Spotlight on Idaho

Expert Q&A's from this high-country destination
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Photo courtesy of Edgewood Log Homes

Like many mountain communities throughout the west, Idaho resort towns are experiencing an influx of residents seeking to live among its natural beauty and to enjoy the ease of living.

From Sun Valley to Coeur d’Alene, homeowners are keeping design communities busy with projects ranging from home renovations to new-build designs, inspired by Idaho’s landscape, with styles ranging from minimalist to traditional.

For visitors looking to explore the state, eastern Idaho is home to River Retreat Lodge, a favorite destination for fly fishing enthusiasts due to its proximity to the south fork of the Snake River.

Or, for a Sun Valley experience, the 2021 Sun Valley Wine Auction in July is not only one of the most popular social events of the season, it also supports the Sun Valley Museum of Art.

Here, we highlight some of Idaho’s leaders that are redefining luxury in mountain living.


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Meet Jennifer Hoey Smith and the award-winning team at Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, who harmoniously combine creative expertise, innovative design concepts and strong business sense to achieve stunning results for their clients.

What, in your opinion, is the difference between good design and great design?

Good design is thoughtful and practical. Great design is innovative, functional and beautiful- all tied up into one clean package.

How do you work with clients to achieve your inimitable results?

No two projects or clients are the same. We challenge ourselves to always do something new- to create something distinctive for each and every client. Our team takes a holistic approach to each project, ensuring all aspects of the process integrate harmoniously. We value creative collaboration not only with our clients, but with the team of experts (architects, contractors, landscape designers, etc.) that help us bring our clients’ vision to fruition.

Tell us about a recent design challenge.

We recently worked with a couple who wanted to create a lakeside home with a rustic mountain retreat vibe. To combine those two distinct aesthetics, we began, as we do many of our projects, with a foundation of stone, reclaimed wood and steel, then layered in textures and shades in a moody, woodsy palette along with nautical touches such as rope-wrapped pendants and pulls. The result was fresh, beautiful space, a perfect backdrop for our clients’ active lifestyle.

Jennifer Hoey, Interior Designer
208.726.1561 |
Ketchum, Idaho


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Meet Mark de Reus, founding partner of de Reus Architects, Architectural Digest’s Top 100 Architects and Designers in 2010, whose boutique design firm encourages an enduring design approach with an appreciation for innovation and well-crafted architecture.

Your firm has offices in Hawaii and Sun Valley, Idaho. What are some of the common elements between projects?

I would have to say rather than a common “element” per se, is a common approach between projects. This approach starts with finding design solutions free from formulaic thinking. Common qualitative results do arise with consistency of this first-principles approach from project to project over the years with discovering what the land and location, the light and wind, the views and livability, the nature of natural materials will reveal and influence in the design. This approach is reliable for discovery of unique and project specific design — whether in the tropics, mountain regions or an urban setting.

You mention that your work is a balance between order and surprise. Tell us more!

This order and surprise you speak of are really about artistic tension and curiosity. I find that playing asymmetries off a structured formal symmetry can create this tension and a richer texture to the design. Much the same way sequencing open spaces and buildings into axial, sometimes episodic points of discovery create a richer experience…the structured and the fluid. Let curiosity lead the way.

What defines a spectacular result in your opinion?

For me a spectacular outcome is when the result, the ‘story’ of the design unfolds intelligently and unpredictably; when the buildings feel appropriate to location and connected to the land; when harmony in the overall 3D composition has been achieved and the landscape and architecture merge into one; when the beauty of natural materials and craftsmanship contribute to the atmosphere of the design; and maybe lastly, when the livability of the home or resort is effortless… and feels like slipping on a well-fitting glove.

Mark de Reus, Partner
208-928-7750 |
Sun Valley, Idaho


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For more than 40 years, Edgewood Log Homes has been designing and building luxury custom log homes for a discriminating clientele. Check out what owner Brian Schafer has to say about their cutting edge, off-grid Sanctuary Home line.

Edgewood Log Homes has a long history in Idaho. How has your firm evolved?

Over time Edgewood has progressed from a small log home producer in the early 1980’s, to a major player in the log and timber world. The key to success is sophisticated adaptation to changing economic conditions and the early adoption of new technology.

We’re excited about your new Sanctuary line of homes. What inspired them?

