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"Sun Valley Splendor"

September 2005, Luxury Log & Timber Homes


Timber Frame HomeOne family, living in southern California most of the year, has made this leisure home a year-round draw with a host of creature comforts and outstanding good looks.

A few years back, the owner purchased the acre property with an existing house that did not suit the family's needs. The question was: Could it be adapted for current use with just a few modifications or extensions? The challenge was given to Sun Valley / Ketchum architect Stephen D. Pruitt, who began working on the plans.

The existing house was awkwardly sited and didn't take full advantage of the sunshine or views, says Steve. Furthermore, the new owner wanted a much-expanded great room, an exercise room, and a number of amenities for both family and friends. When all the stipulations were set out, ideas flew back and forth between owner and architect. A local builder, Brian Poster, was called in and more options were discussed. The result was a gut renovation, says Brian, with the addition of 2,000 square feet of living space.

Pruitt's plans called for a new great room to sit at an angle from the main entrance, where its vast windows provide a view of the valleys landmark, Baldy Mountain. In this airy space, a dining table and chairs occupy a glass and wood bay that provides views of the spectacular scenery year round.

For the strong imposing lines of the new exterior, PrecisionCraft Log Structures supplied exceptionally large posts and trusses of #1 Douglas fir. Utah sandstone used on piers beneath the heaviest posts blends harmoniously with the hand-scribed wood surfaces. The same sandstone adds color to other wall areas and a patio surround. Precision Craft, which prides itself on its special attention to timber grading, uses both kiln and air drying procedures to optimize the integrity of their products.

Harvested from forests in the northwest United States and British Columbia (a region with ideal climate, soil, and temperature conditions), Douglas fir is noted for flexibility and dimensional stability. The cell structure of its long, uniform fibers results in a high strength-to-weight ratio. In Sun Valleys bright, clear setting, the architects design of dark-stained fir and optimally spaced windows gives the house enormous visual appeal.

Completed in 2004, the three-level home combines the openness of contemporary western Americana with the rustic elegance of a grand Tuscan villa. A number of elements contribute to its striking appearance. Most wood surfaces, indoors and out, have an appropriately distressed finish that calls to mind the early frontier days of this part of Idaho. (Ketchum was a thriving silver mining town in the 1880s, and then virtually died out until its rebirth in 1936, when the Union Pacific Railroad established the country's first destination ski resort and called it Sun Valley.) Besides timber, glass, and stone, portions of the exterior have the traditional look of square-cut logs and chinking.

On the foundation level, new ground was opened up for a sizable exercise room, provided with rubber mat flooring. A temperature-controlled wine cellar holds the owners considerable collection of vintage bottles. A well-equipped game room featuring built-in cabinetry adjoins a large TV and recreation room with a 1950s diner booth and bar for grown-ups and a soda fountain that produces treats for the youngsters. Great care went into organizing spaces for specific functions-for example, an alcove for video and stereo storage and equipment adjoins the custom-built playing units.

Soundproof walls separate the TV room from a guest bedroom area that includes a carpeted wardrobe and a bathroom with tiled shower. French doors in this bedroom open to an outdoor stairway that rises to the main level. Interior designer Cynthia Mennella lent her expertise to every level.

Timber Frame HomeFor starters, the main entrance offers hospitality in traditional style. Beveled glass inserts flank double doors of alder, with ornamental lanterns hung on adjacent stone walls. Inside, the entry was treated with meticulous care by Robert De Signore, a local artisan who specializes in plaster and wood finishes. A technique learned in Italy, stucco veneziano, was applied to the foyer wall as a series of extremely thin plaster applications. The result is a subtly toned surface in the builder's words, as smooth as glass. Even the hardware in this well-crafted house was given appropriate patinas to meet the high aesthetic standards set as the beginning of the project.

By putting the new great room on a diagonal from the entry, a number of interestingly angled room shapes were created. A pentagonal powder room glows with a marble-like wall surface containing glints of gold. To the right, a room y bar area with custom-designed counter and built-in cabinets leads to the striking great room with its distinctive series of trusses. Metal collars on beam ends were hand-finished to harmonize with the scribed wood members. At night, concealed lighting in the trusses casts a glow on the handsomely furnished space.

A masonry fireplace with a mahogany mantel was accented with a carved lions head on each side. A long granite hearth bench offers warm fireside seating. In the no-detail-forgotten department, there's a decorative niche to hold stacks of firewood.

In this family-oriented home, the centrally placed kitchen and adjoining family room form a main focus. Equipped for frequent entertaining, the kitchen has two islands for food preparation, one with an extra sink for cleaning vegetables. A local cabinetmaker, Ketchum Kustom, provided units of alder in a tone that harmonizes with the planked walnut floors. Thick granite counter tops with rounded edges and a copper range hood add dramatic accents.

The contiguous family room holds plenty of sit-down eating space, including built-in benches. A pizza oven highlights one wall. Outside, via a Dutch door, there's a sun-filled patio facing southwest to the mountains (a sturdy pergola offers shade). Its main attraction is a 10-by-10 foot hot tub that arrived during construction, completely pre-tiled, and was simply lowered by crane into its designated space. There's also a barbecue grill for outdoor festivities.

The main-level layout includes an ample pantry, a laundry room, and a mud room leading to a three-car garage. There's also an office that is easily transformed into a guest bedroom. Up the oak staircase, a luxurious master bedroom suite features a private deck and a carpeted wardrobe space enhanced by mirrored doors framed in birds-eye maple. Overhead, a skylight provides a benefit any homeowner might appreciate: a clear view of ones daylight appearance. A bathroom with a heated marble floor has room for a steam shower, separate sinks, a dressing table, and a bathtub placed for mountain views.

In most rooms, walls were given a warm sand-colored finish that stimulates stone aggregate and contrasts well with the varied wood tones. Three other bedrooms and bathrooms occupy this level, two designed for the family's young children. Twin trundle beds highlight the girls room while the cowboy-themed boys room has queen-sized bunk beds.

In a climate that ranges from an average 78-degrees in summer to 23 degrees in winter, heat and air-conditioning controls were prime considerations. Forced-air heat, a ductwork system, and a roof of heavy cedar shakes plus state-of-the-art insulation keep the house optimally heated and cooled. Pella low-E windows were installed throughout. Under the driveway, a heating system ensures accessibility even with heavy snows a marked convenience in a region where snowfall can total 150 inches in a season.

Sitting at an elevation of 5,700 feet, this Sun Valley leisure home seems to embody every modern comfort while exuding a cool elegance that fits into its mountain setting. Family vacations are always a much anticipated pleasure, and this well-positioned home looks ready to multiply those pleasures with each passing year.