A South American family shares their Jackson Hole retreat.
By Elizabeth Clair Flood ∙ Photography by David Agnello
When a family of well-traveled skiers from a Latin American metropolis discovered Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, they knew immediately they wanted a home here. They love their hectic hometown (pop. about ten million)—a capital city chock-full of skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and hovering helicopters, and buzzing with commerce and so much traffic that cabs have televisions in them to pass the time. But Jackson Hole’s natural tranquility inspired them. They loved the open space. And, of course, they loved the skiing; at JHMR they found a professional and friendly team that could accommodate all levels of skiers in their growing family.
“When we are in Jackson Hole, we rest our mind and make our body work—trekking, biking, and skiing,” says the head of the family.
After touring valley properties in 2013, they purchased a ski-in/ski-out Granite Ridge lot. Sitting down with Jackson-based architect Stephen Dynia for the first time, the family presented some informal drawings. The couple imagined a contemporary house. They wanted it to be cozy, but it also had to have enough space for their large, extended family. They envisioned thirty beds.
Another requirement: they wanted to move into the new house and be skiing within eighteen months. “I don’t want to be a day older than sixty-five,” the owner told Dynia.
The initial design concepts for the Granite Ridge home originated in South America. “The family insisted I come stay with them at their home there for three weeks,” Dynia says. “They wanted me to see how they lived and engaged with family.”
After visiting family homes, meeting extended family and friends, and touring the family’s restaurants—enjoying local barbecue and cashew-apple drinks—Dynia returned to Jackson to create sketches with his team, headed by project architect Karen Parent. With the help of weekly Skype calls and an owners’ representative, the home, as well as a friendship, unfolded.
“They are incredibly gracious people,” Parent says. “Throughout the project, all of us really wanted to create something special, something they would enjoy. There was something about this family. We didn’t want to disappoint them on a personal level. There was always this feeling of wanting to do a really great job.”
“We started drawing something clean with not a lot of ornament and very restrained,” Parent says. The 8,500-square-foot structure is nestled into the steep, woodsy lot and positioned away from neighboring houses. To the southwest, views include the tram, Corbet’s Couloir, and the dramatic north face of Pyramid Peak, south of the ski resort’s boundaries.
“The house is not what I call earth-shattering,” says Dynia, who for over twenty years has created plenty of earth-shattering (for this area) spaces. He has thrived on challenging Jackson’s traditional mountain aesthetic with materials like steel, glass, concrete, and rusted metal, and also with innovative, eyebrow-raising designs. In the late 1990s, when he designed two cubes—28 feet wide, 28 feet deep, and 28 feet tall with about 750 square feet of living space over two floors and also a rooftop garden—and tucked them into a messy downtown alley, you’d have thought Jackson as we knew it was going to end. Since then, he’s successfully placed modern volumes and concepts, industrial materials, remarkable glass walls, rooftop terraces, and subterranean living spaces into magnificent natural surroundings. Perhaps most remarkably he has managed to do this while sometimes also working within strict (and traditional) neighborhood design guidelines, which was the case with this home.
“With this project we had very strict regulations,” Dynia says. “We played along really well.” Within the regulations, Dynia and Parent still managed to design a simple, modern, elegant, timeless space. The end result, subtle and progressive, passes the neighborhood codes and invites even the most skeptical mountain cabin aficionado to embrace the design.
The exterior is conservative but innovative: a mix of Oakley stone stacked walls—commonly used in this valley—and recycled grey patina wood from discarded Montana wind fencing. Large and simple energy-efficient windows by Bildau & Bussmann accent the rustic interior and frame views, both grand and intimate throughout the home. A back porch, paved with Frontier stone, is a main outdoor space and also connects skiers to a path leading directly to the Apres Vous chairlift.
Inside, the home wows. “There are no wooden trusses here,” Dynia says. Calm is evoked throughout with a muted palette of paneled oak walls and floors and white walls. Built-in furniture and lots of storage liberate the home from clutter. The ceilings stretch high, picture windows provide magnificent views, strategically placed skylights filter natural light, and great expanses of white walls lay flat with perfection. Chris Kiernam of Two Ocean Builders, who built the home, says this is no easy task: “every line in a contemporary home has to be precise to create the effect.”
As the owners stated from the beginning, the house had to work for their extended family. Some bedrooms can accommodate—via bunks—entire nuclear families. In total, there are six bedrooms, all with their own bathrooms. There are electrical outlets for iPods and iPads next to beds. There are plenty of drawers for storage and hooks for ski parkas and hats. Two TV rooms invite guests to relax. “They wanted to make everyone feel comfortable,” Parent says.
Because family gatherings revolve around cooking and enjoying good food, the family chose to install a bulthaup kitchen. The German company is known for its style, craftsmanship, and high functionality. “Cooking is something we love to do. We spend so much time in the kitchen,” the owner says.
Stainless-steel surfaces, open shelving, a special area for baking, and high-end appliances characterize the kitchen. There are two counters for seating. A long window facing east catches both the rising sun and ski runs.
Throughout the home the owners’ style—contemporary, sophisticated, and personal—works with Dynia’s modern space. “We did the interior design ourselves, because we knew what we wanted: a simple and clean interior,” the owner says. After doing research on the Internet and shopping in New York and Chicago, the couple bought what they needed. They chose comfortable, modern couches from Mobili Mobel and B&B Italia. A TV room has chairs from Danish designer Poul Kjærholm. Philipp Mainzer designed the dining room table, and the chairs around it are from Luminaire in Chicago by Naoto Fukasawa. The beds, except for the several that Dynia custom-designed, are from TEAM 7 and designed by Jacob Strobel. An old Navajo rug tacked to the wall in the TV room is one of the few pieces purchased in town.
The family moved in on time, and with the house built on budget. The clients were thrilled and laughed that, the first winter, they spent more time enjoying the house than skiing.