Our clients. Edgewood is sought out to design and build homes for families that have been dreaming and planning their forever home- their Sanctuary. As daily lives have been disrupted by technology, media, and ease of access, this desire has increased, and the pandemic has only heightened the urgency. Clients are seeking independence from the mainstream, while looking for a higher level of self-reliance and security.

In the testimonials on your website, homeowners rave about working with you. Tell us about your integrated approach to the client experience.

The backbone of a superior client experience with Edgewood are two things; design focus and the freedom of craft. Clients sometimes spend years with us working through their projects, often finding Edgewood before they even have land picked out. You really get to know someone in that amount of time. When people build a Sanctuary Home with us, it is forever, and so are Edgewood’s clients.

In your video, you reveal your passion for finding the perfect tree. Tell us about the artistic process that goes into crafting the logs for your homes.

A creative approach to accessing fine materials through the Small Timber Salvage Program and Land Trusts allows us to find truly rare and one-of-a-kind timbers. This affords Edgewood an unprecedented selection of mature logs that have ultimately reached the end of their lives and will now live on as key and dominant elements in a Sanctuary Home.

Brian Schafer, Owner, Founder
208-634-0055 |
McCall, Idaho


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Meet Gail Severn, wise and lovely owner of Gail Severn Gallery, whose world class gallery is a shining gem that has been rocking the Sun Valley art scene for nearly 5 decades.

This year marks the Gallery’s 45th anniversary. Congratulations! To what do you attribute your longevity?

My mother and father taught me that to succeed you have to give your passions your all. I believe in working hard and never giving up; in never listening to people who say ‘no, it cannot be done’, or ‘there is not an audience’; in not being afraid to take risks. Over the years my team and I have worked hard to nurture a unique and rich environment that fosters long term relationships with artists, staff and a loyal following of discriminating clients.

Your gallery features a diverse cross section of art and artists. What can people expect when they visit your gallery?

The caliber of art that is presented in our gallery is exceptional. We offer a breadth of variety that is beyond typical mountain town local and regional fare. We support an expansive range of artists, from new emergent talent to internationally renowned artists, working in all media- from painting and photography to textiles, glass, sculpture and more.

In addition to your 11,000 square foot gallery, your space includes a 2 acre outdoor sculpture garden. Tell us more!

I’ve beenan avid gardener my whole life and wanted to offer visitors the opportunity to experience art in a natural setting; to see work of all scales and visualize new ways of living with art, outside of the pristine white walls of the gallery.

From an art afficianado’s perspective, what sets Sun Valley apart from other mountain communities?

The visual arts and the performing arts in Sun Valley present art of the highest caliber most often found in large metropolitan cities. The community here supports the richness of the creative spirit and is not afraid to bring the very best the world has to offer.

Gail Severn, Owner
208-726-5079 | |
Ketchum – Sun Valley, Idaho


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The Picket Fence Interior Design Studio is a full-service interior design firm with a seamless process that makes the design experience effortless for clients. Their young, dynamic team is dedicated to creating inspiring spaces that you can’t wait to come home to.

Customers may recognize your name from the iconic home goods retail store in Ketchum. How did The Picket Fence Interior Design evolve from the retail space?

We had been doing small and large-scale interiors projects quietly for our customers for years, but not many people in the community knew we offered those services. So in 2018, we opened up a separate office that focused solely on new construction and remodel projects. In just a brief amount of time, we have established ourselves as one of the leading design firms in our area.

Does your firm have a signature style? Please describe it for us.

We are known for our fresh, bright interiors and our mountain transitional style, a softer aesthetic than the normal “Mountain Modern” look that is so prevalent in our area. Our ability to mix traditional elements alongside modern and rustic architecture has become our signature.

How does your firm’s design style reflect Sun Valley’s mountain aesthetic and lifestyle?

We ensure that everything we use in a client’s home will stand up to their lifestyle. Sun Valley is known for its outdoor activities; our clients love to play hard. We want them to enjoy that lifestyle without compromising on style. We embrace natural materials whenever possible because of their timeless qualities and durability, and we use performance textiles that offer our clients a lighter palette, where form and function walk hand-in-hand.

