The X Factor
In a Wyoming town where tradition reigns, a modern dwelling draws attention
In the rolling hills of Casper, Wyoming, where wildlife sightings are commonplace and nature buffs are drawn to the raw beauty of the landscape, an architectural anomaly draws attention. Home to a local physician and his family, the decidedly modern residence makes a bold statement in a town where the predilection is toward traditional designs in neat, predictable neighborhoods.
“When we decided to build a new home on the outskirts of town, we were open to the architectural possibilities that varied from our traditional roots,” says homeowner Phil Krmpotich. “We wanted to do something a little bit different. When we discovered the Midcentury-Modern style, we liked how it worked with the mountain landscape.”
The design’s original two-story façade was quickly edited to a single story to contend with the harsh Wyoming climate. Bitter temperatures, unrelenting snowfalls and a biting wind that can gust in excess of 60 miles per hour all combined to create a unique design challenge.
Considering these formidable forces of nature, Abramson Teiger Architects of Culver City, California, created a design plan that worked in concert with the surroundings and addressed the Krmpotichs’ desire for a decidedly different design. In response to the site’s challenges, the architects designed a low-slung structure anchored in concrete, steel and wood that clings to the base of a hillside. Forming a contemporary X shape, the home has gracefully elongated wings that stretch into the countryside. “The design plan we created translated into a beautiful composition,” says Douglas Teiger, AIA, managing principal of the firm. “The unconventional shape of the house allowed for different views from every room while also creating a very functional living space with private and public wings that are connected by a family playroom at the junction.”
The home’s unique footprint not only creates an aesthetically pleasing design but also serves as a calculated answer to nature’s wrath. As the gusting wind crests the hill behind the home, it plummets down and across the rooftop. The arc-like, aerodynamic shape of the roof channels the wind, shielding the structure from the forceful gales.
On the home’s exterior, concrete, steel, wood and glass add texture, accenting the structure’s sloping wings. Thick concrete walls extend up from the ground to a 10-foot-high baseline. Above this visual break are horizontal bands of redwood that add warmth and a Western quality to the modern home—as well as a striking contrast to the cool, industrial concrete. Inside, the baseline continues through the use of similar materials, transitioning seamlessly from exterior to interior.
Walls of windows further the home’s connection with its surroundings. “Most of the homes we design in Southern California have a strong indoor/outdoor interaction,” says Trevor Abramson, FAIA, design principal of the firm. “We wanted to bring that California feeling to this home by highlighting its physical connection to the land.” Because the harsh climate prohibits large windows that open to let the breezes in, the architects opted for expansive inoperable windows designed to withstand strong wind gusts while still capturing “the beautiful quality of light and picturesque view,” says Abramson.
With its strong connection to the land and thoughtful detail, the home embraces the fundamentals of understated modern elegance. Inside, handpicked furnishings and artistic embellishments are the perfect complement to the home’s strong, architectural lines. Bold pops of color add interest and a touch of warmth that channels the family’s traditional roots but stays true to the feel of a modern mountain dwelling.
A topic of conversation in Casper from the start, this home seems to be changing some preconceived notions about modern design. “In the beginning, the challenge was building a contemporary house in a town where all of the craftsmen were skilled in traditional design,” Teiger explains. “But, as the project progressed, these craftsmen really put their hearts and souls into it, creating a home that transcends the perception of the unconventional modern home, and rooting it in the traditional Wyoming landscape.”
MODERN BY DESIGN
When it comes to accessorizing modern spaces, many homeowners struggle to achieve a clean, modern look that still feels livable and warm, often going to extremes with a bland color scheme and severe furnishings that make a space uninviting and austere. Interior designer Nina Seirafi offers a few words of advice for those looking to strike the balance between comfort and modern style:
CREATE A DESIGN PLAN “Before you begin the design process, consider how you are going to use the space and how your family functions in that space.” A room that functions well is naturally comfortable.
KNOW YOUR LIKES AND DISLIKES “With a firm plan in hand, begin picking items based on the character of each family member. Be careful to only use those materials and colors that you respond to.”
UNDERSTAND YOUR ENVIRONMENT “The colors of nature, as well as the function of a room, often precipitate the color palette. In a home with expansive openings, it’s especially important to select a palette that reflects nature to alleviate tension between indoors and out. In an arid landscape, reflective materials are a necessity; they help create a pleasing flow inside the space. The materials you choose should also respond to your surroundings. In the Krmpotichs’ home, we shied away from coarse materials, like wool, because we wanted to soften the contours of the interior in contrast to the harsh environment.”
GO ORGANIC “To suggest movement, which is especially important in a dry mountain landscape where things tend to be static, use contrasting proportions of the same shape.”
FINISH WITH ART AND ACCESSORIES “Adding a variety of artistic embellishments brings the room to the next level. A space that is only accented by modern pieces often loses its appeal, whereas a space with both contemporary and vintage elements creates excitement and a unique complementary quality.”