A house with good bones and excellent siting sparked a modern vision that sits proudly on a hillside in Teton Valley.

Seabring Davis

Other Contributions

Where the Living is Easy Music in the Mountains The Flight of the Hummingbird Living the Dream Integrating Nature Mountain Exposure Eclectic Parkitecture Uniting Color Historic Symmetry The Year Of The Horse A Yellowstone Club Retreat Hearth and Soul Building a Timeless Legacy An Uncommon Cabin in the Woods Timeless Fusion Mountain Tradition A Modern Vision Summer Camp Perfect Harmony Winter Getaway: Red Lodge, Montana Beyond the Cabin A Fine Balance Good Country Authentically Western A Home for the Ages Letter from the Editor: First Snow Dining Out: The Old Hotel Letter from the Editor: Signs of Summer Letter from the Editor: The Angler’s Sojourn Dining Out: Simply Good Food From the Editor: Hit the Road Making a Statement: Miller Architects Letter from the Editor: Winter’s Toll Letter from the Editor: Evolving Home Dining Out: Comfort Food Western Design: Cowboy Modern Western Design: The Idaho Club Letter from the Editor: Talking Art Dining Out: Conserving Montana One Table at a Time Dining Out: Cosmopolitan Cuisine at TEN Dining Out: Ranch to Restaurant Letter from the Editor: Waiting for Summer Letter from the Editor: Arts Economy Letter from the Editor: First Frost Letter from the Editor: Why Art? Letter from the Editor: Up Close and Personal Letter from the Editor: A Tradition of Talent Letter from the Editor: Winter Reflection Dining Out: The Taste of Whitefish Letter from the Editor: How Big is Your Bucket Letter from the Editor: Falling Short Western Design: Rustic Allure Dining Out: Fish Food Western Design: In the Studio with Painter Hugh Wilson Western Design: Home Base From the Editor Dining Out: Tradition, with a Twist Letter from the Editor: I Know Where the Fish Are Letter from the Editor: Big Sky Country Letter from the Editor: Forging Ahead Dining Out: Barn Dance Letter from the Editor: Like an Open Road Letter from the Editor: The Language of Fishing Letter from the Editor: Cast Again Editor’s Letter: The Passing Season Dining Out: Saffron Table Dining Out: Lone Mountain Ranch Serves Up a Sense of Place Western Design: Uniquely Rustic Western Design: JLF & Associates Letter from the Editor: Season of Possibility Dining Out: A Montana Tradition, Chico Hot Springs Letter from the Editor: Design Trends Dining Out: The Ranch at Rock Creek Redefines Montana Cuisine Dining Out: Seasonal Bliss Western Design: Refined Rustic Letter from the Editor: Winter Wave Letter from the Editor: Blending Seasons Western Design: A New Mountain Lodge Western Design: Historic Haven Western Design: In the Studio with the Viers Western Focus: Classic Connection: Miller Architects Western Design: Reviving the Barn From the Editor: Seasons of Simplicity Dining Out: Innovation Meets Tradition at Bisl Letter from the Editor: What is art? Dining Out: Holland Lake Lodge, Rustic Wonderful Letter from the Editor: The Secret Weapon Letter from the Editor: Fly Fishing for the Greater Good Western Design: Mountain Zen Western Design: Creekside Contemporary Living Big Sky on HGTV The Spirit of the West in Jackson, Wyoming Letter from the Editor: Staying Power

THE LAND, THE SITE, THE PLACE. These are the variables that drive the designs of architects Tom Ward and Mitch Blake. As they wrote in their recently published monograph, In the Shadows of the Tetons, over the last 17 years the Jackson, Wyoming-based Ward + Blake Architects have always been influenced by terroir — a term frequently used to describe the effects of the land on grapes grown in a region. But in this context, Ward and Blake are referring to the more complex effects of the land on people, on buildings, on the way those things fit into a place with respectful permanence.

Over nearly two decades, this modernist duo has made a mark by asking intelligent questions of their clients during the architectural process. Ward + Blake is a firm known for their responsive designs, using simple materials: stone, wood, rammed earth, concrete, glass — in a contemporary manner throughout the Rocky Mountains. 

With that established, several years ago Mitch Blake set out to find his own bit of land in this high alpine country. His wife, Laura Lee, and their four children needed a solid family home with room to grow, but not too far from the schools and community activities.

What he stumbled upon was a five-acre dreamscape in Alta, Wyoming, on the western side of the Teton Range. Situated on a grassy hill, just a 15-minute drive from Grand Targhee Resort and a minor commute in the other direction to his firm in Jackson, the location was ideal. The home on the lot was not in line with Blake’s design sensibilities, but it was the right fit for his family.

It took some time to envision the remodel, according to Blake. Overlooking Teton Valley there are certainly traditional buildings — log cabins, homesteads where 19th century craftsmanship lingers alongside the hardscrabble structures for livestock and farming in these high-mountain fields. But this house, a steeply gabled 1980s Tudor, had none of those vernacular influences. What it did have was good bones and great siting, for Blake that was enough to work with.

Enlarging the original windows fostered a contemporary open floorplan and allowed natural light to expand the living spaces in the dining room and throughout the house.

Outdoor furniture was designed by Mitch Blake and fabricated by a local metalsmith.

A custom-designed glass and steel staircase was added to the home to link three levels and to maximize the square-footage for a family of six.

Douglas fir ceiling panels soften the Cem-Clad panels in the den of Mitch Blake’s home.

“As an architect, it’s so hard to design for yourself,” admitted Blake, as he walked through his remodeled home, now filled with the shifting daylight that alternately bounces off the surrounding mountains and lower farmland. Gone is the cloistered interior of the original home, replaced by a sense of connection to its surroundings.

A proponent of  “bringing the outside in,” Blake started by widening all the windows in the 4,500-square-foot home, doing much of the demolition work himself. He incorporated his passion for concrete, by replacing the original half-timbers and stucco with Cem-Clad panels, added a maintenance-free Corten roof, steel and cedar accents, along with a Ward + Blake signature sod roof as a nod to the region’s homesteader roots.

Inside, he continued the language of exterior materials, utilizing concrete panels on the walls as accents that alternate with lightly colored plaster. The effect is a streamlined interior that is softened by bamboo flooring and floating Douglas fir ceiling panels. A small addition was incorporated into the existing footprint, adding a space for an airy breakfast room and porch that overlooks a stand of aspens.

The most dramatic addition to the home was a custom-designed steel and glass staircase that links all three stories of the house. Adding to the openness of this re-imagined space, the sculptural quality connects all the levels of the house. Working with local contractor friends, engineers and a local steel fabricator, Blake was able to personalize this home with custom details that touch every corner. In the bedrooms, kitchen and dining area, he designed furnishings to fit the rooms, contemplating how the family lives and moves in the spaces.

After remodeling 85 percent of the original design, Mitch Blake was able to re-invent what was once an outdated Tudor, into a tasteful modern rendition of a home that honored the land with timeless sensibility.

Custom furnishings, bamboo floors and clear pine cabinetry reinforce the sleek lines of the kitchen.

Maintaining a neutral palette of materials throughout the project emphasized the serene modern design in the master bedroom.

Utilizing what was once inaccessible attic space, architect Mitch Blake designed and built a steel and glass staircase to reach the top floor, converting into a lofty bedroom.