Two homes reconnect with their natural surroundings
Photo courtesy Mark Pynn
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
“Pressure makes diamonds.”
This sentiment became the motto for the remodel of a home north of Ketchum, originally built in 1994, located just east of Highway 75.
The original 4,262-square-foot, three-bedroom home had become an eyesore, built into the hill before local building ordinances no longer allowed hillside development. The intention was to make this residence a more streamlined and connected space, one that reflected the landscape around it and mirrored the beauty of the surroundings. Mark Pynn, the man who took on the project as both architect and designer, in collaboration with landscape architect, Bruce Hinckley of Alchemie, worked to create the drawings in advance for the project. A project that the builder, Herrick & Associates, Inc, had a one-year deadline to complete. And what resulted from the hard work and the pressure of a one-year deadline is most definitely a diamond.
One of the most important goals of the project for Pynn was to improve the home’s “fit to the site and general enjoyment of the location.” The layout and the footprint of the house remained the same, while the upper floor was expanded and reoriented all the way around to enlarge and enhance the views. Where previously the second floor housed only the master bedroom suite, the house now centers around a reconfigured second floor with the kitchen, dining room, living room, an expanded master suite and four terraces all located on this reconfigured top floor. Views to the south, north and especially the west all now abound, all while keeping the profile of the home low and unobtrusive.
“Not only did we actually lower the roof of the home by two feet, garnering good reviews from the Planning and Zoning Commission, but we undertook it as an extensive landscape project as well,” Pynn said about the remodel.
By separating the garage from the entry, creating a sort of “zeroscape” around the property and adding a stone retaining wall and one-of-a-kind water features, the home is now more tied into the landscape. The new landscape layout also functions as a more low-maintenance property and is even more wildland- fire friendly.
Arriving at the home now is definitely more of an experience, as the broad driveway snakes around to reveal a distinctly Idaho and native-looking landscape, designed by Hinckley. Accents of Idaho quartzite offer stunningly thematic horizontal lines that are echoed throughout the exterior and interior of the property. The lower level of the home was transformed as well, now containing a cozy TV room, expanded guest suites, a plush home office and outdoor spaces filled with creative, comfy seating and highlighted by the new lawn and water features.
While before this diamond-in-the-rough served its function as a house, it now serves as a home, all while reflecting the timeless Idaho landscape. Despite increasing the home to four bedrooms and to 6,622-square-feet, the spaces aren’t unnecessarily large; instead, they are useful and comfortable. A TV hides in a custom-made compartment at the foot of the master bed. The cantilevered hearths are extended to offer additional bench seating in the main living room, the master bedroom and guest suites. The second floor’s main terrace holds an enormous, built-in fire pit for both winter and summer use. The materials of the entire space—wood, concrete, rock, stucco, asphalt and steel—make the home feel durable and comfortable.
Long and lean seem to be the most overarching successes of this remodel. From the extended lines of the rock finishes, the steel framework on the interior stairway, the perfectly linedup grain of the wood floor, the horizontal electrical outlets, the custom designed cabinetry and lighting, to the lengthy dining room table and banks of windows allowing for expansive, 360-degree views, no detail was left unnoticed. Mark Pynn is quick to point out that he never takes remodels lightly, hoping to always celebrate the lifestyle, idea and budget of a client. “Choosing to address quality over quantity allows for more attention to detail,” he said about this project that was more about making the house better, rather than making it bigger.
Located in the Sawtooth Valley, an hour or so drive north of Ketchum, this small log cabin was built almost 100 years ago. And, according to builder David Lloyd of Lloyd Construction, not much about the place has changed since. “This remodel started super rough. The cabin itself was probably built sometime in the 1920s and it has pretty much been in the exact same condition since then,” Lloyd said about the cabin that was built with lodgepole pines harvested from the backyard and which still had the tired old drapes from the 1950s hanging in the windows when the work began.
The remodel, which took place over three months in the summer of 2011, had the mission of creating a year-round, comfortable retreat, all while maintaining the historic nature of the cabin. “Something needed to be done in order to keep it from deteriorating,” he continued. “So you might as well do it well.” Thus the construction team embarked on this challenging project, camping out all summer in the Sawtooth Valley.
Very little of the building’s exterior was changed outside of re-chinking the logs. The windows were replaced with more energy efficient ones, but in the same location and using the same framing. The old foundation, complete with large chunks of rocks mixed into the mortar, was left intact. The basement cellar, which was once used to store potatoes and still maintains a consistent temperature throughout all four seasons, was also left in the exact same condition.
A few things stayed the same on the cabin’s interior as well. The original wood floor and structural beams were all left in place; complete with all the dings, dents, and 100 years of wear and tear, touched up only with a darker stain. The original wood-burning stove maintained its spot in the center of the cabin, continuing to provide distinctive charm and classic cabin warmth. All quirks of a time gone by, these details give this otherwise revamped two-bedroom, one-bathroom cabin nestled in the Idaho forest character.
While these quirks were maintained and now exist as highlight features of the cabin, not much else about the interior stayed the same. A glance inside this small and cozy space shows the power of a heartfelt remodel.
Modern additions included new electrical and plumbing, installation of central air, a full drain-down water system for low maintenance and ease, insulation and drywall for four-season use, a modern bathroom and kitchen and countless aesthetic changes that manage to make the space livable and homey, but still fit in with the cabin’s century-old character.
White, bead-board walls feature sloped ceilings, a claw-foot bathtub shines in the brand new bathroom, and custom-made lighting from Ketchum Lighting Company brighten the space in all the right ways. These are just a few of the features that make the space, designed by architect and designer Jim McLaughlin of Ketchum’s McLaughlin & Associates, the perfect, modern forest getaway.
“We embraced the historic nature of the exterior of the cabin,” McLaughlin explained. “But added modern conveniences to the interior to make it really enjoyable to stay there.”