FALL CREEK RESIDENCE
Teton County, Wyoming • 4,000 sq. ft.
Design Team: Chris Moulder, AIA; Ben Weisbeck, Bryan Gleason, Andrew Dillion
Located at the top of a heavily forested and steep road, this property is surrounded by remarkable views of the valley and of a mountain range to the east. Constructed in the 1970’s, the existing house was a hodgepodge of materials, shapes and a dozen elevations that together formed a small, two-bedroom log cabin. The house was hobbit-like with low, cramped, ceiling, a crossed gambrel roof and an octagonal room that had been added years later with a flat observation roof. Since the home held sentimental value to the current owners who inherited it from their uncle, their original design program was quite modest: they only wanted to add on a master suite, an attached two-car garage, and remodel the kitchen.
Ted and JoAnne Wong inherited the property from Ling Tung, the longtime head Maestro of the Grand Teton Music Festival. The house was originally owned and built in the 70’s by a handyman. The building best represented his work as a hodgepodge of materials, shapes and a dozen elevations that, together, formed a log cabin on top of a hill. It was hobbit-like with low, cramped, ceilings, yet it illustrated how homes of the valley were built in that era when people would carve living space into every nook and cranny to have more room to hide away for the winter season.
Once demolition occurred, the horrors of rodent infestation, water issues and poor prior construction practices became evident. The construction crew uncovered mouse nests, squirrel carcasses, and other signs of habitation in the walls and ceilings. When toxic black mold was discovered and had to be mitigated—and that wasn’t even the biggest problem—the entire job was forced to shut down for three weeks. Worst of all, when the contractors removed a wood-framed wall in the basement, they found that the studs had been scribed to abut an unreinforced concrete block foundation wall that was bulging due to pressure from the earth on the uphill side and was on the brink of failing. Given that the mountain top home exists in a seismic zone the same as Los Angeles and is prone to weathering strong wind gusts and four feet of wet snow, it was a wonder that the house was still standing. While the original structure was jacked up to put in properly designed reinforced concrete walls, the architect and contractor were able to discuss all of the uncovered issues with the owners and the decision was made to scrap 85% of the existing structure.
The house was set down and demolished, except for the octagon and a portion of a concrete slab in the basement. Design principal, Chris Moulder, designed a new house that used the existing logs and timber from the octagon room. The new octagon, now a media room, was raised 3 feet and the floor was lowered a foot. No longer dark and confining, the entire home boasts large windows that allow natural light to brighten the interior and which frame the picturesque mountain-top views.
Instead of renovating, starting anew resolved any issues with plumbing and electrical, straightened the walls and floors so that they were plumb, level and square, and made it easier to add the 2-car garage. The home now is code-compliant with a new concrete foundation and structural steel that can withstand high winds and snow loads. Thus the design team and the owners had the creative opportunity to create a home with an open floor plan and many outdoor entertaining areas that take into consideration the owners’ lifestyle.