Seeing Things in Black & White
A log house is made modern.
By Dina Mishev ∙ Photography by David Agnello
After looking for several years in multiple mountain towns for the perfect home, a couple finally found it here in the Indian Paintbrush subdivision. “The location, the house in general, the views—it was all perfect,” the wife says. Almost. There was an Endless Pool on the lower level that the couple had no use for. They tore it out and remodeled the space into an expansive guest suite with French doors opening to the backyard, from where you can see the Grand Teton, Sleeping Indian, and Snake River. At that time you could also see a small log cabin and garage on the property below.
That cabin and garage had been on the market for a couple of years. “It was a bit of an ugly duckling,” the husband says. “The configuration was bizarre—a one-bedroom house with a detached garage.” Because the couple had so enjoyed the small remodel they did in their own house up the hill, when they looked at the property below, they didn’t think “disaster.” “We looked at it and saw a little gem,” the wife says. “We thought, ‘Gosh, we could do so much with that. It could be such a fun experience.’ ” The wife sketched out her vision: keeping the two log buildings, turning the garage into living space, and connecting the two with a new structure. “Our intent was ‘cool log structure, let’s contemporize it.’ ” The couple knew it was possible; they saw a home in a design magazine that they say was “kind of a Scandinavian log cabin that was pretty modern and all black and white. We didn’t copy it, but it showed us what was possible.”
When they interviewed architects, the wife says some “walked in and looked up and were like, ‘Ugh.’ One architect even said, ‘We just don’t do this.’ But Peggy’s [Gilday] initial reaction was really excited. She walked in and could see what we did.” Gilday says, “I am usually up for a challenge, and when [the clients] and I met at the house, my first thought was that this is a particularly big one! I trust my intuition when there may be interesting possibilities, and with a remodel, the biggest issue is understanding the tipping point of when it should be a teardown. Although the log structure was quite odd, with a solid client fit and a beautiful site, we could see through the ‘funky’ stuff and pare it down to its essence. It came out beautifully and has great character that may not have been there if starting from scratch.”
Although scraping what was there and starting from scratch might have been easier. At one point early in the building process the couple say the construction superintendent called and asked them if they were sure they didn’t want to tear the cabin and garage down. The couple were sure.
Two and a half years later, as Teton Heritage Landscaping plants the final trees around the house, the original structures are unrecognizable. The logs and stone are still there, but painted black. The logs are black on the inside, too. Walls that aren’t log are white Vasari plaster or sheetrock. There are windows everywhere. “This property has beautiful views, but the prior structure didn’t even remotely take advantage of them,” says John Stennis, an associate at Gilday Architects.
Even though the plan at the start was to do the remodel and then sell the home, when I ask the owners if they now think about selling their original house and moving into the newly remodeled one, both are quick to answer: “We think about it every day.” Project manager Chris Jaubert says, “Never once did [the clients] treat this project as a spec home. They didn’t want to compromise on design and their taste just because they were planning on possibly selling it.” The wife says, “We designed a house that we would live in and enjoy. We like serene, refined, clean, and lots of light.”
The husband continues, “We might live in it for a week, but, honestly, it is too much space for us, even if it did turn out better than we imagined.”