Buyers, Builders and Architects Create Alpine Magic
By Steve Phillips
“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them.”
Mountains have been a source of inspiration for artists since the dawn of time. Painters, writers and performers have brushed, penned and sung their
praises for centuries. It’s the same for the rest of us as well. We’ve been drawn to the mountains since the dawn of our time. It’s in our DNA, a powerful force driving us ever higher. What may once have been a primordial urge to take the high ground has evolved into an abiding desire to build and live among the majestic surroundings and breathtaking vistas that mountain settings provide.
It’s no wonder luxury home buyers in the West have historically seen the slopes of Rocky Mountain ski resorts as potential home sites. In recent years, the Park City area has attracted new, affluent residents at an unprecedented rate, many with visions of building their own mountain dream home.
Now home to both the largest combined ski resort in North America (Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort) and the #1 luxury ski resort in the country (Deer Valley), Park City has become the Holy Grail for skiers from all over the world. Within an hour’s drive from several other ski resorts and half that to a major city and an international airport, the town offers luxurious mountain living with quick access from any direction or to any destination.
For some, Park City is home base. For others it’s the ideal location for a second home, a mountain getaway from the grind of life in the fast lanes of America’s big cities and financial hubs.
Thanks to far-sighted planning, the area has been transformed into a year-round resort, touting almost 400 miles of trails for cross-county or skate-skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, and mountain biking, running, hiking or horseback riding in the summer.
Avid anglers drive 15 minutes outside of town toward scenic Heber Valley to cast flies to cooperative trout on the Provo River, a celebrated blue ribbon stream. Kayakers and “tubers” paddle mellow rapids on both the Provo and nearby Weber River.
For music lovers, there’s a year-round concert series at venues throughout the area. The Egyptian Theatre on historic Main Street serves up a heady marquis of world-renowned musical acts, peppered with stand- up comedy and live musicals. Nearby Deer Valley’s outdoor stage annually hosts concerts and performances by the Utah Symphony and big name artists.
Film lovers flock to Park City every January for Robert Redford’s annual Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. Residents enjoy easy access to festival venues, including historic Main Street, where celebrities and film makers party and mingle with fans. “Star gazers” abound.
Ultimately for most of us, where we choose to live comes down to price. That kind of common sense applies to those with upper incomes as well. Luxury real estate here is still reasonably priced compared to other ski towns like Aspen, Jackson Hole, Tahoe or Sun Valley. Though the recent acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort by the Vail Corporation may nudge up property values, homes here are still priced at realistic levels.
Witness four amazing and unique Park City homes, as well as an urban alternative, envisioned and created by a brilliant meld of architects, builders and designers.
HOME #1 – 2516 LARKSPUR DRIVE, PARK MEADOWS
Architect: Nolen Mendenhall, Mendenhall Architecture & Design
Builder: Jeff Peterson, Utah Home Building
Designer: Becky Lewin with Marianne Sax
When Tony Lewin came to Nolen Mendenhall with a sketch of his dream home on a scrap of paper, the Salt Lake-based architect captured his vision immediately and began drawing. Lewin, a pilot for Southwest and former Navy fighter pilot, has built and lived in several homes in the Park City area. He was tired of the traditional, mountain style homes common to the area and wanted something different. “I’d had enough of big timber beams and wanted to build something almost industrial looking, with a lot of steel. I also wanted a home that paid homage to Park City’s heritage as a mining town,” he says.
The creative triumvirate was complete when veteran custom home builder Jeff Peterson joined the team. His company, Utah Home Building, has built over 200 structures in the Park City area.
Eighteen months later, Lewin’s dream home in Park Meadows was a reality. Majestically molded around a sloped double lot, the 5100 square foot home is a work of art. Mendenhall deftly sited the build for maximum advantage of the incredible views. Though modestly sized by Park City standards, the extremely livable home seems much larger. Asked to describe the architectural style of the home, Mendenhall hesitates for a moment. “I call it mountain industrial,” he grins.
