Decision Makers

A couple maximizes their budget with thoughtful planning–and compromises.

By Maggie Theodora / Photography by Tuck Fauntleroy

Zoe and Teton views greet guests. While the idea to twist the house a few degrees to directly face the Tetons was a move made to maximize views in the main living spaces and the master bedroom suite, “it worked really well for the entry as well,” Leslie says. “It’s a pretty amazing view to walk into.” The homeowners spent significant time considering different front doors before deciding on a horizontal, quarter-sawn cherry door. “The stripes on it play off the windows to the right,” Leslie says.

Would you give up a fire pit and hot tub in the backyard so you could have wood floors in the kitchen? Some families building their dream house are fortunate and don’t have to make such decisions, but most, including Jason Leslie and Maria Löfgren, did. “Our budget was a reach the whole way, and we tried to incorporate the features we wanted most while recognizing there would be decisions to be made along the way,” says Leslie, who is a builder and contractor but, until this project, had focused on commercial spaces rather than residential.

Other decisions made during the 13-month construction of their 3,755-square-foot home on a perimeter lot in Melody Ranch were to have fewer speakers throughout the house so that they could have electric shades on key windows. Leslie really wanted the latter, and Löfgren, a physical therapist and partner at Excel Physical Therapy, decided she didn’t actually like the look of “all these speakers everywhere,” she says. Another decision, Leslie adds: in-floor heat.

This lot on the perimeter of the Melody Ranch neighborhood is a perfect square, but “when we were siting the house, we did a slight rotation—just twisted a couple of degrees—so that we’re aligned with the Grand Teton,” says homeowner Jason Leslie. When these lift-and-slide doors in the living room are fully opened—the three panels stack on the right side—there’s an
eight-by-eight-foot opening to the back yard.

Originally he didn’t think hydronic heat was a necessity or an option with their budget. “I had always thought it was a luxury item,” he says. But after looking at the long-term energy savings, and also what was common in existing homes in the neighborhood, Leslie realized it would eventually pay for itself, and that lacking it could, were they ever to sell the house, hurt its value. Not that hydronic heating was a hard sell for the couple. Leslie doesn’t have a vivid memory of the family’s first night in the house, which was last June—it “was just sound and comfortable,” he says—but he does vividly remember waking up and walking on heated floors. “It felt, and still feels, so good to have your feet on warm floors,” he says.

Another luxury the couple found money for in the budget was “a giant master bathroom,” says Löfgren, a native of Sweden. She says that, from the earliest design phase, “I liked the idea, especially in a cold town, of having a nice, relaxing soaking tub, and I wanted a sizeable space for it.” When the couple visited showrooms to look at tubs, Löfgren says, she sat in each one they considered. “I wanted to be able to lay down and feel comfortable,” she says. They eventually selected a Jacuzzi Celeste tub, which Löfgren says “is perfect.”

 The master bathroom has lots of natural light. The larger window that parallels the freestanding tub is extra deep, perfect for setting a glass of wine on. “Or it has plenty of space we could fill with orchids,” Leslie says. 

Because Leslie is a builder himself—after working in the trade for more than 20 years, he founded Pingora Construction in 2017—he knew how to make the most of the family’s budget beyond categorizing things as “saves” or “splurges.” “You can only save so much money making compromises on finishes and details,” he says. “Getting a good team in place and advance planning can affect the budget in a much bigger way.” Leslie, who, after ground was broken was able to spend most of his time working on his house, had weekly planning/design meetings with architect Brad Hoyt and interior designer Jessica Travis Ginter, whom the couple made sure to get involved early on. “We’d all sit down together and discuss features and floor plans. Everything was very direct and flowed,” Leslie says. “I’ve been involved in a lot of complex construction projects and would say that this house wasn’t as challenging as other projects, mostly because of the efficient design and decision process we established at the beginning and kept to.”

While the design and permit process were mostly smooth, a few challenges arose during construction. But, “just like a lot of things in life, the more challenging they are, the more rewarding they are,” Löfgren says. “The fireplace, breakfast nook, and stairs were the most challenging to get through, but they are my favorite parts of the house and I’m so glad we persevered with these elements.”  

Even the laundry/mud room/office has views of the Tetons, from Mount Glory to Teewinot. Leslie and wife Maria Löfgren knew they wanted a combined laundry and mud room, but originally did not imagine such a large space. This room is between the main house and attached garage and studio; the homeowners call this area “the connector.” Leslie says, “The connector ended up growing much larger because of [Melody Ranch] design guidelines: 75 percent of your eaves need to be within nine feet of grade. [Architect Brad Hoyt] grew this part of the house to meet this requirement, so this room got bigger, which we’ve found to be nice.”

“One of our favorite features is the breakfast nook,” says Leslie, here with Löfgren, sons Olin, 9, and Tor, 11, and dog Jasper. “I invested a lot of hours into it and it was worth it. Sitting in there you’re surrounded by windows and you feel like you’re outside. If we’re sitting in here and neighbors walk by, they’ll wave or we’ll wave. It’s a very outdoor-feeling indoor space.” The built-in table and benches are the same white oak as the stair treads and the kitchen/dining/living room floors. 

Olin climbs the stair treads while Tor looks on in the home’s main public space, a combined kitchen/dining/living room. “The fireplace gives just a bit of separation, but you can see through it and over it,” Leslie says. To negate the need for a traditional chimney, this gas-fueled fireplace has a power vent that allows it to exhaust through the crawl space. Pipes out of the top and vents at the bottom blow heat into the room.

Architect Brad Hoyt says the stairs were an important piece to set the tone for the home. “They’re right in the middle of the main public space,” he says. “We wanted to keep it open and clean in keeping with the rest of the project.” Hoyt and Collin Delano came up with the idea of a single HSS (hollow structural sections) stringer and, to give the stairs some warmth, wood treads. “The metal rails pick up some of the metal detailing in the rest of the project,” Hoyt says. About the home’s aesthetic Löfgren says, “I think with time there will be more layers—art and color on the walls—but for now I like the simplicity and I want us to grow with it. When we find pieces and things that speak to us, they will be nice to add, but we’re not forcing it.”

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