Erika Blank, Principal Designer
208-806-2900 |
Ketchum, Idaho


Farmer Payne Architects Avalanche Chalet Living2

The design team at Farmer Payne Architects masterfully balances the fundamentals of design with quality, simplicity and personal collaboration resulting in thoughtfully designed spaces that enrich the lives of their clients.

What is at the core of Farmer Payne’s philosophy?

Our approach is catered to the client and their experience working with us. It is an honor to design someone’s dream home and we are passionate about creating special places; these two factors drive our work ethic, creativity, and inspiration. Clients feel the difference working with us as the process is personal – inspiring!

How do Farmer Payne’s designs fit into the Sun Valley vernacular?

We have had the opportunity to push the envelope and create timeless designs that stand out in the community. The materials speak to the surrounding landscape, while the forms elevate the idea of mountain living.

Tell us about the creation process you use to help clients achieve their dream home.

We take a panoramic approach to the design process. Working through the phases of design, we use multiple tools to help meet the needs of our clients and showcase their vision. We are highly creative in the beginning, utilizing imagery, hand sketches, different forms material boards, as well as cutting edge technology. With every meeting we learn more about our clients and how we can enhance their lives with the spaces we create.

Jamie Farmer, Principal, Scott Payne, Principal
208-214-5155 |
Ketchum, Idaho


Spring At The Lodge

Meet John and Elizabeth Douville, owners of the River Retreat Lodge, a cozy getaway located in the heart of the scenic Swan Valley, home of endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.

The property which you have transformed into River Retreat Lodge has a long history in the Swan Valley. How did you come to acquire it?

We always dreamed of owning a lodge. After an exhaustive search spanning eight states, a property formerly called the Old Irwin Inn, located just half a mile from our home, became available. Who knew we would find our dream lodge right in our own backyard?

When guests book a getaway at your lodge, what sort of amenities and activities can they look forward to?

We offer our guests a home-away-from-home experience with a little extra pampering. Our six comfortable suites, each uniquely designed, offer amenities like lofts, outdoor patios, gas fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs. In the dining room, our five star chef prepares farm-totable fresh breakfasts each morning and gourmet dinners every evening.

River Retreat Lodge provides easy access to the best adventures the outdoors can offer. We are ideally located on the south fork of the Snake River, home to some of the best fly-fishing in the United States. Book an adventure with an experienced guide, rent a boat or watercraft at Palisade Reservoir, or take a scenic hike at Palisade Creek and Rainey Creek hiking areas.

John and Elizabeth Douville, Innkeeper
877-787-5634 |
Irwin, Idaho


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With over 35 years in landscape construction and maintenance in the Wood River Valley, Native Evergreen brings an industry-unique level of passion, expertise, and care to every project.

What makes the team at Native Evergreen stand out from the competition?

Our people. We believe in creating a work environment that allows our employees to thrive, and in supporting our staff in having a high quality of life. While we have high expectations for our employees, we back that expectation with top-down support from our project management and internal staff. In addition, every project we do is carefully supported by our entire team so that we can ensure a successful outcome for our clients. The core of our business model is the idea that we bring value to those we serve and that we enjoy the process of doing that.

Tell us about a project you’ve recently completed.

We’re currently working on a major renovation of a property where we have been working for approximately 16 years. Originally installed as a truly native, low water usage property, the site recently changed owners and is being rebuilt to include more indoor and outdoor living space for a larger family. When finished it will once again be an example of a native landscape that is uniquely designed to consume less water than many sites considerably smaller.

Mark Spencer
208-578-2200 |
Ketchum, Idaho


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The experienced team at Natural Element Homes doesn’t just provide great log, timber frame and hybrid homes. They are a “one stop shop” that provides an unmatched experience in planning, designing and facilitating the building of your dream home.

The home-building industry is currently experiencing an incredible boom. What resources do you have available for homeowners who are ready to build right now?

This is true, especially in resort towns like Sun Valley. We know builders and architects who are taking reservations for residential construction for 2024. Our company has an incredibly experienced and talented staff (most of whom have been with the company thirty years or more) that has the ability to develop plans quickly. In fact, we are committed to turning the first draft of plans around in 20 working days. And typically we can provide the dryshell material within 45 days after final approval of plans.

You have thousands of home plans in your archives. Do you offer custom options as well?

