls and springs to the giant boulders used to leverage 15 vertical feet of steep mountainside abutting the home’s back side, the Selby residence was designed to incorporate its natural milieu and marry practicality with whimsy. Everything, it seems, was considered, from the functionality of a three-sided bar and additional gas hookups for large parties to the eccentricity of a lady’s two-story walk-in closet. Extravagant? Perhaps. But then again, aren’t cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces the stuff of dreams?



Homeowners:  Rick and Kim Selby

Architect: Douglas Burdge

Builder: Engelmann, Inc.

Interior Design: Cynthia Mennella

Landscape Design: Eggers Associates / Burdge & Associates Architects


This article appears in the Fall 2015 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.