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March 26, 2015
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Lots of Glass, Plenty of Class

This contemporary retreat offers informal living with stylish flair

(page 1 of 2)

A neighborhood boy and his babysitter were riding their bikes around John Dodge subdivision off Teton Village Road, when a woman pulled up and asked, “Can you tell me where the Crothers live?” Sure, they replied; “Just follow us. It’s really easy. It’s the only modern house in the neighborhood.”

As the car followed the bikers around a corner, a stained cedar and glass complex emerged from the sagebrush. Kids’ bikes rested by the side of the garage. An array of cars were parked in the long driveway. A basketball hoop stood ready for the next game.

This five-thousand-square-foot home belongs to Mike and Maya Crothers, transplants from Dallas, Texas, who built it seeking a more tranquil existence in Jackson Hole.

“This house is a very different living arrangement for them than they had in Dallas,” said their architect, Stephen Tobler. Built in 2009 by Mill Iron Timberworks, the Crothers’ home was the last Tobler designed in Jackson before moving to Portland, Oregon.

While yes, it’s a contemporary home and almost 50 percent made of glass, every inch of the house is lived in and used—from a second story yoga pavilion to shallow reflection pools.

The Crothers family purchased their three-acre lot in 2006 in the John Dodge subdivision on the Moose-Wilson Road thinking they would create a summer retreat. At the end of the cul-de-sac and with views of the Grand Teton, their ideas would come to fruition three years later.
First, though, they had to find an architect who could make their vision come to life. Tobler found himself on a list of architects auditioning for the job. He took the couple to the project he just completed on Wenzel Lane, the home of Mark and Marcy Feldman.

After showing the Crothers the Feldmans’ eight-thousand-square-foot home, of which more than half is glass also, the Crothers decided that Tobler was the man to design their summer escape.

“They wanted a more literal connection with nature and the beautiful place they were going to live in,” Tobler said, of what the couple sought in their second home.

The design process started almost immediately, with Tobler visiting their John Dodge site “for clues”—like view corridors, landforms, trees, and water bodies—as well as the Crothers’ Dallas home.

“They were living in a really nice, beautiful home, but it was in a McMansion neighborhood, where most of the homes had no connection to Texas,” Tobler said. “I think there was a lot of that house that wasn’t a part of them or their style.”

While in Dallas, Tobler sat back and observed the way the couple lived and interacted with their two young children. He walked through their closets to see how they stored items and rummaged through their kitchen cupboards. He watched as they dashed up and down the back set of stairs between their bedrooms and the common areas.

He found that the family lived informally in a very formal house. The two- story entry hall with a grand, double staircase saw little traffic. Formal living and sitting rooms were rarely used.

“There were cars all over the place, kids running around, slipping out to the pool every five seconds,” Tobler said. “Basically, they lived in the kitchen. I don’t think I ever saw them in the living room."

Armed with those observations—and some specific ideas from the Crothers— Tobler set to work on his next house of glass.
“Mike and Maya were pretty trusting,” he said.

Tobler designed six floorplans for the couple before they found the one that was right for them. “They were looking for something that fit their generation and their attitude about who they thought they were and where they thought they were going,” he said. “They wanted a house stripped of formalities and stereotypical stylistic elements.”

The process posed challenges from the start. Being in the fifth filing of John Dodge, the lot’s covenants did not allow the home to exceed five thousand square feet of habitable space, and it could not have a metal roof. While a home of this size is admittedly large, it is small compared to where the Crothers had been living in Dallas.

“The program [design] was bigger than the covenants would allow,” Tobler said. “At one point, I thought maybe I should encourage them to go find a different lot. [But] they seemed invested emotionally in the neighborhood, its juxtaposition between town and Teton Village. I think they wanted to be there.”

The architect was determined to make it work. Making the space feel larger became all the more important after the couple decided, midway through the project, to relocate to Jackson Hole full time.

“I began looking for creative ways to create space that wasn’t habitable,” Tobler said, space that wouldn’t be counted against the five-thousand square-foot maximum.

The result was a series of three rectangles connected by narrow hallways. The first vertical box contains a garage topped with an open-air yoga pavilion and the home’s main entryway. That section gives way to a long, narrow hallway that opens to the second—and largest—horizontal box, which houses a “living pavilion” that includes the kitchen, dining, and living areas. Another smaller walkway connects the third vertical box that contains the home’s four bedrooms.

The centerpiece of the home is the communal living space.“The living pavilion was a place for them to be together as a family,” Tobler said.
He used walls of glass to blur the lines between the interior and exterior and further the connection to the outdoors. While windows create the illusion that the living space is larger than it is, Tobler also employed stone flooring that runs outside to the patio, furthering the idea that the living space doesn’t just end at its glass walls. He used a series of reflection pools around a swimming pool that also made the home feel bigger and more spacious. The family had grown accustomed to jumping in the backyard pool for a quick dip to cool off from the Texas heat—and these pools serve the same purpose in Jackson’s high-altitude sunshine.

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