A Modern Take on the Iconic American Farmhouse

The Salt Lake area residential design was inspired by the beautiful site it occupies
Arch Dusk

A family farm connected to the dramatic mountain landscape to the east. Photography by Matt Winquist.


An award-winning modern home, nestled at the base of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, employs a simple gable form to harken to the site’s historical connection while offering a contemporary interpretation of the iconic American farmhouse.

Location: Holladay, Utah
Size: Home is 5,500 sq. ft. | 4 bedrooms, 0.87 Acres


Architecture: Sparano + Mooney Architecture
Interior Design: Kaye Christiansen Englert

Arch Large Room

Spectacular views of the mountains from the living area are enjoyed by guests during the family’s hosted concerts.

Homeowners Neylan McBaine and Eliot Smith hoped for a different look: “Something really unusual,” McBaine offers, for their Utah home. The Brooklyn duo were drawn to the husband-and-wife team of Sparano + Mooney Architecture, whose urban work spoke to Smith’s vision for the build. In the end, the property, a rare green- belt parcel and former horse farm on the east edge of the Salt Lake Valley, inspired much of the design. Pointing toward the granite peaks behind her home, McBaine describes the residence’s result as “true to Utah.”

Architect Anne Sparano explains, “The project connects to the larger design trend of incorporating the history and vernacular of a site with the design of this contemporary farmhouse. It respects the lineage of the place while updating it in a modern way.” Material choices such as the simple massing and horizontal wood siding reference historic barn structures and cladding while the minimal landscaping allows for sweeping views.

The exterior palette was designed to mimic the mountainous forms in the distance: the dark slate-clad gable form resides in sharp contrast to the white linear base. The main level incorporates the public spaces and is punctuated by large openings. The monolithic gable, a common representation of the American farmhouse, provides privacy for the family spaces through smaller openings directed at the surrounding views.

Arch Living

Continuity of flow and open sight-lines were paramount to the design.

For McBaine, the highlight of the design process included the manipulation of a number of 3D models with consideration of how the masses might interact with one another and allow for optimal natural light. Energy modeling, employed early in the design process, to study the solar path and inform the size and location of openings and overhangs, allowed the design team to balance form priorities and maximizes a passive solar design strategy.

Likewise, much attention was given to the positioning of the structure on the site to take advantage of unobstructed views of Mt. Olympus to the east. The great room is oriented to this view for morning sun from the kitchen, dining room and living room.

Arch Stairs

A glass stair rail furthers the sense of flow through the home’s spaces as do sidelights and horizontal panes on the front door. Strong pops of blue connect the front entry to the upstairs and kitchen visually, and accents of cherry offer warmth and depth as applied on the ceiling, stair treads and kitchen island.

The interior was organized around a central guiding principle of providing continuity of space, with the main-level monolithic limestone flooring mirroring this effort. Upstairs, the primary bedroom suite boasts exceptional views of the mountains and access to morning light as the sun rises behind the 9,000-foot mountain peak. A stream bordering the property offers peaceful ambience for sleeping children.

A priority of the design included a balance of public and private spaces. The homeowners and their children come from a strong music background, and this formed the need for a beautiful and acoustically sound music room. A cathedral-like space was created where the lower volume and the upper volume overlap with a large window that provides a direct view to the Wasatch Mountains.

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The light-filled music room features a Steinway grand piano and acoustic treatments of the wall and ceiling.

The music room was carefully located adjacent to this double-height space and the living area so that seating for guests can be accommodated. Sparano explains, “It was important to the client that this space function well for them, but also be available to the music community upon invitation to host events.”

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Sparano + Mooney Architecture offers a representation of the American farmhouse as a simple form clad with a single material that wraps from roof plane to the vertical wall surface for an eye-catching take on functional space.

The spectacular views of the shifting light on the mountains are enjoyed by guests during the family’s hosted concerts and are appreciated daily by the busy family, who performs an orchestra of life within the walls of this modern American farmhouse. One is reminded that nature marks time with light through the seasons in an ever-changing, dramatic opera.

Categories: Contemporary Homes