An Architect's Home in Jackson Hole

Mountain Living
By Norman Kolpas
Before designing any residence, a thoughtful architect will aim to gain a firsthand understanding of the site: how it relates to the landscape; the impact of the seasons; where the sun rises and sets at different times of year; where snow accumulates and where the winds blow. But most architects have only a few days to gather such impressions.    

Architect John Carney, however, enjoyed a rare opportunity to acquaint himself thoroughly with an almost-5-acre site on rural Fish Creek Road—a 25-minute drive from downtown Jackson—before building his home there. Over a span of three and a half years, Carney, founding principal of Jackson-based Carney Logan Burke Architects, and his wife Elaine lived in a small guesthouse he had previously designed and built on the property, just a short stroll from the location of the main residence they finally moved into in October 2014.

They hadn’t planned to wait that long. But they bought the parcel shortly before the Great Recession of 2007–2008, and “the guesthouse was simply less expensive,” Carney explains. “I don’t normally have the luxury of living on a property before I design, but I got to watch this one through the seasons and get to know it intimately. Elaine and I would walk up the slope, stand on the site and envision its potential.”

Those visions took Carney through what he estimates were six or seven different designs before he arrived at one that he considered just right. “We came to realize we didn’t need huge spaces,” he says of the layout, with approximately 3,384 square feet of living space arrayed on two levels that step downhill. The efficient plan prioritizes public areas for entertaining over sleeping spaces. “In the living and dining areas, we wanted an easy traffic flow that would let us invite six or eight people over for dinner without having to rearrange the furniture,” Carney explains. “But our upstairs master bedroom is just 16 feet wide and 10 feet deep, so we feel like we’re sleeping in a tree house.”

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