Mendenhall’s structural choices of unpainted steel beams, curved iron railings and wire, engender a vague sense that you’re in an actual mine. The central peak of the home, rising some 40 feet from the lower floor to a cathedral of clerestory windows, vaguely resembles an elevator shaft. The windowed summit supplies an abundance of light that illuminates the upper floor.
Lewin’s wife, Becky, is a natural interior designer with an impeccable eye. With input from local interior designer Marianne Sax, she created the home’s stylish, comfortable feel.
Exposed steel beams, essentially roof trusses, extend outward beyond the exterior walls, lending an elegant, if edgy feel to the home. “These beams are very much a structural element when you have a lot of glass in the home, but they usually get hidden by walls,” says Mendenhall.
Wraparound windows and a steel-shrouded deck surrounding the home yield 180 degree views. Flanked by a towering stone fireplace, the living room on the main floor offers the ultimate view of Park City’s renowned ski runs. An abundance of “Colorado Moss” stone, locally sourced, adorns the home inside and out. Subtle stone shades of green, grey, red and brown complement exterior steel and interior flooring choices.
The main floor is hand-scraped hickory, transitioning to a wide, curving stairway of rough-cut Douglas Fir. Downstairs, hickory-inlaid tile echoes shades of the Colorado stone. Each bedroom has its own bathroom and private deck. Floor-to- ceiling windows in the master, accessed through an arch of stone, reveal a stunning panorama of Park City Mountain Resort and surrounding peaks.
Downstairs, Lewin points to his custom, wood and metal wet bar, complete with draft beer pouring stations, as his favorite thing about the house. “It’s the perfect place for pilots and other nefarious characters to hang out,” he laughs.
Complete with a huge, on-demand projection screen TV (“for the occasional football game”) the bar area can be quickly converted into the ultimate man-cave. Across the hall, a spacious and well-equipped exercise room, spa and wine cellar complete the home.
In spite of its “industrial” theme, the home feels very warm, says builder Peterson, who took an active role in all aspects of the design process. “This house ‘lives’ very well. The owners are comfortable here and they love it. That’s our goal. I could live in this house, and I can’t say that about all the houses I’ve built.”
HOME #2 – 172 WHITE PINE CANYON, THE COLONY
Architect: Scott Jaffa, Jaffa Group Architects
Builder: Jaffa Group Design/Build
Designer: Kristen Rocke, K. Rocke Design
The Colony, adjacent to Canyons ski resort, is prime ground for ski in-ski out luxury homes. In fact, virtually all the homes here have this feature. The spectacular, tree-covered area encompasses White Pine Canyon and rises to almost 10,000 feet above sea level.
Respected Park City architect Scott Jaffa is no stranger to these woods, having designed half-a-dozen ski-in ski-out homes here, in addition to the over 100 homes he’s designed throughout the Park City area. The home at 172 White Pine Canyon Road is his latest creation here and a real gem.
“I wanted a home that blended into the surroundings, but stood on its own without trying to fit into the mold of “mountain contemporary”. Every building site tells a story. I worked with the aspen trees on the lot and the amazing views, so they dictated the location, as well as the exterior materials and colors,” says Jaffa. Outside he chose west desert stone, with patinas of grey, brown and taupe, and wood to honor the natural surroundings and the aspen tree bark.
Both angular and rectangular, the 6800-square-foot home exhibits clean lines from all sides. “I wanted something very clean and simple, with rooms that open up to the exterior. That’s what the house grew around, something very simple but elegant,” explains the architect. With five bedrooms and a generous seven bathrooms, it can service a large family or a bevy of guests. A playful game room awaits children or adults, depending on the buyer. The project is pre-wired to be a smart house, with a mind of its own.
Jaffa combined vaulted ceilings, clerestory windows, custom raw steel railings and fireplaces throughout to create something that hasn’t been done before. The home has a great natural flow and every room is designed to have a personality. Curves are repeated in the spacious foyer and the downstairs wet bar. Outside, curves continue in the downstairs patio and along the rear roof line to soften the angularity of the architecture.
