Home & Design September 14, 2012

Valley Style Makers

How a local designer, architect, developer and store owner created their own unique style in the Valley.


Shades of Green

Sarah Latham, Designer. Photo Five B StudiosWhen Sarah Latham named her interior design business White Canvas Designs, she had a clean slate in mind—a white board, if you will—an idea that would lead to more possibilities. Today, many of those possibilities, oddly enough, seem to be green.

Founded “by accident” while working part time as a designer for Ruscitto | Latham | Blanton Architectura (RLB), a local architecture firm, White Canvas was born when Latham got increasing referrals from clients and their friends. Seven years later, she continues to do both jobs.

An artist by training, Latham earned degrees in fine art and journalism from the University of Colorado. Upon graduation, she found herself loath to “sell my paintings on street corners,” as she put it, so she moved to San Francisco and worked as an apprentice with interior design firm Fisher Weisman. In the process of learning the business, she found her interest in green design peaked.

“Sustainable design can be as complex as a LEED-certified building [LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to measure green building design, construction and maintenance]or as simple as a home furnished in an environmentally friendly way,” she explained. “Making a home green is really up to the individual, but it’s something I have knowledge of and I like to give my clients the ability to choose.”

Latham met her future husband in Lake Tahoe and he brought her to Hailey where she fell in love with the landscape. It was a simple twist of fate that her father-in-law was a partner in a firm that needed an interior designer. “I feel lucky to work in an architecture firm because I’ve learned a lot about the mechanics of design. What’s more important in this room—is it the view, the air temperature near the windows or the structural integrity of the building?” Latham mused.

A LEED-certified Associate Professional in Interior Design and Construction, Latham knows what she’s talking about. Karen Brown, who owns a 1970’s era condo on which Latham performed a facelift, swears by her. “Sarah’s very positive and upbeat. She allows you to make your own decisions without letting you make big mistakes. She could almost read my mind at times—I gave her a real general concept of what I wanted and she whittled down the choices to make sure I got what I wanted,” Brown recalled.

The challenges of building green in a mountain town are ubiquitous. “It’s a weights and balances thing. You try to make the best design decisions, because traveling outside of the area for products can defeat the purpose. I try to source a lot of local labor and craftsmen—and there’s an amazing amount of talent right here in this Valley,” noted Latham.

Latham offers prospective clients a free consultation so they can get to know her. “I create relationships with clients and walk away from projects with friends,” she said. “You really need to know clients on a personal level to make sure that you design spaces that make people happy.” -Jody Orr


Right Angles

Jim McLaughlin, Architect. Photo Five B StudiosJim McLaughlin was never one of those tortured souls who couldn’t decide what to study in college. He simply took two things he enjoyed—art and mathematics—put them together, and found architecture. Forty years and an exceptional career later, he’s designed and built everything from $100,000 starter homes to grand mountain retreats, from beach houses in Hawaii and Costa Rica to a luxury lodge in New Zealand.

McLaughlin arrived in the Valley fresh from the University of Idaho and took a job as an apprentice for Neil Wright, where he worked for three years before starting his own firm. In honing his design sensibilities, McLaughlin was influenced by the land. “A lot of our inspiration comes from the environment. On every site we work on, no matter where it is, we take it in and try to understand all of the elements that need to be incorporated. We try and use native materials indigenous to the region so that the homes look timeless,” explained McLaughlin.

Much of his work comes from referrals—including Blanket Bay Lodge near Queensland in New Zealand. While designing the lodge, he made about 20 trips to the other side of the equator and faced some interesting obstacles in the process. “New Zealand was a challenge because they don’t have access to a lot of engineered products. We had to dial back the technology about 30 years,” explained McLaughlin.

The Wrigley residence, designed by Jim McLaughlin.

Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church lit up on Sun Valley Road.

