A Modern Scandi-Style Home in Utah
A bold interplay of natural materials defines this simple, hand-built home
Photography by Welch Studio
When homeowner Melody Brown Welch toured Europe with her musical siblings, the 5 Browns, she remembers being enchanted by the architecture of the churches and concert halls in which they performed. But she was especially captivated by the simple, modern Scandinavian style—especially the farmhouses and dairy barns.
The home blends seamlessly into the rural Utah landscape.
Her interest was rekindled when she and her general contractor and urban planner husband, Casey, traveled to Finland. “We immediately agreed that the home we were planning would be modeled on the Scandinavian farmhouse,” Melody recalls. “Very clean lines. Not a lot of frills. Not much ornamentation.”
Rustic wood and the old-fashioned stovepipe range hood give a homespun touch to the home’s Scandinavian-inspired simple and minimalist look.
They returned to the town of Eden in Utah’s Ogden Valley and began working on their dream—a 2,225-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath home. The project took a year and a half and was, says Melody, “a labor of love.” They did most of the work themselves, including carpentry and painting, running lines for the ductless HVAC system and installing tubing for the radiant hydronic floors.
Deliberately “mismatched” chairs (some cozied-up with sheepskin throws) give the dining area of the open-plan home a casual air.
The most ambitious and out-of-the-box project was the concrete hot tub on the back patio and the interior concrete tub in the master. Both are deep—inspired by the soaking tubs found in Japan’s country onsens. “We poured them when we poured our footings,” says Melody. In addition to being insulated and sturdy, the tub does not need to be covered. “Sitting in the tub at night … soaking and looking at the incredible stars is the most awe-inspiring thing to do,” she adds.
Honey-colored wood warms the sleek white kitchen.
Natural light and the views were also paramount. The lot backs to a fork of the Ogden River and has dramatic views of the massive Wasatch Mountains. Big windows and a glass garage door bring the outdoors inside in the summertime. But the design was nearly blocked by the planning commission. The valley’s record snowfalls and cold temperatures concerned the commission, which opined that a concrete-and-glass house would simply be too cold in winter. To comply with the commission’s directive, the Welches added a ductless European air exchange system—but, with radiant heat in the floors and passive solar from the windows, they have rarely had to use it.
A sink-into sofa combines modern lines with down-home comfort.
The Ogden Valley, touted as Utah’s next Park City, is home to three powder-rich but still relatively undiscovered ski areas (Snowbasin Resort, Summit Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley Ski Resort) all within 20 minutes of Eden. Casey grew up skiing in Utah and gradually introduced Melody to the sport after they married. She was not athletic, having spent her life invested in music—including studying at Julliard. Eventually she became an enthusiastic skier who now looks forward to blue-sky powder days just a short drive from her home.
The homeowners’ well-developed design sense is evident in the living room’s congenial juxtaposition of modern and vintage pieces. The sliding barn door is made from wood left over from the exterior siding. Pendant light fixtures offer a modern touch.
The open-plan home’s décor is dictated by a sense of place but also by the couple’s keen interest in Western literature (Wallace Stegner, Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams) and cowboy lore. The enormous Clint Eastwood photo in the laundry corridor is an example. The image captures Eastwood while he was acting in a Western but was taken behind the scenes. “He’s holding a camera, not a gun,” says Melody. “That’s what I like about it.”
To take advantage of epic mountain-and-meadow views, the homeowners installed a glass garage door that, in summer, opens to the patio and hot tub.
Other unique design elements include an interior sliding barn door made from the same reclaimed wood as the exterior siding, door handles capped with copper pipe fittings, a range hood inspired by an old-fashioned stovepipe and a wooden sink in the small powder room that is an antique bread-kneading bowl. The Welches were originally thinking of applying a sealant before turning it into a sink, but all those years of absorbing butter, flour and yeast have made it naturally waterproof.
A reproduction of Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” hangs in the master bedroom, providing an unexpected touch.
A handmade wooden ladder serves as a towel rack in the cement-and-tile master bath. The Japanese soaking tub invites relaxation.
In the winter, the watercolor vistas sparkle with newly fallen snow. In the summer, the wildflowers give the landscape a western wilderness feel reminiscent of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. Winter or summer, the Welches’ favorite time is any dark-sky night when the air is still—perfect for relaxing in the hot tub under the low-hanging stars.
The elongated shape of the bread-kneading-bowl sink in the powder room is repeated in the ogee-arched mirror.
MOUNTAIN FARMHOUSE DESIGN TIPS
KEEP IT SIMPLE AND SERENE Don’t add unnecessary frills or ornamentation, don’t overdecorate. USE NATURAL AND RAW MATERIALS like concrete, wood, marble and leather in an homage to mountain farm style but with more refinement. BREAK UP WITH THE OLD-SCHOOL FEEL with well-designed modern lighting—for ambience and tasks. BRING THE OUTDOORS IN with big windows and door systems like the large, glass garage door in this home. FOR PASSIVE SOLAR, design your windows and roofline so that the sun is coming directly in during winter, and obliquely in summer.
Fearlessly mixing design styles, the homeowner hung a scrollwork mirror over the bed.
INTERIOR DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION Welch Studio
As seen in the August 2019 issue