By: Deborah Donohue Photography by: Audrey Hall
Beneath a canopy of stars—and the slopes of Teton Village ski resort—stands a mountain residence crafted from surprisingly diverse elements, including reclaimed barnwood, bricks from a Milwaukee brewery, and the owner’s love of mid-century modern design.
After years of spending idyllic summers in and around Jackson, Wyoming, a young Chicago family decided to make this stylish western hamlet their full-time home. The McKennas chose to build in Shooting Star, an upscale, year-round residential community and private club located in Teton Village, just twelve miles outside of Jackson. Shooting Star, aptly named for the incandescent canopy of stars unobstructed in the night sky, is situated near the ski resort of Jackson Hole, on the site of the historic Snake River Ranch. The original Snake River Ranch had its own nostalgic beginnings in a young boy’s dream. When twelve year-old Stanley Rogers Resor visited the area with family friends in the summer of 1929, he returned home and promptly set out to convince his father to buy land there. Mesmerized by his son’s tales, the father purchased 400 acres, sight unseen. Almost ninety years later, The McKennas experienced that same magical connection to this pristine landscape of crystalline trout streams, burnished aspens, abundant wildlife and wide-open spaces. The two-minute shuttle ride from their front door to the Jackson mountain ski lifts only served to sweeten the deal.
JLF Design Build, a collaborative team comprised of JLF & Associates and builder Big D Signature, stepped in to brainstorm and execute the dream home the McKenna’s had in mind. Logan Leachman, Principal of JLF became Lead Designer of the project. Jason Dunlop, Vice-President of Big D Signature, kept an astute financial eye on the entire construction process, managing costs and expenditures each step of the way. With the addition of the talented and innovative John Verdone of Verdone Landscape Architects and Interior Designer Laura White, the adventure began.
In many construction scenarios, the design is drawn up and then sent out to contractors, resulting in what amounts to a bidding frenzy. The client is often left to deal with the contractors, whose point of view does not take into account “why the client wants what they want, ” according to Dunlap, “It is the soul that goes.” Time delays, unanticipated expenses, and disappointments can begin to accrue in disproportionate amounts.
With JLF Design Build, the key to a successful endeavor is grounded in the professional team’s close relationship with the client from the very beginning—a relationship that continues throughout the project. There are no surprises cost-wise to undermine the client’s delight in the artistry and design elements. “Everyone is good to go before breaking ground,” Dunlap explains.
Aesthetically speaking, JLF Design Build is known, in part, for building “brand new 100 year-old homes.” Structures of reclaimed wood, intricate and graceful stone work, and repurposed brick, combine with layered doorways and curved portals to lend a timeless, somewhat European feel, despite the use of modern elements, such as steel and glass. Landscapes stay very natural, least affecting wildlife habitats and surrounding ecosystems. There is an elegant simplicity that evokes a pervasive sense of ease, calmness, and serenity. This was particularly important to the McKennas, who desired an uncluttered space, clean lines and a pared down aesthetic, without the traditional western elements and motifs, antlers among them!
For Michelle McKenna, lighting was paramount. The magnitude and scale of light fixtures in each space would set the mood and be reflective of the overall ambiance. Additionally, with a keen interest in vintage and mid-century modern design, the owners decided each room would have a significant piece with a captivating pedigree. The 1950s Milo Baughman chairs in the great room and game rooms, for instance, whose sunlit fabric is reflective of the golden aspen trees that dot the landscape. Or the tiny nesting table near the Holly Hunt chair in the great room, designed by Jens Risom, a Danish American furniture designer and exemplar of Mid-Century modern. (Risom, now 100 years old, was one of the first to introduce Scandinavian design in the United States.) Unusual pieces used with restraint have a large impact, such as the lacquered goatskin covered table in the manner of Aldo Tura, an Italian artist/craftsman designer from the 1930s.
Bill McKenna’s requests included a home office that connected viscerally to the outdoor environment—sensually fulfilled by enchanting waterfalls and pond that can be seen and heard from the working space in the master suite area. The pond is chemical-free, thanks to native grasses, whose roots pull out nutrients that would impede the water’s clarity. The water is 18 inches deep and the substrate of the pond is covered in bottom river cobblestone from the Snake River. The mossy wall from which the waterfalls originate is weathered Douglas fir, reminiscent of grain elevators of old.
The use of natural and repurposed materials inside and out, including Homestead and Montana Moss rock, reclaimed barn wood and snow fencing, and brick from an old Milwaukee brewery lessens upkeep. The home is not only very durable but the exterior stones and wood are virtually maintenance free as opposed to, for example, new siding that would need to be re-stained each year.
Artisanal workmanship, meticulous attention to detail, and JFL Design Build’s artistic community of craftsmen were matched by respect for nature, and a soulful approach to creating an elegant and lasting structure. The fruit of this labor and devotion is a home built to be at peace on the land, modern yet timeless, a tranquil sanctuary.
ARCHITECT: JLF & Associates, Inc.,Lead Designer: Logan Leachman, www.jlfarchitects.com
BUILDER: Big D Signature, Jason Dunlop, www.bigdsignature.com
INTERIOR DESIGN: Laura White, www.instagram.com/archvintage, firstname.lastname@example.org
IRON WORK: Verdone Landscape Architects, Jim Verdone, www.verdonelandarch.com