Countering the foyer, theatre-sized windows open onto an elegant deck and reveal astounding views of Iron Mountain, a revered landmark in the Park City area. “I think the mountain is one of the prettiest views up here,” remarks Jaffa, who sited the home to capture expansive, down-valley views as well.
The meticulously-finished interior is testimony to Jaffa’s uncompromising commitment to excellence. He worked closely with gifted interior designer Kristen Rocke to create a seamless, elegant environment that mirrors its exterior. The main floor is white oak, finished with white vinegar and steel wool. The process is unusual and labor intensive, but yields a rich, luminous finish.
Jaffa’s and Rocke’s elegant choices of furnishings and artwork throughout the home complete the picture.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the home is the master bedroom. Jaffa positioned the room brilliantly, so that it feels like a treehouse, suspended in space. And the views—incomparable
“It’s a simple, modest place for the area, but I think the entire house is amazing,” Jaffa says proudly.” That’s why when I and other people walk through this house it just feels good. It’s a house where you don’t feel like you have to dress up to live in it. I think the home is ultimately designed for how people really live, not how they think they want to live.”
Asked about his favorite aspect of the home, Jaffa pauses. “That’s like asking who is your favorite child. Every house is my favorite house until I do the next one,” he concludes.
The home listed at $6.95 million and was under contract at this writing.
HOME #3 – 103 WHITE PINE CANYON, THE COLONY
Design: Karen Shaw Design & Build
Builder: Big Canyon Homes
Interior: Alder & Tweed
The Colony lures luxury home builders and buyers from across the country. Karen Shaw is a newcomer to the family of architects and builders creating magnificent homes in this high-altitude, skier’s wonderland. This is her first home here, though she has designed and built over a dozen homes in the Park City area. Her recently-completed Colony masterpiece belies her nascent status among this cadre of high altitude, creative folk.
Shaw is a visionary designer with a somewhat unique approach to homebuilding. Trained in architectural and interior design at Utah State University, she relies on her builder and trusted architectural draftsman to bring her concepts to life. She’s a hands-on woman, on site almost every day of the construction process. The result in this case was an inviting, mountain- transitional home on 6.5 acres that exudes both warmth and charm. Stunning views upward at mountain peaks and near instant access to Canyons (the ski run is less than 30 feet away) add to the lure of the home.
“I wanted to go simple and more contemporary. The challenge was to create a space with clean lines but still a mountain home that blended into the natural setting,” Shaw explains.
At just under 7000 square feet, with five bedrooms, seven bathrooms and four fireplaces, the home is nevertheless modest by Colony standards. Shaw took that into account when she prescribed floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. The result is a spacious, bright, almost breezy feel to the home that makes it seem much larger.
Outside, she selected traditional wood and indigenous stone exteriors to convey a rustic, mountain “vibe.” A large steel fire pit with striking patinas is centered on an expansive patio.
Inside, white oak flooring, luxurious carpeting, oversized light fixtures, dark alder and rift-cut oak abound. A beautiful hearth of dry-cut, stacked stone, locally sourced, draws visitors toward a warming fireplace.
Shaw collaborated with Alder & Tweed to furnish the home. A rustic oak dining table, surrounded by tasteful, contemporary chairs, greets guests near the front entrance. Interesting and eclectic artwork adorns the home throughout. Bathrooms feature linear-stacked limestone tile and quartz counters.
An avid cook, she paid particular attention to the gourmet kitchen. Top-of-the-line Thermador appliances were selected to offer the ultimate in convenience and efficiency. Flawless quartz countertops and wood flooring complete the cooking space. A comfortable breakfast adjoins the kitchen and invites company and conversation. A generously-sized wine room invites fine vintages. An unfinished “flex room” can become a theatre or game room, or anything a buyer wants. A smart home, all controls can be accessed by cell phone.
A high point of the home is the breathtaking master bedroom, which combines perfect privacy with soaring views of surrounding peaks and aspen groves. An adjacent huge, all glass shower is the closest thing to an outside shower anyone could ask for.