We have a vast archive of wonderful plans in our easy-to-navigate media gallery which are a great starting point for someone trying to visualize their dream home, all of which can be customized with a professional in our virtual design center. We can also develop plans from scratch. Many magnificent plans have started as pencil lines on a napkin. We are very flexible relative to design and materials – log homes, hybrid homes, true timber frame homes- all are well within our experience and expertise.

Ed Elliott, Design/Building Consultant for the Northwest
208-630-4454 | 800-970-2224 |
McCall, Idaho


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Photo by Mike Schirf

For over four decades award-winning architectural design firm RLB Architectura has been putting their passion for design, strong work ethic, and a deep appreciation for the natural environment into action in the Sun Valley area.

RLB Architectura has an impressive tenure in the Sun Valley area. What sets your firm apart from other architecture firms?

We take pride in being a service-oriented firm, working hand in hand with our clients from day one. Our firm’s diverse combination of design talent, technical skill, and professional experience provides a collaborative studio environment in which complex issues are tested, critiqued, and resolved in projects that are functional and aesthetically unique.

Offering a wide range of services including site planning, architecture, structural engineering, interiors and construction administration, our team provides seamless integration to address site constraints, aesthetic goals, and constructability during the design process.

Buffalo Rixon, AIA Michael Bulls, AIA Scott Heiner, PE Matthew Walker, PE
208.726.5608 |
Ketchum, Idaho


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The talented team at Latham Interiors combines mountain modern style with Sun Valley luxury to produce beautiful results for their clients.

How would you describe the Latham Interiors experience?

We are a full service interior design studio focused on creating thoughtful, beautiful and innovative designs. We value each project as unique and provide experienced attention to achieving our clients goals.

With a passionate force of designers, we know how to integrate various design styles to create the perfect blend for each property. We take value in getting to know our clients individually to better understand how best to create the function and aesthetic that will exceed their expectations in design.

Unrivaled design can only be achieved with the right team to plan and execute a shared vision.

Sarah Latham, Principal
208-928-6366 |
Ketchum, Idaho


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This year Sun Valley Museum of Art celebrates its ruby anniversary with a ‘distilled celebratory weekend’ that pays homage to its roots and embraces ‘that Sun Valley je ne sais quoi’ that first put them on the map four decades ago.

Sun Valley Wine Auction is the premier fundraising event for SVMoA. Tell us about the history of the event.

As the story goes, in June of 1981, founder Glenn Janss attended the inaugural Napa Valley Wine Auction. When Janss saw the raucous success and fundraising impact of the event, she thought immediately of Sun Valley and its then fledgling arts center. “We could do that here,” she declared. And so, on a mid-summer’s eve in 1981, vintners and philanthropists gathered on the lawn of Elkhorn Springs to auction off some coveted bottles and trade fine wine in support of the arts. And a tradition was born.

What do your organization and this event mean to the Sun Valley community?

In 2021, we hit $1 million in arts scholarships for students and teachers. It’s a timely reminder of what’s at the heart of this organization: cultivating curious, creative leaders and important conversations. Our Wine Auction directly powers this work, and we are so grateful to all of our supporters and partners who make this event so memorable and impactful.

What do people love best about the event?

The locals know that Sun Valley, Idaho, is a community built on camaraderie and meaningful friendships. Sun Valley Wine Auction and Sun Valley Museum of Art share those same qualities. Lasting relationships are formed here between patrons, vintners and the community.

Peter Burke, Wine Auction Director
208.726.9491 |
Sun Valley, Idaho


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Meet Blair Williams, owner of The Art Spirit Gallery, which features contemporary northwest artists in a vibrant environment that makes art collecting and browsing relaxed and enjoyable.

Your website features the tag line “We believe in the great artists of our region.” Tell us about the work you feature.

We feature high-quality, original work by regional artists embracing a diversity of mediums and styles. We seek to exhibit artists with a unique voice that show a dedication to craft, materials, observation and creativity. Our 4,000 square foot gallery has hosted about 200 exhibitions and curated shows.

What other offerings do you provide to the community?

We provide a gathering place for the community, branded as the “Urban Grange Hall”, for special private events and to celebrate those who give back to our community. In addition, we deliver and install artwork as well as curate collections. Finally, we offer appraisal services.

Blair Williams, Owner
208-765-6006 |
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Categories: Spotlight on Design