Home & Design July 24, 2008

To Each His or Her Own

Even Pros Struggle at Times to Create Their Dream Homes

There are some professions where being your own client just doesn’t work. If you were a dentist, would you fill your own cavity? But for architects, the opportunity for unadulterated self-expression not only proves a satiating outlet, but also a chance to perfect their skills at listening to a client’s needs, limits and desires while fashioning a most personal asset.

Tobin Dougherty – Contemporary Eye

Before Tobin Dougherty even stenciled out his plans for the home he was planning along River Run Drive in Ketchum 14 years ago, he got up on a ladder and checked out the views.

Then he built his house to take them in, making the indoors feel as large as the outdoors.

“Everything I do as an architect has a very open, airy sense,” says Dougherty, an architect with a Ketchum office and another in Palo Alto, California. “I want every room to be part of the view.”

In the process of aligning his new house off Warm Springs Road, he discovered views of Durrance Peak and the Devil’s Bedstead that were hidden from street level.

“You wouldn’t know this had those views,” says Lexi Dougherty, Tobin’s wife. “He knew it was there.”

Dougherty, a designer of contemporary buildings, both houses and commercial spaces such as the AmericInn in Hailey and the new Village Complex under construction in downtown Hailey, likes to be surrounded in views. In his home, he and his wife can look into the night sky and see stars with great ease.

He exposes structural elements in a building as a guide to the human eye.

“The interior ceiling is to encourage your eye toward a view,” Dougherty says. “Most people don’t realize this is what they are going to find in this upstairs living space.”

Dougherty’s passion has always been putting out modern designs that work with how the sun and light enter a space and warm it.

Designing his first home at age 17, in the Gold Rush areas around Nevada City, Calif., he put design and creativity first.

“With geometry and wall shifts, you can see through one space into another,” he says. “I personally create modern design that is warm, defined and comfortable while being open. I’ve spent my entire career putting warmth into modern design.”

His staircase into the upstairs tricks the eye a little and dramatically pulls a person to the upper floor. On the climb up, it opens to a view of the Frenchman’s area on Baldy.

Dougherty says he thinks of a house like a sculpture or a puzzle balanced by different shapes in relation to each other.

“Instead of just creating a gable roof, you have shapes playing with each other,” he says.

In his house, a visible piece of structural steel inside is meant to pull the eye and balance a large area of empty space, for instance.

Designed to focus the real living space on the upper floor, Dougherty’s house has the master bedroom, kitchen, dining room and living room on the second floor where the views are. Bedrooms are downstairs with easy access to a colorful garden and large patio. Overall, the house imitates the natural world with its sky above and ground below.

When you are upstairs, all views are framed and other houses aren’t visible.

“You wouldn’t know we had neighbors,” Dougherty says.

The neighbors have vanished because the windows cleverly face mountain views of Griffin Butte, a ridge on Bald Mountain and the thrust of Heidelberg Hill.

A private world has been created in the upstairs of the Dougherty house. Solid comfort is tangible with radiant heat concrete floors that beg for bare feet and a fabulous sound system.

For 30 years, Dougherty has worked within several categories of modernism. During that time, he elevated his skills to produce structures that are warm, functional and creative at the same time. Every one is an individual work of art. >>>

Linda Bergerson Recreates Childhood Home

The house at 321 Bald Mountain Road isn’t large, but it fulfills some very big dreams for its architect, Ketchum’s Linda Bergerson.

When Bergerson began work on her home, she brought a suitcase of her travels, her memories of Minnesota dwellings of her youth, and a truckload of furniture she inherited from her parents.

“I knew I was going to fill it with all this stuff I’d been given, so I wasn’t even going to pretend to do a modern house,” she says.

Bergerson bought an oddly-shaped, wooded lot off  Warm Springs Road in 1993. Using a two-story 1910 house as her model, she created a simple design that could be built by someone with minimal skills, because she knew that was smart economically.

At the beginning, she informed the builder exactly how much she had to spend. When he went over that amount, she stopped construction and finished the downstairs herself.

Because of that, she learned to set tile and install plumbing fixtures in the bathroom.

“It was fun,” she says.

There are tiles on the first floor, something she took away from her time living in Italy. And, because “I like little things that fool the eye,” she says, there are distortions of perspective throughout, such as peering out a small window over the staircase railing to view the entry outside the house, for example.

She faced the house slightly east of south to allow light to flood inside, and put the perfect amount of overhang on the roof to stop the high summer sun from blasting in while staying out of the way of the slanting and desirable winter sun.

“It was great fun to do my own house,” says Bergerson, who graduated from architectural school in 1967 and initially practiced in Hawaii. Bergerson moved to Ketchum in 1977 and worked in Jim McLaughlin’s architectural firm for a year before going into practice alone.

Being new here and in the trade, “I was limited by finances, but who isn’t?”

One of the things she wanted with her own house was an office that was an independent living space in case she wanted to rent the main house.