“This home really feels comfortable,” says Shaw. “I feel like we captured a clean, modern feel but yet it’s warm and cozy.”
The home was listed by Berkshire Hathaway at $4.999 million and was under contract at this writing.
Home #4 – 213 White Pine Canyon, The Colony
Architect: Michael Upwall, Upwall Design Architects
Builder: Bart Carlson, Yukon Construction
Designer: Kris Carlson, Absinthe Design Group
This sprawling work of art is one of the crown jewels of The Colony. At 18,000 square feet, it is one of the larger homes in the area. Designed to be a turn-key destination, the home offers almost everything imaginable. “The owner wanted a home with all the amenities of a hotel so that, when
they came here, they didn’t have to go anywhere else to enjoy the Park City lifestyle,” explains veteran Park City builder Bart Carlson, who spent two years building the massive structure. Those amenities include a 25-meter indoor swimming pool, steam, shower and sauna room, spa, exercise room and one of the largest private home theaters in the Park City area.
A cascading, man-made stream greets the homeowner and guests who traverse a winding drive before arriving at the home’s massive timber entryway and adjacent four garages. The waterway tumbles over a rocky course as it curves around the home.
The classic, mountain-transitional home is flanked by aspen, pine and fir trees and sited to take advantage of the view corridors that exist naturally on the lot. “Michael has a great eye and his philosophy is to use and enhance existing views. He also likes a lot of curves and different lines
in his designs,” says Carlson, referring to sought-after architect Michael Upwall. The ever popular Canyons Dreamcatcher ski run is only feet away. The site combines great seclusion with great views.
Wood and stone curve gracefully around the exterior, lending a traditional, mountain home look to the residence. “We used a lot of natural stone and dark-stained, local timber on the outside. They complement each other in subtle ways, so they’re not domineering as you enter the home,” says Carlson.
Inside, the home is much more transitional. “We didn’t want to do a pure contemporary because tastes change,” says the builder. “We used Venetian plaster and woods to provide depth and contrast. We mixed the dark wood with the lighter grey scales and taupe color throughout the home and they play off each other nicely. Rift-cut fir cabinetry is found throughout. There is a lot of curve to the interior as well, and that gives the home a very spacious feel.” Upwall designed in an abundance of glass, so natural light inundates almost every room in the home.
A nicely appointed, two-bedroom condo above the garages is accessed from downstairs or through a separate, outside entrances. It is intended for live-in help or guests. “I could live in it,” jokes Carlson. In all, eight bedrooms are tucked away throughout the home.
A massive, elliptical staircase leads to the downstairs pool environment, which is completely isolated from the rest of the home—no smell of chlorine in the upstairs kitchen and living area.
Though the entire home is incredible, high points include the dining room, raised to better capture splendid mountain views,a large wet bar with seating for 20 and a combination wine cellar/ tasting room. “A lot of people gravitate to the bar area because it’s so comfortable and has great views,” grins Carlson.
In spite of its size, Carlson says it still feels like a home. It’s livable, not overly rustic or contemporary, so it appeals to a broad spectrum of people. Best of all, it’s a great entertainment house!”
Home #5 – The Regent at City Creek, Penthouse 2002 – City Center, Salt Lake City
Architect: Kathryn Anderson
Builder: Marsala Construction
Designer: Kathryn Anderson
For mountain home buyers with urban tastes, a spectacular penthouse in downtown Salt Lake City offers the perfect alternative, or perhaps complement, to a Park City home.
Perched atop the impressive, 20-story pinnacle of The Regent, at the doorstep of the all-new City Creek Center, is Penthouse 2002. This elegant home takes in breathtaking views to the north and southeast of both the Salt Lake Valley and the towering Wasatch Front.
