Remote acreages unsullied by human influence are increasingly popular locales for vacation homes. But how do you homestead them without harming the very qualities you cherish? In the case of this Wyoming getaway, the homeowners minimized their incursions by placing 42 of their 48 riparian acres under conservation easement. To further blunt the blow, Stephen Dynia, AIA, limited construction of the large house to an existing clearing close to the road and away from the nearby Snake River.
The home was intended as a getaway in the near term but must morph eventually into a full-time residence. The program thus encompassed workspaces for the couple, rooms for their daughters, and a guesthouse for visitors. Regional vernacular and majestic views of the Teton Range entered the mix as well. For his Rosetta stone, Dynia looked to local “ranch buildings set in the Western landscape—buildings that have credibility through the patina of aging,” he says.
To break down the bulk of the house and marry it to its site, Dynia assigned space requirements to discreet, contiguous “buildings” contained under a meandering roof line. “The skewed composition conceals the whole square footage. Using ranch buildings as a starting point let us design a lot of pieces that look like they grew on later,” he explains. “The geometric game,” as he describes it, also helped him “capture the mountains' best views and light.”
The game's biggest move played out on the roof. By raising the roof diagonally, he could glaze walls along the north elevation to follow the mountains' topography. The opposite end lifts at the corner to greet the rising sun and track its brightest path, making the most of short winter days. And in a bow to the vernacular and his clients' wishes, Dynia manipulated the massing of the house to produce a roof peak with a compelling angle. “It allowed us to stray from the simplicity of a gabled roof but maintain this form that the owners wanted,” he says.
Changing materials and finishes further diminish the compound's visual impact. Dynia's spec sheet was basic but site-sensitive. Indigenous Montana moss rock provides a tactile counterpoint to the home's oversized copper shingles, rusted corrugated steel roofing, and mahogany siding. “We were fairly conservative so as not to make it look contrived,” he says of the selections. “We felt the sculptural manipulation of the architecture meant we should keep the materials simple.”
Residence with a View, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
stephen dynia architects, Jackson, Wyo.
Tennyson-Ankeny Construction, Jackson
Verdone Landscape Architects, Jackson
9,000 square feet (main house); 1,000 square feet (guesthouse)
$600 per square foot
Paul Warchol Photography, except where noted
the sea inside
“We're not Costco shoppers,” Anne Evans told Eric Haesloop, AIA, and Mary Griffin, FAIA, before they started designing her vacation home. This tidbit of information let Haesloop and Griffin know they didn't need to include tremendous amounts of storage space in the Sea Ranch, Calif., residence.
On a more metaphorical level, Evans' simple statement summed up the philosophy of The Sea Ranch, a predominantly second-home community that hugs the foggy, wild Northern California coastline. The place isn't about grabbing as much property as possible and then building the biggest house you can. It's about tiptoeing on the land, enjoying the enormous expanse of natural beauty it provides without claiming the terrain as your own. “The Sea Ranch guidelines were written to enhance the idea that buildings can coexist with their sites,” Haesloop explains.
He should know. The late founder of his and Griffin's firm, William Turnbull Jr., was one of the design guidelines' chief writers in the 1960s. Haesloop and Griffin have been working on houses at Sea Ranch for years, but they insist it never gets old. “The sites there are very, very different from one another,” Haesloop says. “You really dial in pretty quickly on site-specific responses.” At the Evans house—a weekend retreat for Anne and her husband, Greg—the narrow blufftop lot overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Griffin and Haesloop wanted to take advantage of water views, of course, but if they pushed the house to the western edge of its site, it would end up too close for comfort to its neighbors on either side.
So they pulled it back from the coastline, separating it into two buildings—one containing the public areas and guest bedrooms and one for the master bedroom. “Mary and I have been experimenting with the idea that the landscape can flow through the site,” Haesloop explains. “By pulling it apart, we're framing the view.” Because vacation houses are, by nature, more casual than full-time residences, the independent master bedroom seems more of an asset than an imposition; it becomes an excuse to go outside. “Instead of walking down a hallway, you get to walk down the coastline,” Haesloop says. He and Griffin placed the two buildings ever so carefully, ensuring that each window looks onto a tree, a meadow, or the water, rather than another house.
They designed a smaller, more open kitchen than they would for a main residence, dropping it right in between the living room and the bay-windowed dining alcove. “Oftentimes we'd put a kitchen closer to the back of the house or to the door, but again, it's a vacation house,” Haesloop says. “We put it down near the view, so people can linger and hang out. It doesn't have acres of pantry space—it's all very direct.” This arrangement, as well as the rest of the house, grounds the Evans' exhilarating experience of the rugged Sea Ranch environment.
Evans House, Sea Ranch, Calif.
Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, Berkeley, Calif.
Timothy Carpenter General Contractor, Sea Ranch
1,675 square feet