AS A REFUGE FOR RUSTICATORS OVER THE PAST CENTURY, Jackson Hole is populated with an eclectic array of log cabins, reclaimed timber structures, renovated barns, funky alternative dwellings and Modernist glass aeries. All are fitting expressions — each in its own way — of the Western experience, and an appropriate response to one of the world’s most iconic mountian settings. Indeed it is almost impossible to build in the area without the scenery constituting one of the most important voices in the dialogue.
But it is a dialogue, one that takes place between the designers, the owners and the setting. And the most successful architecture — appropriate, original, beautiful and soulful — gives equal weight to all three constituents. It occupies that space where scenery offers inspiration and regionalism provides the palette, but where form and function marry in an original and personal vision.
JLF Architects are masters of regional vernacular expression, known for original place-based architecture imbued with a sense of permanence and handcraftedness. Wyoming-based interior designer Tayloe Piggott works closely with clients throughout an intensive process whose end result is a home that reflects their personality, lifestyle and needs. According to Piggott and JLF’s Paul Bertelli, a new home on an elevated site with spectacular views was the direct result of a harmonious meeting of sensibilities. The clients had a distinct vision to articulate, but they also let themselves be guided by the design professionals. The result was a process through which all parties were stretched to consider new approaches. As a team, the group created a home that serves its purpose perfectly as a vacation retreat for a frequently relocating dual-career British-American family. Ultimately, it will readily adapt to become the family’s full-time residence.
The clients were relatively new to Jackson Hole, but fell hard for it on their first visit. Once they found their perfect property — one that extends from sagebrush flats to timbered foothills and is favored by moose and elk — it didn’t take them long to alight on the work of JLF Architects. They loved the work they saw and knew that a JLF home would be carefully crafted, built to last and designed for them in a very personal way.
The clients were living in England during the design process. There they had been strongly influenced by the serene solidity of 18th- and 19th-century stone farm buildings found throughout the Cotswold Hills. The concept, explains Bertelli, was to build a more compact house with a Modernist take and less obvious Western detailing that takes full advantage of the scenery. The result, he says, “is not ornate or grand in any way, but it has spectacular views. The inspiration for all the stone came from that vision [of homes in the Cotswolds]. Normally we might add more Western typography, but the all-stone building was built out of that sensibility, and the clients’ relationship with England.”
The three-story home is built into the hillside and oriented toward a panorama of the Tetons. Conceived as two structural masses with a glass dining room serving as the functional connective element, it is simultaneously rustic and modern. It is rugged enough to stand up to the site and the weather, simple enough to not compete with the views, and cleverly incorporates Modernist elements: large, unbroken expanses of glass; a metal roof; clean lines; minimal decorative details; and a stunning glass staircase. The staircase makes a dramatic sculptural statement; it also serves as a lightwell for the entire structure, carrying sunlight from the skylight above to the boys’ rooms on the lowest floor.
Explains the homeowner: “The original vision was to have something timeless that wouldn’t date itself over the next few decades. We wanted rustic but modern. Something very much in keeping with Jackson and the surroundings that would blend the views and the look and feel of the property. We wanted stone, a lot of glass to take advantage of the views, and old wood — oak, not cherry.”
The striking staircase acts as a lightwell, drawing light from the skylight above to the lower floors.
The goal, says Bertelli, was “to bring a different contrasting edge to the regional context.”
Rooms are kept simple with stone walls, wood ceilings and floors. The owners chose modern-leaning and unfussy furniture, and airy light fixtures. According to designer Tayloe Piggott, the clients brought much to the conversation in terms of an interior palette, again influenced by their personal history in English country houses. Fabrics that pop — such as bold, large-scale florals on wing chairs by the fireplace — inject life, color and an unexpected playfulness into living spaces. The kitchen and bathrooms, designed by JLF Architects, display the most contemporary expressions — in cabinets and fixtures, and, in the sleek-surfaced kitchen, a stunning glass tile backsplash — offset by rustic ceilings.
The interiors have verve, but they also show restraint. Says Piggott, “I really believe less is more in a home such as this, because the beautiful architecture is the voice that wants to be heard in the home.”
For the architects, says Bertelli, “This was an exciting project. We were challenged to go in a different direction and didn’t know how far we could take it. The clients said, ‘Show us what’s possible.’ In that environment, you’re more relaxed and more willing to take risks. Their motivation was their love of the place and their love of their boys, and the desire for a place for sanctuary and respite. A lot of people are motivated by different things, but they were driven by a respect for the West and a respect for the area.”
The house is beautiful, and respectful of the environment. But the proof is in the function, in the way the home meets the needs of its occupants. In this regard it is beyond successful.
“It is a place we adore being in and living life in,” says the homeowner, “and ultimately it will be our primary residence. Waking up to the Grand in the mornings is a source of perpetual delight. We enjoy sharing the home with friends and family and seeing their wonder at this part of the world. It is a wonderful base to enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer in the West, and a destination we all look forward to coming back to.”
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