He understands that every man’s home is his castle and goes out of his way to design structures that reflect their inhabitants. “There are a lot of talented architects in the Valley, and I think when people are trying to find the right one, there needs to be a personality connection. You need a team you can relate to, that you can be very open with. If you’re not having fun in the process, something is wrong. I believe in getting along with the builder; I believe in being pro-active in problem-solving,” he said.

Bob and Catherine Beyer, for whom McLaughlin designed a home, have lived in the Valley part-time for 20 years and attest to McLaughlin’s ability to build homes and relationships. “Part of what makes him so good at what he does is that he has seen everything from historically important architecture to cutting edge design. Jim’s very well traveled and he uses his global education to amplify the exposures and strengths of a piece of land. He is particularly astute at designing structures that not only reflect the uniqueness of a site, but actually improve it. Jim amplifies the best attributes of life in the mountain west,” noted Bob Beyer.

Playing favorites for McLaughlin is tantamount to choosing a child whom you love best. “There are parts and pieces to every building I’ve designed that I absolutely love,” said McLaughlin. “But I’m particularly proud of Our Lady of Snows Catholic Church because it touches so many people. A lot of homes we do are very private and only a few people will ever see them. It’s fun when you do something that can be shared by a lot of people,” he added. -Jody Orr


Vision Quest

MoJack Bariteau, Developer. Photo Five B Studiosst people strolling down Sun Valley Road may not know who Jack Bariteau is beyond being another friendly, familiar face in Ketchum.

But if any of these folks have been wandering down the most famous street in the Wood River Valley since the mid-nineties, they certainly know about Bariteau’s work—and they’re more than likely thankful for it.

Jack Bariteau has long been considered a visionary for his work in the development field and some of the best examples of his efforts can be found smack dab in the heart of America’s original destination ski resort.

Originally from California, Bariteau has spent 35 years making a name for himself as a developer who could handle every phase of a project; from finding to designing and building and then successfully managing the properties. 

Bariteau first visited Sun Valley during his college days in the early seventies and immediately “got hooked on the place,” as he puts it. “I went to every Western resort but I always came back here,” he said. “There’s just a magical element about this place.”

Bariteau’s first foray into local development came when he purchased the antiquated Colonnade shopping complex in 1997. His original thoughts of remodeling the deteriorating Sun Valley staple were quickly squashed when a structural engineer finished a tour of the property by stating, “You’ve got two options: Tear it down and tear it down.”

600 Second Street East in Ketchum.

Seizing the opportunity to invigorate some new life—and style—into Sun Valley, Bariteau envisioned building a project on the property that would add a little urban flavor to the mountain town setting. The new Colonnade would not only offer retail spaces along the street, it would include a component usually associated more with cities than ski towns—upscale residential units above the retail, including penthouse suites.

Most locals thought the idea of blending commercial and high-end residential housing would never sell. But Bariteau believed the walk-ability of Ketchum—and its easy access to the ski slopes, hiking and biking trails, as well as the town’s great dining, gallery and shopping options—would make such housing appealing. It turns out he was right. When the new Colonnade opened in 1999, all of the commercial space was filled and the final residential unit was sold within six months.

The Colonnade along Sun Valley Road in Ketchum.

“I’m a contrarian,” Bariteau explained. “When most people are going one way, I like to go the other.”

The Colonnade was soon followed by the purchase of the old Christiana motel. It, too, was torn down and replaced by a similar mixed-use building that also includes office space along with retail and residential—and was quickly filled as well. The undeniably successful projects not only replaced eyesores with clean, modern properties, they also invigorated Sun Valley Road.

“They were not only good investments, but they made a positive change in Ketchum. They were good projects for the community,” Bariteau said, adding, “I’m a long-term investment builder, not a merchant builder.”

Bariteau’s next project was 600 Second Street East in Ketchum, just a couple of blocks off Sun Valley Road. Another ambitious vision for a development, it brought very high-end residential townhomes and a “more contemporary look” to Ketchum, as he explained. Despite “Armageddon hitting,” as Bariteau referred to the recent national housing collapse, the property eventually sold out as well.

