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A WINDOW ON THE WILD
An owner elects o tear down an existing western home to build something more modern, but keeps wildlife a priority.
By Elizabeth Clair Flood
Photography by Tuck Fauntleroy
Less than a twenty-minute drive from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and minutes from the Stagecoach Bar, where locals two-step to the Stagecoach Band every Sunday night, a pine-tree-lined road travels over a spring creek and dead-ends. Stepping out of the car, standing in front of a modern home protected by trees and sky, the first thing you notice is silence.
Constructed of red cedar, Montana Frontier stone, and more twenty-four-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling windows than you can count, this seven-thousand-square-foot home invites you inside but never ignores what is outside. Its southern end—where the living room, kitchen, and, upstairs, the master bedroom are—nearly abuts eighty acres of open space. Here, wolves chase elk, coyotes pounce on mice, eagles dive for prey, fish rise for bugs, elk bugle, and moose dine on willows.
“I feel like I have my own personal Serengeti,” says the owner, a longtime Jackson resident. Because the animals live in her backyard and often return to the same spots, she says she can almost name them.
Creating this home, a family refuge as well as a prime post for wildlife theater, took time and mindfulness. “I like to live in a place for a while before I decide exactly how I want to live there,” the owner says. When she moved in fifteen years ago, the home was a traditional western one, made of cedar and with five river-rock fireplaces. After spending eight years in it, she had enough reasons to tear it down: it lacked natural flow, the kitchen was in the former garage, and most rooms ignored the stunning views.
Tip: Rooms with big windows framing big vistas can be intimidating. Using warm, natural materials—this home went with cedar, stone, bronze, mahogany cabinets, and dark, rich Iroko floors—makes interiors intimate.
Fixtures as Art: Art doesn’t just have to be painting and sculpture. This home’s light, unobtrusive staircase is an attention grabber.
With the help of San Francisco architect Lorissa Kimm and Jackson contractor Bruce Bolden, the owner designed a home that takes advantage of the property’s natural beauty, appeals to her modern aesthetic, and stays within the original footprint. “I didn’t want to disturb the surrounding property,” the owner says. “There are geese that come every year to the same spot to have their babies, and I didn’t want to disrupt their habits.”
Within the old footprint, the owner asked Kimm to design a modern home—lots of light and open spaces—that looked like it belonged in this valley and took advantage of the property’s natural and tranquil location.
Two, two-story stone walls are a focus of Kimm’s design. “The stone walls ground the place to the earth,” Kimm says. Portals through these walls inspire the spaces and the flow of the home. “The way you move through this home is effortless, and you are always aware of the vistas,” she adds.
Tip: Simplify: A quarter-inch reveal—very traditional French deco in style—creates seamless transitions from the windows to the walls to the doorways. Although subtle, the flat surface effect creates a simple yet refined interior that allows art and furniture collections to shine.
Co-publisher of Vivant Books, an art collector, and a lover of architectural interior design, the owner says building her new home was much like creating one of her art books. “I see building a house much like making a book. There are all these different elements, all these different balls in the air,” she says. From choosing the materials to creating meaningful spaces to selecting the finishes and furnishings and being attentive to the land, there was a lot to juggle. “If you don’t catch them or a ball slips out of hand, the project is compromised.”
Attention to simplicity and fine art can be seen throughout the home. The walnut dining table was custom-made locally by Charlie Thomas of Magpie Furniture. Above it hang numerous pendant lights of crystal and bronze, all at different lengths, by San Francisco lighting designer Jonathan Browning. “It has a looking-up-in-a-starry-sky effect,” Kimm says. Nearby a Tiffany vase sits on a vintage Biedermeier table. Adjacent to the table is a contemporary butterfly installation by New York artist Paul Villinski. Looking south, over the dining area and into the kitchen of granite counters, only a handmade Hawaiian bowl distracts from what the owner calls her Serengeti views.
“So many nights I fall asleep listening to elk bugle,” the owner says. “And more times than not, I wake to the most amazing sunrise. It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to start the day.”
Tip: Bring the Outside In: A single Douglas fir informed the color palette in this home’s living room. The office space was inspired by the powerful energy of its view of the Grand Teton. Since the owner wanted a Zen-like experience in her master bedroom, she deliberately ignored the high-energy views of the Tetons and instead focused on the quieter “Serengeti” landscape to the south. The Zen feeling continues in the master bathroom, where a porcelain tub sits beside a window overlooking the forest.