So, in the garage she has one room with miniature appliances, a drawing table, architecture books, and space for sleeping. She often rents the house with its two bedrooms downstairs and main room divided into kitchen, dining room and living room by the arrangement of furniture.

In the downstairs, she designed each bedroom with doors to the outside, a feature in many early 1900 homes.

The master bedroom opens onto a small garden that Bergerson has created out of a wild yard. The outdoors is very close to the downstairs and in the upstairs it feels close because of the sun and the views.

The entry space of the house immediately divides into a choice of going upstairs or downstairs. Stairs are steep to save space and, therefore, money.

Bergerson elected to heat with a boiler and coils of heated material in the floors, a more expensive system that pays off in the long run with lower costs. The boiler, hot water heater and mechanical systems to run the house are tucked under the staircase and in the guest bedroom closet.

Because she dislikes leaving the bathroom after a shower and crossing an entire room to get clothes out of a closet, she built her master bedroom closet right outside the bathroom door. The closet is a small open room with a dresser included and contains a vanity-style sink along one wall.

It functions as a private dressing room, leaving the bedroom as a place for sleeping only.

Bergerson, who grew up in a part of the country with a Scandinavian influence, painted her house teal blue with salmon trim on the windows and sage green around the roof.

“I got some color ideas from Scandinavian and Norwegian houses which are always more colorful,” she says. “I read that when there’s snow on the ground, it’s nice to have the reflection of color. And I was looking at articles on old Finnish houses that are painted and have a bit of the Russian style with the overhangs.”

The home is wood frame construction—like homes in Minnesota as well as a style exclusive to Scandinavian countries. In a nod to Ketchum’s past, she used 5/8-inch plywood with oversized bats like older mining houses.

Inside, the top floor has the typical wooden floor of a turn-of-the-century house, a fitting place for items once belonging to older family members.

A marble-topped table inherited from her aunts, four leatherette chairs from the family cottage on Big Pine Lake, her parents’ oak dining table and Pullman drapes acquired by her grandfather, a railroad employee on the Minneapolis/St. Louis line, look perfectly at home.

“I couldn’t say it was based on any one house I’d seen,” Bergerson says, but for 13 years, she’s lived in her dream house. >>>

Curtis Kemp and the Cabin on the Creek

High-end home designer Curtis Kemp knew what he wanted: an office, a living room with a fireplace and large sofa, a dining room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen with standard-size appliances and laundry all proportionally laid out in 750 square feet of cabin.

Though his cabin was on a creek, and nowhere near the sea, the ocean is what inspired his design choices in the end. After imagining similar space-challenged locales, he realized that his problems were similar to those met when planning spaces on luxury yachts.

“I did a whole lot of little sketches, trying to figure out how it would work,” Kemp recalls. “You keep doing them and doing them until you arrive at what you think is a solution.”

His cabin, located on Trail Creek north of the bridge at the outskirts of Ketchum’s downtown, has everything Kemp wanted, minus a few personal items.
“You just have to start throwing stuff away,” he says.

Downscaling from a three-bedroom house in Hailey was a challenge, but after whittling his clothes to a few shirts and pants and shoes and buying a minimum of new dishes in a rustic theme to match the house, he did it.

Every door had to serve dual purposes to attain the demands that Kemp had. He began with a wall with hinges worthy of a residential entry gate that moves on wheels to close off the bedroom or open it up for use.

On the bedroom side, you don’t just see the other side of a wall, but a closet with a bedroom dresser built into a recess in the wall. He had to forego a footboard on the bed for space, but, it was a minor thing to forfeit.

Inside, he has a desk with a light table for artwork, an easel for painting, couch large enough to stretch out for naps, two flat-screen TVs on the wall, a dining table, several bookshelves and a fireplace.

In the kitchen, his dishwasher, stove and refrigerator rival those of a much larger house.

Kemp employed a color palette in the warm shades of autumn and doesn’t have a single lamp taking up floor space. Small track lights run on a pulley system that moves them up and down for greater light intensity.

The cabin doesn’t have a square feel because the furniture is placed at angles, and it doesn’t have a crowded feel because Kemp maintains it like a ship. There’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Today, such a structure could not be built a stone’s throw from a creek, but in the 1950s, building codes and zoning restrictions didn’t exist.

“There’s nothing like this in Ketchum and there never will be,” says Kemp. “To have this kind of greenery around, this kind of wildness with moose in the creek and deer prints along my entry walk, doesn’t happen anymore.”

Kemp, who includes “exploring the artistic and architectural aspects of the concept of sculpting light” among his hobbies, added windows to bring the sound of the creek inside and draw light into the interior spaces. He also raised the cabin to pour a foundation and install a floor heat system with pipes under concrete to make sure creature comforts were attended to.

“I designed this to be a comfortable place to live, and it is.”

This article appears in the Spring 2008 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.