“There are some benefits to this so-called ‘Armageddon,’” he said, explaining that the lower real estate prices are allowing more people, especially those of the younger demographic, to be able to afford to live in and around Sun Valley.

600 Second Street East even includes a community/affordable housing unit that meets Blaine County Housing Authority standards and has been filled since day one. But that wasn’t the only community benefit from the project; one of Ketchum’s former snow storage lots has been remodeled into a year-round public pocket park nestled within the complex called Lucy Loken Park. Walnut Avenue, which leads to the park, was also redone as part of the project and radiant heat was added to the short right-of-way, meaning the town of Ketchum doesn’t have the expense of plowing it anymore.

Just as Bariteau was putting the finishing touches on this project, he became the first local developer to get approval to build something just about every ski town in the West is fighting for—a brand new five-star hotel. In 2008, the Trail Creek Fund LLC, for which Bariteau serves as the managing member, was granted approval for “Hotel Ketchum.” The 80-room hotel planned for the Trail Creek Village lot (which used to be home to Chandler’s restaurant at the southern entrance to Ketchum) has been on hold because of the constraints of capital investments, both locally and nationally, for such developments, but it paved the way for similar projects to get approved at River Run and Warm Springs Ranch.

And even though Hotel Ketchum is still on hold, Bariteau believes it will not only happen—he’s still working on securing its financing—but that it will have a huge, positive impact on the Valley.

“In my view, there is no project that will have a more profound impact on our Sun Valley economy than the construction of the Hotel Ketchum. It will create 80 to 100 construction jobs for two years and probably 75 to 90 full and seasonal jobs once the hotel is opened,” Bariteau said. “We are desperately under-roomed and can accommodate 500 or more four- and five-star rooms easily without putting a dent into future demand. The approved hotels will make us competitive with our direct resort competition.”

Bariteau’s latest vision involves the Village Green project at The Valley Club. Like numerous developments throughout the country, parts of the private golf course and residential complex just north of Hailey have had a tough run of it recently. Bariteau, as the managing member, and Streamside Associates LLC, have purchased the final 27 lots, and in so doing they’ve spent the last couple of years straightening out some sticky water and financial issues.

Now called “Streamside,” the project will include spacious, ready-to-build lots for exceptional initial values that will house all-season bungalow-style homes offering great view sheds and surround what Bariteau calls an “art stream” and a “commons” green space.

“It’s a very unique project. You can’t find anything else like this in the Valley,” declared Bariteau, as he shared his passion for his latest vision.

“Buildings influence people, good or bad, without them even realizing it,” Bariteau said. “I want to build things that impact people positively.”

As for the key to his success, Bariteau simply advised, “You really have to believe that you’re going to be successful.” -Mike McKenna


In the Hot Seat

Jeff Smith, Store Owner. Photo Five B StudiosAfter a hard day of tackling the slopes, the trails or local trout, a hot tub is the ideal refuge for tired joints and muscles.

“Whether you call it a spa or a hot tub, they both have the ability to offer recovery time, which we all need so badly,” explained Jeff Smith of Aqua Pro Pool & Spa, Inc. in Hailey, which has been providing hydrotherapy in the form of design, installation and service for spas and pools for the last 14 years.

The health benefits of spas include relief from back pain, circulation problems, insomnia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and arthritis, not to mention acting as a balm for everyday stress.

The majority of Aqua Pro’s projects involve design and creative decision-making. “Where should the spa go? How much noise will it make? We end up being chemists, plumbers and electricians,” Smith explained.

Aqua Pro’s most memorable installation? A three-sided, vanishing-edge spa finished in Black Arabian granite. Competing against 300 entrants from around the globe, the local project won a silver medal at the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals’ 2010 International Award of Excellence.

The award-winning vanishing-edge spa.

What a hot tub brings to a backyard is quite simple, said Smith: “We were brought into the world in water. We are surrounded by water and we want to be in it and near it. It’s all about the water—the sound of it, the feel of it and the look of it.”  -Jody Orr





This article appears in the Fall 2012 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.