2019 Homestead Magazine

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Size Wise

Pocket Ranch brings the outside in with this inspired design by Strout Architects, Teton Heritage Builders and Laurie Waterhouse Interiors.

+ Story by Nicole Burdick

+ Photography by David Swift

To create a home that integrates with the landscape is appealing; to design one that breathes in the natural environment requires a connection to the space that—dare we say—offers a glimpse at how a dwelling becomes part of the ecosystem. Atop Heck of a Hill, one such home does just that.

In a way that early homesteaders might appreciate, Pocket Ranch revels in efficiency. And that is just what homeowner Richard Spencer had in mind when he went looking to build this time around. Pocket Ranch capitalizes on simplicity, though its history is a bit more rugged. Having been started for a previous owner in 2007, the home sat in Tyvek wrap for nearly two years, sustaining the recession, before Spencer came upon it in his search for the kind of place in which he’d like to settle. The story, and the house, started rebuilding.

 

“The genesis for our projects is the people living within the environment,” says architect Roger Strout, owner of Strout Architects and designer of the initial Pocket Ranch project. “We determine who they are and how they want to live and then couple that with the site. I don’t believe in style the way other people might; every piece of architecture has a character to it. And though Richard’s house fits within a vernacular because of the use of traditional materials—stone, timber, rusted metal —it cannot be put in a box.”

Character rises out of articulate choices. From the beginning, each aspect of the building process was defined by aligning with Spencer’s unadorned sense of comfort. Having spent a great deal of time sailing, even living on a boat, Spencer appreciates a certain economy of space and a long-reaching view, so the Teton Range became part of the architecture. Pocket Ranch’s windows climb toward the clean lines of heavy timber frame and curve around the entirety of a living room that makes a literal centerpiece of Glory Bowl. Despite remarkable sights pulling through from every direction, the home remains modest in all other ways at less than 2,000 square feet.

Within this space, Laurie Waterhouse of Laurie Waterhouse Interiors, knew she had to make the most, and with a single piece of furniture she saw the opportunity to further honor the outdoors through interior design. The sociable, double-sided couch anchors the room while fitting Spencer’s own masculine aesthetics. Waterhouse describes it as “a brute,” yet adds that it’s as soft as Italian leather gloves.

Waterhouse says her job was to create a timeless environment, and she did this partly by making choices that further channeled vistas through each window. She explains that the warm neutral interior colors don’t fight with what is outside. Simple wood lamps feel rooted, and this minimalism allowed her to do what she loves, which is to give a sense of wholeness and continuity to a space.

“To overfill a room of this kind would have been criminal,” Waterhouse says, and her respect for her client runs deep. From his no-hassle attitude to his decisiveness, “everything had a place” for him, and that imbued each element of the design with significance. “It is a privilege to get to do what I do. And Richard is the perfect client.”

From Strout Architects to Laurie Waterhouse Interiors to Teton Heritage Builders, all of the professionals who created this space admiringly describe Spencer as a whole lot of fun, as the kind of client who knows what he wants while being open to ideas and flexible to the inevitable changes and challenges that arise on any project. This sense of ease translated directly into the home, which lacks the trappings of a stereotypically Western house.

“I am not a Westerner,” says Spencer, who has been coming to Jackson since the late 70s. To round out the content of his home he brought collected antiques. “Though just a few,” he says, as he speaks wistfully again of boat travel and how early Americans weren’t afforded the luxury of clutter: They, like Spencer, arrived with only their most favored items.

Mark Dalby, co-owner at Teton Heritage Builders, also describes the project as feeling right, that each element had a sense of value. He explains that, even structurally, the spaces are comfortable, efficient and effective. From a builder’s standpoint it was easy to get a sense of Spencer’s lifestyle, and Dalby gained a real appreciation for the way the building materials represent the solidity of the edifice.

Pushing away from typical Western touches, specifically using square timbers instead of log, was also refreshing for Teton Heritage Builders. Having earned a reputation for quality work on some of the more grandiose homes in the valley, Dalby enjoyed transferring that same level of excellence into such a refined design. At Pocket Ranch, the savings on space were put back into materials, from stonework to metal roofing and copper-clad windows. “The elements come together to make it a fresh look,” says Dalby. “And it’s so nice to build what size-wise is appropriate.”

Even the undercarriage of the home embraces practicality. When Strout Architects recognized that the grade change of the terrain would permit a basement, the home grew organically. Spencer took the chance for a small indulgence with what he calls his “man pit”—a compact space designed and equipped for movie viewing.

Strout, Waterhouse and Dalby all found great satisfaction in being part of a project that sincerely speaks to ecologically conscientious choices. “We are living on three percent of what we have,” says Strout, reiterating the well-known Jackson Hole statistic about 97% of the land being in the public domain. “People need to assess more and more often how they want to live in this beautiful environment.”

As the natural light streams in, it’s the resident who gives each home a personality and a sense of quality. Strout observes that it is indeed Richard Spencer who has made Pocket Ranch unique: “A client like Richard doesn’t care what the rest of the world really thinks. He knows what he likes. And he knew what he needed—and that was all that he needed.”

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