Chic results from innovative couples
Photography: Craig Wolfrom
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Imagination and spunk. That’s what it takes for a new generation of young families who envision a dream home in this idyllic but high-end mountain town. They defy the idea that this is a place to have a second home, not build a first. They have used ingenuity and adjusted priorities to become part of the Valley’s great lifestyle.
“I think that people realize what a better quality of life you have coming to a community like this,” enthuses local businesswoman Tracy Lee.
“People can work by Internet or phone so much more easily than they used to. And I think people are beginning to prioritize their quality of life over job quality of life.”
The really big question is how can a young family afford a home in this upscale tourist town? No problem, say these young couples—if you have the energy and the gumption to roll up your sleeves and pick up a hammer.
Some of their stories recounted here have similar elements, and some, unique challenges. Most designed their own space without an architect or interior designer, relying on their own talents (with a little help from friends). They discovered older structures (like a barn) and transformed them. They picked up sledgehammers to knock down the walls and then built them up again. One couple found a tumble-down shack, pulled it apart and used it to give their home the rustic look they wanted without the expense of buying reclaimed wood.
In the end, these ingenious hard workers have a special attachment to their homes because they built them with their own hands and in their own way. Their homes are their own original works of art.
The Smith Family
“It was a shambles,” declares Jennifer Hoey Smith about the historic West Ketchum property her husband Cory discovered. He was biking around town searching for a place to raise their now one-year-old daughter Sophie and found a ranch built in the early 1900s. Their part of the property included a barn surrounded by a smokehouse, bunkhouse, dog pen, chicken coops and outhouses.
“It took some serious vision,” Jen admits. “Everybody thought we were nuts.”
They spent two summers cleaning up the coops and pens themselves before even thinking about remodeling the 430-square-foot barn into their new 700-square-foot home.
After researching the price of labor, the couple decided to remodel the barn themselves, with a little help from friends and family. Their individual talents synchronized. Cory, who works at Smith Sport Optics, provided the construction on weekends and after work, while Jen, who runs Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, planned the space.
No chickens can be detected since the Smiths gutted the old coop-turned-cozy-cottage home in West Ketchum. The kitchen was designed galley-style to maximize space. “Found” windows were the home’s foundation, which meant a sunny master bedroom and well-placed mirrors in the bathroom to make it appear larger and lighter. Keeping an eye on toddler Sophie is easy as the rooms fuse together.
They added two bedrooms to the original barn structure. “I drew the entire addition and the plans were stamped by an engineer,” Jen continues.
The project was launched with a lucky find at a local thrift store. “We were down at the Building Materials Thrift Store and saw this group of matching windows. All five Pella windows were only $900.
“I designed the house around those windows,” says Jen. From then on, the couple was determined to be environmental, using more recycled and energy-efficient products. The big windows inspired them to be budget creative, she said.
The recycling adventure continued in the search for exterior siding. “We knew that we wanted reclaimed wood,” Jen declares, “but it was too expensive.” So Cory went on a hunt one night. “I found an old barn in Fairfield. It was caved in and just going to waste. I knocked on the door and bought it from the guy who owned it.” The result is their rustic Douglas fir home exterior.
The building process continued at times like an old-time barn raising. “I did just about everything,” comments Cory, “all the demolition, all the pre-building, but I had friends in the trade that would help me. We took it down to the studs. It had to be gutted.
“I have a buddy that lives up the street who helped me put the roof on. Another friend drove out from Salt Lake to help me strip the old roofing off and get it resheared.” Cory’s rusted-steel roof is topped perfectly by the striking original barn peak.
“I poured the foundation, ordered the addition and put it all together,” continues Cory. “It’s actually made of SIPs—structurally insulated panels—made in a factory and sent back to the homeowner. We stood up the wall sections in about one day. Using SIPs greatly reduces labor costs.
“It’s become increasingly popular because it’s really efficient—less waste, less expensive and it’s quick.”
Jen adds, “I drew it, told them where I wanted the windows and then a few weeks later the walls showed up. It’s really amazing.”
All the hard work and friendship shines through inside their beautiful home—a perfect blend of rustic and contemporary. The first thing you notice is the reclaimed fir floor. “I wanted to play off that old barn feel,” says Jen. The small space requires efficient design, thus the galley-style kitchen. For the contemporary touch, the Smiths found Ikea an economical and stylish choice. Oil-rubbed bronze hardware adds charm to the clean, modern cabinets. Frosted-glass cabinet doors give a sense of openness but without the clutter. “My brother installed the cabinets,” says Jen, “and my father did the cabinet hardware.”
The kitchen opens to high hayloft ceilings in the living room/dining room area, offering a welcoming social space. Playing with the traditional and the modern again, an antique farmhouse table is accented by modern Kartell plastic chairs. Sliding barn-style doors save the space needed by swinging doors.
In the master bath, a display of vintage mirrors from Jen’s collection of antique vanities adds character to the modern limestone countertops, as does the black and white chinoiserie wall covering. “I wanted to keep more with blacks and whites and neutrals so it wasn’t too busy,” comments Jen. “When you have a small space, if you get too bright, it makes it feel small. It’s better to keep things in the range of neutrals. That was one of my concepts with the whole house—that we could add some color here and there but that it needed to be in art or in pillows.”
About the home they have crafted together, Jen says, “I definitely like the intimacy of the house.” Cory agrees. “I think the whole project is an example of being resourceful.” >>>
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