olson sundberg kundig allen architects, seattle

In the high-desert landscape of sagebrush, scorching winds, and boundless sky, a house needs to be “hard on the outside, soft on the inside—like a Tootsie Pop,” says Tom Kundig, FAIA. Designed for an artist, this house is a concrete block bunker, but its interior materials—Carrara marble kitchen counters, reclaimed barn wood, and plaster made from natural clays—are earthy and pleasant to touch. The floor plan lives like a studio, with a single large room combining kitchen, dining, and living areas, and above, a mezzanine bedroom supported by an exposed steel beam. It may be a fortress, but it feels like a glass house. Enormous windows on all sides, some as large as 11 feet wide by 8 feet tall, take in the Idaho horizon. That sense of prospect and refuge extends outdoors, where concrete block walls—11 feet high and twice as long as the house—protect the owner's flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees from the resident deer and antelope.

The contrast delighted the jury. “The allée of trees is so controlled and urban, surrounded by wild grasses and deer,” said one judge. “You can picture a mountain lion roaming around right outside.”

principal in charge / project architect: Tom Kundig, FAIA, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects
project manager: Steven Rainville, AIA, Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects
general contractor: Rick Upham, Upham Construction, Hailey, Idaho
structural engineer: Monte Clark, MCE Structural Consultants, Stevensville, Mont.
project size: 3,686 square feet
site size: 20 acres
construction cost: Withheld
photography: Tim Bies, except where noted.

product specs
bathroom fittings: American Standard; bathroom fixtures: Dornbracht Americas, Hansgrohe; cooktop: Wolf Appliance; dishwasher, oven/range: Miele; doors, windows: Fleetwood Windows & Doors, Rochester Insulated Glass; garage doors: Overhead Door Corp.; garbage disposer: In-Sink-Erator; kitchen fittings: Franke Consumer Products; kitchen fixtures: Dornbracht Americas; lighting fixtures: Hevi Lite; paints/stains/wall finishes: American Clay Enterprises; refrigerator: Sub-Zero