At 4900 square feet, the interior space includes a master suite and a private guest suite with two bedrooms, separate kitchen and living area. Everything about the penthouse exudes elegance: quarter sawn walnut and slab Thassos marble flooring, Lualdi Porte doors, Calacatta Borghini slab countertops, Poliform lacquered and glass kitchen cabinets, Gaggenau appliances, Lutron lighting and an automated shade system combine in the home to perfection.
Handcrafted wool and silk carpet adorns the master bedroom. Nearby, a Kos Italian master bathtub invites a soak.
A majestic, 1300-square-foot outdoor terrace spans the entire east side of the penthouse, the perfect place to greet the morning sun.
A striking main entry lobby, indoor pool and spa, exercise room and two social rooms enhance the Regent living experience.
“The Regent is a unique and wonderful project that appeals to a new kind of buyer,” says Chris Corroon, director of sales and associate broker for City Creek Living.
Corroon spent eight years as a realtor in the Park City area and knows this market well. He’s seen a shift recently in the demographics of Park City buyers. “A lot of these buyers are coming from New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Dallas. While they may be looking for a mountain getaway, they’re accustomed to the cultural aspects of an urban environment,” Corroon observes.
Combining the two may be the perfect solution, according to Corroon. He points out the proximity of the penthouse to virtually all the major performing arts venues in the capital city. The 2,500-seat Eccles Theatre, a performing arts center slated to open next year, is just across the street. The state-of-the-art facility will host Broadway-quality live theatre and a variety of other live performances. Abravanel Hall, home of the internationally renowned Utah Symphony is a short walk away. The historic Capitol Theatre, home to Utah Opera Company and Ballet West are close by as well.
“The key to the Salt Lake City location is that you walk out of the building and everything is new, all new infrastructure, street lighting and pavers,” Carroon says. “There’s an explosion of new little cafes, restaurants and shops popping up on Main Street. It’s attracting a lot of interest nationally and even internationally.”
Many financial and technology firms are headquartered or have large regional operations here now, including Goldman-Sachs. Fast access to the Salt Lake International Airport is a bonus to The Regent location. Homeowners can walk out of the building, take a right, hop on Trax light rail and be at the airport in 20 minutes.
The penthouse at 2002 Regent is an unbeatable combination—less than half-an-hour’s drive from Park City and its wonderful mountain lifestyle and an easy drive to several other acclaimed ski resorts, yet mere steps away from Utah’s cutting-edge cultural scene and enchanting nightlife. The home is currently on the market, listed at $7.9 million.
Corroon says he is happy to show the penthouse or any of City Creek’s other stunning homes any time.
So there you have it—five incredible homes that offer the absolute ultimate in luxury and comfort. From Park Meadows, looking up at the unparalleled panorama of Park City Mountain Resort, to The Colony, with astounding alpine views wherever you look, to a luxurious urban alternative with breathtaking views of the Wasatch Front, perched atop a man-made pinnacle in downtown Salt Lake City. Something for everyone.
It came as no surprise to locals in September, 2013, when “Outside” magazine named Park City the “#1 Best Town” in America. “There’s no better blend of small-town friendliness, absurdly easy access and five-star culture than Park City …,” says “Outside” writer Kyle Dickman.
There are many obvious reasons why people choose to live in the Park City area and nearby Salt Lake City. Less obvious are recently discovered health benefits of living in the mountains. A major, new medical study has found that people who live at higher elevations have a lower risk of “ischemic” heart disease. Researchers say lower oxygen levels stimulate genes to strengthen the heart and enhance blood supply. Other studies have confirmed a connection between altitude and weight loss. People who live at altitude are almost five times less likely to gain excessive weight than those who live at sea level!
Park City, once a diamond in the rough, has been cut and polished to perfection. Today, it reigns as a sparking jewel in the heart of the Mountain West. The old real estate adage—“location, location, location”—certainly holds true here. Spectacular mountain settings, as well as vibrant urban centers, are fertile ground for visionaries with the means to purchase premiere property or build amazing homes. Architects and builders see opportunities to leave lasting legacies on high ground. When imaginative buyers, inspired architects and superior builders join forces, magic happens.
Great things are done when men and mountains meet…