This Jackson Home Underwent an Artful Transformation
From tired log home to art showplace
Photos by Audrey Hall
Like many artists, the owners of this Jackson Hole home have the ability to see beauty and meaning in places others might overlook. He can spot it in the gnarled scrap of wood he’ll transform into a polished vessel. She finds it in the everyday objects, from newspapers to paper bags, she makes into striking sculptures.
So while other potential buyers looked at this cabin in Jackson’s John Dodge neighborhood and saw dated walls of yellow logs and worn wooden floors, these visionary prospective buyers considered what its simple floor plan, abundant natural light and spectacular views could become: a gallery for their extensive collection of art and custom furnishings.
The home’s exterior logs were glass-blasted to remove layers of yellowed varnish, then stained with a muted blue-gray finish that complements the limestone paving.
The homeowners and their design team—principal architect John Carney, project architect Matt Thackray and interior designer Sarah Kennedy of Jackson-based Carney Logan Burke Architects, assisted by Nanette Mattei of Nanette Mattei Design—understood the challenges of working toward a contemporary result from rustic roots. Fortunately they had a couple of big advantages: First, they knew the furnishings and artwork the new living spaces would need to accommodate. “I often have no idea what clients’ furnishings will look like until they take them out of storage on move-in day,” Kennedy says. “But in this case, we were able to see specific pieces during the early concept meetings, and they influenced every discussion of material and color palettes thereafter.” The second advantage was the property’s log guesthouse, which functioned as an on-site laboratory in which they could experiment with various finishes and fixtures before making changes to the main house.
The guest room’s bed on wheels is from Nanette Mattei Designs. The artwork above the headboard is by Phoenix artist John Dawson.
The kitchen’s backsplash wall and countertops display artwork, including a bust the homeowner covered with more than 2,000 tiny white pills.
As luck would have it, the biggest changes were relatively simple architectural fixes. The design team gutted the inefficient and dark master suite, simplifying the access from the main living space and transforming a window into a wall of glass. Next, they expanded the adjacent bathroom by removing a drop ceiling, installing floor-to-ceiling windows, and cladding the walls and floors with crisp white subway tile.
Bar stools designed by Terry Hunziker for Sutherland Furniture pull up to the kitchen’s butcher-block-topped island.
Though the kitchen’s L-shaped configuration was efficient, there was no saving the room’s old yellow pine cabinetry, which was replaced with custom-made, quarter-sawn white oak cabinets and an island that combines a functional butcher-block top with waterfall edges of white engineered quartz. The living room received an equally modern update when its hulking moss-rock fireplace was replaced with a streamlined gas version, its flue concealed by plaster walls. That decision inspired the design team to conceal a few more log walls with drywall, creating clean backdrops for prized pieces of art. “We covered the walls only up to a certain height,” Carney explains. “The exposed logs rising above the plastered surfaces tell the story of what the house once was.”
A plastered wall highlights an installation of newspapers the homeowner collected during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Living room furnishings, including a Kravet sectional sofa upholstered in a comfortable woven fabric, are oriented toward the streamlined gas fireplace and views of the Tetons. The homeowner designed the fireplace wall’s lightweight, gilded paper-bag sculpture to appear massive.
In the living room, an alcove accommodates a large antique Japanese tansu chest. To its right hangs a painting the homeowners discovered at an antique store in Petaluma, California. The blue strip along the top reveals the paint’s original color, which a frame protected from years of grime and smoke.
The most dramatic change resulted from a simple coat of paint. After a long process of deliberation, in which one of the guesthouse’s log walls was striped with dozens of stains, paints, lacquers and washes in hues ranging from white to black, the team selected an alabaster-white lacquer to brighten every inch of the interior. Because the homeowners wanted to preserve the imperfections of the logs—“every crack, knot and nail,” Kennedy says—the finish was applied with a spray gun, “which delivers a much thinner layer than a brush or roller, in a fraction of the time.”
To ground all that lightness, the team gave the home’s wide-plank, circle-sawn Douglas fir floors a new ebony finish. “Douglas fir is such a hard one to beat the red out of,” Kennedy explains. “A dark color does the job most readily while also concealing worn spots.”
The office walls display prized paintings; the streamlined desk was custom-made.
The bookshelves are filled with turned-wood vessels made by the homeowner.
By respecting and reimagining the home’s original finishes rather than replacing them, the design team created spaces that artfully bridge the gap between a rustic cabin and a contemporary gallery. In the end, the home feels true both to its owners and to Jackson Hole—revealing all the beauty and potential this farsighted/imaginative couple had recognized right from the start.
The master bathroom’s new floor-to-ceiling windows take full advantage of a prized view of the Grand Teton. The homeowner saved log ends that were sawed off during the renovation and repurposed them as sculptural stools.
A cantilevered vanity with PentalQuartz countertop and mirrors with integrated lighting give the bathroom a streamlined style.
Hershberger Design created a landscape that provides easy transitions from the structure to its natural surroundings.
Native plants soften the property’s man-made structures.
Here, interior designer Sarah Kennedy shares the finish options her team considered for this project and the pros and cons of each.
Lacquer Pros: A sprayed application is easy, efficient and offers consistent, smooth coverage in one coat, so each log’s unique imperfections, cracks and knots remain visible.
Lacquer Cons: This option requires lots of preparation—the room needs to be airtight and free of any dust—which can be time-intensive and expensive. Surfaces coated with a colored lacquer will show more scuffmarks too.
Stain Pros: The clear finish maintains the character of each log and can be easily manipulated to achieve the desired color or opacity. An ebony stain covers imperfections, color inconsistencies, difficult-to-hide red wood tones and, if used on floors, board variations.
Stain Cons: Depending on the species of wood, a stain will take differently to each log, making it difficult to achieve a consistent look.
Whitewash Pros: It effectively lightens logs without covering the character and grain of the wood.
Whitewash Cons: The slightest color variation among logs can create a mismatched look, and red wood tones turn pink. Dirt and dark animal hair have no place to hide.