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A new East Jackson home was built looking toward the future.
By Dina Mishev ∙ Photography by David Agnello
Sarah and Miller Bushong’s Jackson dream house was finished last summer. The couple, forty-five (Sarah) and fifty (Miller), aren’t planning on fully utilizing it for a decade or so, though, until they’re retired. For now, it’s a vacation house they and their friends use several times each season. It is a well-planned and forward-thinking vacation house, albeit one that might puzzle passersby.
The Bushongs’ home—800 square feet of living space set atop a two-car garage and workshop—sits at the very back of their East Hansen Street lot. There is no driveway from the street (access is from the alley). The front lawn, landscaped by Miller’s cousin, longtime local Lee Bushong, is big enough for a house of its own. Which is the point. Maybe.
“When we first started talking [to Sarah and Miller] about their budget, we looked at doing an accessory structure first and leaving room for a main house in the future,” says Peggy Gilday, founding principal at Gilday Architects, which designed the home. Miller, a federal prosecutor, says, “We didn’t have any design parameters, but we had a budget—that was our parameter.”
“We love that East Jackson is a mishmash of everything. To see ski bum houses that are still in use and will continue to be handed down, to the newer stuff, to the bigger, nicer homes that are well out of our range. It is really cool to be a part of that and in the mix of the whole thing.”
[ Miller Bushong, homeowner ]
Now that the couple has spent time in the house, they’re not sure they’ll need more in the future. “We love what we have now so much, we’ve moved on from the original plan,” says Sarah, a family practice doctor and yoga instructor. “You might think 800 square feet of living space is tight, but it doesn’t feel that way.”
The space—a large kitchen/dining/living room with a bedroom and bathroom off to the east—is bright, efficient, simple, and thoughtful. After the Bushongs hired Gilday Architects, they toured some of the firm’s other projects with Peggy Gilday. “My own house really resonated with them,” she says. Gilday’s home, which she designed herself, was just a couple of blocks from the Bushongs’ lot. Hers is an uncomplicated form clad in interesting materials. There is an accessory structure, a garage/workshop/gear room in back. Between the two buildings is a lovely lawn, made private because of the protection afforded by the buildings at either end.
“It was lean and modern,” Sarah says. “We didn’t know the specifics of what we wanted, but we knew we wanted a house that had a distinctive style.” Before hiring Gilday Architects, the couple briefly looked into Blu Homes, which designs and builds modern, simple prefab homes. “Sarah and Miller were specific about the freshness that is starting to thrive—and that you have the freedom to do—in East Jackson,” Gilday says. “They wanted to be part of that.”
While East Jackson allows for the ultimate in creativity, “our budget didn’t. Everything kept coming back to the budget,” Miller says. Gilday adds, “The whole key was to take the budget and come up with something that was a very simple form and focus on one move, one element.”
That element is a deck on the northwest corner of the upper floor. It has expansive views of the Tetons. And it breaks up the home’s boxiness. “We like the challenge of balancing a budget and simplicity with some interest,” Gilday says. It’s not just the deck that has views. The northwest corner of the living space is mostly windows. There is also a freestanding wood-burning stove in that corner. The couple often sits facing the fire and enjoying the vistas beyond. “Peggy did a great job of maximizing the view,” Miller says. “It makes me feel peaceful on the one hand; I could sit and stare at the mountains, the clouds, the weather, the light—every part of it—for hours. But on the other hand, looking out there makes both of us want to get out and be in it.” Maybe that’s why the Bushongs are happy with 800 square feet.
“Whether they eventually build a main house and then rent the accessory or not, it’s great that they thought ahead enough to allow for that option,” Gilday says. “This is smart master planning.”
Get a builder involved early in the design process because:
“It is better for everyone when builders are involved from the beginning. It allows us to understand why some of the design decisions were made, and we can also inform on pricing.” – Mike Wilson, co-owner of JH Builders, which built the Bushongs’ home
“Having JH Builders on board early on helped streamline the design process and keep costs down.” – Peggy Gilday, architect
“The builders met us at the lot, and they had a cherry picker there. They thought it would be interesting to elevate us and see what our views could be from the second story. That helped us envision things as the house was designed.” – Sarah Bushong, homeowner