We culled the Mountain West for five dreamy spaces that inspire and delight with their originality, creativity and enduring connection to nature
The Dream: A grand entrance that establishes an immediate sense of warmth and welcome.
Even at 15,000 square feet, this contemporary mountain home in Aspen’s exclusive Star Mesa enclave is warm and approachable from the start. “The stone steps widen as you walk up toward the house, embracing you and welcoming you in,” says architect Charles Cunniffe of Charles Cunniffe Architects. “The large overhang gives a sense of strength and shelter, communicating that this is a safe place to be.” The exterior’s archi-tectural forms and materials palette —showcasing Telluride Gold sandstone—continue indoors, creating a natural flow from outside to inside.
Decorative custom steel doors open into a spacious entry that serves as a casual sitting area. Comfortable chairs cozy up to a gas fireplace set between stone pillars. Linear glass elements, backlit with LED lights, are embedded in the petrified-stone fireplace wall that soars all the way to the Western hemlock wood ceiling. “The key was to make the entry one of the home’s living spaces,” Cunniffe says. “The moment the door opens, you feel welcome, like you could come in and sit right down.” Photography by James Ray Spahn.
The Dream: A classically beautiful form that connects a home’s three levels.
With the help of this dramatic staircase, the journey from a cool subterranean wine cellar to a rooftop veranda is a feast for the eyes. Inspired by the ancient spiral form, California-based architect Scott Rowland designed the staircase to fit into a stone turret. “It has a wonderful, romantic feel and gives you views of beautiful design elements and the home’s interiors on the way up and down,” he says.
The staircase meets the homeowners’ desire for authentic European design and materials. The treads are 17th-century European wood steps, the custom bronze railings were hand-forged and the brick flooring on the landings was reclaimed from an old Spanish monastery. At the very bottom, an exquisite marble mosaic that’s visible from every step grounds the design.
The form functions beautifully too, connecting the lower level’s wine cellar to the main floor’s great room and continuing up another level to a rooftop veranda with extensive mountain views. Small windows set in the wall of the turret allow natural light to filter all the way down. “The staircase provides a consistent design element for all three of the home’s levels and brings a strong sense of verticality,” Rowland says. “It’s like a piece of sculpture.” Photography by Jim Bartsch.
The Dream: A peaceful place to work and contemplate.
Getting away to their rustic log home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, wasn’t always a vacation for these homeowners. When extended family and friends filled the rooms, the owners found themselves in want of their own private retreat. And so they asked architect John Carney of Carney Logan Burke Architects to build a separate sanctuary for them—a place to catch up on work or relax with a book.
“I wanted to pull the addition away from the main house,” Carney says. “The idea is to leave the house and go down a long curved corridor to a much simpler, less active space.”
Carney designed a sleek and spare room that provides a dramatic contrast to the log home’s rustic style. A wall of glass brings in natural light, fresh air and expansive views of the Tetons. Horizontal slot windows frame views of Sleeping Indian Mountain and Wolf Mountain to the east and south.
“A palette of natural materials adds to the calm feeling,” Carney says. “Striated rammed-earth walls on two sides relate to the earthiness of the site and anchor the space” while stained concrete floors and wood elements contrast with a floating copper ceiling. The room is furnished simply with classic modern chairs and a desk by Thierry Lemaire, while a centuries-old stone Buddha watches over all. Photography by Matthew Millman.
The Dream: To sleep under the stars and shower in the sunshine.
A prime location on the shores of Montana’s Flathead Lake inspired architect Arthur Andersson of Andersson-Wise Architects to design a sleeping porch for each bedroom in this vacation home. “Sleeping porches have a transformative quality,” he says. “You can go to sleep listening to owls and water lapping against the shore. And in the daytime, they offer a nice place to sit and read; a transitional space between indoors and outdoors.”
The cantilevered master porch pictured here is sited in such a way that it appears to float above the lake. Andersson kept the materials simple and durable: Western red cedar paneling, Douglas fir framing and screened walls. A wood-burning stove and buffalo robes on the bed make the space habitable even in winter. “This room isn’t about pretense,” the architect says. “It’s all about the connection to nature.”
A giant stack of cordwood creates the anchor wall of the master suite’s outdoor shower. A weathered steel beam supports the showerhead, and water flows onto granite floors and drains into surrounding river rocks. “We broke things down to their elemental presence,” Andersson says. “These rooms allow you to take a deep breath and take in the simplicity and beauty of what’s here.” Photography by Gibeon Photography.
The Dream: To turn everyday exercise into a magical experience.
This mountain home in Park City, Utah, may offer ski-in/ski-out access, but it’s this exquisite lap pool that beckons its owners. Architects Peter Bohlin and Greg Mottola of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson not only met the challenge of building a pool into a steep mountainside, they created the illusion of swimming into the forest. “We talked about how to make the swimming experience magical and powerful,” Bohlin says. “It was obvious to us that we needed to extend the pool toward a grove of aspen, the mountains and a 20-mile downhill view.”
The luminous space is cantilevered over a stream and enclosed in glass on three sides; at the end of the pool, the glass extends below the water’s surface offering underwater views of the forest. “Swimming becomes a rich emotional experience,” Mottola says. “It’s almost like floating in space.”
The architects enhanced this experience with reflective surfaces. A silver band of polished stainless steel shimmers on the ceiling, and sleek steel columns are placed progressively closer together at one end of the space to create a false perspective. Indirect and underwater lighting illuminates the room at night.
The homeowners use the pool not only to exercise but also to commune with nature. “As architects, we try to understand both the nature of a place and how people will use it, and make the connection between the two,” Bohlin says. Photography by Nic Lehoux.