YOU'RE NOT SURE WHAT TO EXPECT pulling up to a home on a bluff above Wilson, Wyoming. From the road, there’s no sign of anything, other than seemingly impenetrable forest. As you wind in on the private driveway twisting through a mass of pines, a tower of stacked, moss-covered fieldstones eventually comes into view. And then you see additional buildings, clad in reclaimed timber and corral board siding. A 28-foot bridge connects the tower, reminiscent of nothing so much as the historic fire towers that dot mountain summits throughout this area, to the main house.
It isn’t until you approach the tower, which is part of the guest house, on foot that you get a sense of scale. It’s not that the home is huge — it has seven bedrooms but is only 6,200 square feet — but the stones are massive. Some are the size of washing machines. “I flew to Bozeman [from New York City] and met Andy [Ankeny, the architect] and Jake [Ankeny, Andy’s twin brother and the builder], and we spent 36 hours visiting stone quarries and looking at reclaimed timber,” says owner Kirk Davenport. “It was like a treasure trove. Of course we didn’t get every stone and timber picked out, but we set the bar for what we were looking for.” The base of the stone fireplace in the great room spans 10 feet and consists of only three rocks.
Walking under the “bridge” to the main house the textures and materials of the house can be tangibly experienced by a visitor.
Given the level of teamwork and the meticulousness of each team member, including Mr. Davenport himself, it wouldn’t be surprising if they had hand-picked every stone and timber. Naturally architects pay attention to details. As do interior designers. (Agnes Bourne was brought on board early in the design process.) But owners can go either way. Not Davenport though. “There isn’t one thing on this house he didn’t question and that he didn’t want a reiterative approach on,” says Andy Ankeny, a partner at Jackson’s Carney Logan Burke Architects. “Which is what we love. We put ideas out there and love clients to challenge them.” The teamwork was such that Davenport says, “I was sad when the house was done, on time and on budget.”
Davenport went to Carney Logan Burke with the idea of a rustic home built for entertaining, but not big. “We wanted a house that could accommodate lots of people for holidays and parties, but we also wanted a house that just my wife and I could enjoy and not feel like we were rattling around in,” he says. Carney Logan Burke’s solution was a collection of buildings. “Because the guest wing is off to the side, you don’t feel like it’s part of the main house. The main house is essentially a three-bedroom house — perfect for us or us and the kids,” Davenport says. “On the other hand, the place absorbed 75 people on a New Year’s Eve party. It’s a compromise between an absurdly large house and a cozy little love nest for retirees.”
Hand-picked stone stacked to accent different sections of the adjoined buildings adds visual contrast to the vertical lines established by the reclaimed wood siding.
Where it doesn’t compromise is its sense of place. “He wanted the home to look like it had been there for fifty, one hundred years,” Ankeny says. The first time Davenport and the architects snowshoed around the 16-acre property, it was not the healthy forest it is today. “Trees were choking each other out,” Ankeny says.
Rather than clear an area to site the house on, the team removed trees slowly and methodically. “We first went in and flagged 20 unhealthy trees, opening views up in a layered way,” Ankeny says. It took removing about half of the trees on the property before the house revealed where it should be. Even with half of its original trees removed though, the property today retains a wild feel, with moose wandering around huge, mature trees that are still as close as 10 feet to the home.
Inside, the home is as cozy as the forest around it. “Fun, complete, functional, beautiful, graceful, playful — these are what the Davenports gave me when I asked for words that they wanted to show up in the home,” says interior designer Agnes Bourne. Running down the middle of the winding, open staircase in the guest area’s tower is a brass fire pole. “That was one of the first things Kirk mentioned,” Ankeny says.
Continuing the material palette from the exterior to the interior, Ankeny Construction Management expertly incorporated reclaimed wood in the bathrooms and bedrooms. Carrera marble countertops in the bathroom lighten the space, while in the bedroom, off-white plaster highlights the mullioned windows.
The house also has ladders from a kid’s room directly to the pool room, a secret passageway, and a sliding bookcase. “The theme was whimsical,” Bourne says. Davenport says, “There are lots of reasons not to do these things — I think there are lots of people who might initially like the idea of stuff like this but then they get talked out of it. Once the team realized I wasn’t backing down, they all got on board and it was really fun to do these crazy things. They make no sense economically, but they are what make people love the house.”
Although it has whimsical elements, the house is not gimmicky. Elegance and fine craftsmanship underlie everything from the extensive custom rugs Bourne, working in collaboration with WRJ Design, designed locally with Kismet Gallery, the colorful Heath Ceramics tiles in most of the bathrooms, a Belgian-made stone top table (sourced by WRJ in Paris), the reclaimed pickle barrel kitchen cabinetry, the wooden “painting” made by Idaho-based artist Tim Groth hanging in the powder room, and the entrance to the grand staircase, built of stacked timbers. Some showers have walls of natural stone — not stone tiles, but single slabs. “I toured stone yards in Salt Lake City to find those and they’re incredible,” Bourne says.
The majority of the interior walls are reclaimed lumber, but paired with exposed structural steel, the overall vibe is refined rustic. “Rustic can be done in a clean, linear way,” Ankeny says. “It can mean symmetry and alignment and doesn’t have to be haphazard.” And it can include contemporary materials. Originally, steel was not on Davenport’s material palette. “We ended up exposing some blackened steel in the structural system and that was carried through into light fixtures and the hood over the stove,” Ankeny says. Davenport now says the hood is one of his favorite features in the home. And of course the kitchen and adjoining great room are the guests’ favorite spaces.
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