Glass House

This family home blurs the lines between inside and out.

By Dina Mishev

Square Feet: 6,500  |  Bedrooms: 4 in main house  |  Baths: 4.5 in main house  |  Lot Acreage: approx. 18  |  Completion Date: 2018


For an eighteen-some-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Snake River, the architects at Carney Logan Burke designed a simple structure. “It’s one move—a bar,” says principal architect Eric Logan. “Simple is good.” In this home slated to be completed in 2018, simple is also stunning, and not just because the “bar’s” views to the north are unimpeded and include the Snake River and the Tetons.

The bar form was a solution to two constraints: the clients’ desire to disturb the land as little as possible, and the location of the Snake River Levee 150 yards from the north end of the building envelope. “They know they have a very special piece of property and are very sensitive about disturbing it,” Logan says. “The team, which includes a biologist in addition to a landscape architect, is putting lots of effort into being sure we’re making the lightest footprint possible.” The problem presented by the levee is that its top is six feet higher than ground level. If the home’s first floor were built at grade, any windows to the north would frame a dirt berm.

Logan says the simplest way to elevate the main living spaces—an upside-down design where the kitchen, master suite, and dining and living rooms are on the second story—wasn’t appropriate for this site, or for the owners’ program. On this lot, a two-story mass would stick out, and, Logan says, “This is a legacy project for the family. This is intended to be a place where they can come with their kids now and, in the future, kids and grandkids. We’re entering this with the mindset that we’re doing a one-hundred-year building.” When considering a family using a home down through generations and into the twenty-second century, upside-down living can be fussy. “Once we get fussy, it’s not workable in the long-term,” Logan says.

“Very intentionally, we wanted to get this feeling that the inside and the outside are together.”
[ Eric Logan, Principal Architect, Carney Logan Burke ]

Instead of designing a second-story living space, Logan slightly elevated the entire home. The main floor, which has the kitchen, living and dining rooms, master suite, and the kids’ bedrooms, is five feet above grade. Walking in the home’s front entrance, “People are gracefully welcomed and encouraged to go to the upper level,” he says. (There is a modest ground floor with a bathroom and a guest suite with doors that open directly onto the north yard.)

To create a seamless transition between inside and outside spaces, and to keep the home from looking like it is on an artificial perch, landscape architect Mark Hershberger developed a plan that raised the grade on sections of the north and south sides of the house. Concrete masses anchor the east and west sides of the home, but the north and south sides are mostly glass. With Hershberger’s landscaping, the glass meets grass. The building is a filter for the views and the experience of the surrounding landscape, and is also a gateway to the landscape. “Very intentionally, we wanted to get this feeling that the inside and the outside are together,” Logan says.

The “river room” is on the north side of the house. Off the home’s main volume—the living/dining/kitchen space—it is completely outside, but it feels like an indoor aerie: It has its own barbecue and pizza oven, as well as in-your-face Teton views. Twenty-four-foot-wide stairs gradually cascade down from the “room” to grade. The master bathroom is inside, but, because of a wall of glass behind the vanity, it feels like you’re outside.

A design challenge (given the extensive use of glass and steel) was to keep the home from feeling commercial or cold. While the clients were looking for something with a modern aesthetic, they did appreciate the warmth, scale, and coziness of their current valley home, which Logan describes as “a very different proposition—it has small windows and short overhangs, and a comfy, in-the-woods character.” Logan says the clients “stressed that there were lots of things about their current house they found comforting and reassuring and didn’t want to lose.”

While this home has ten-foot overhangs and walls of windows, these features work with other design decisions to arrive at an end result similar to the couple’s current home—a space that is nothing if not comfy in the woods.

| Posted in Departments
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