Going with the Flow
Photography: Douglas Burke
Nestled between the soothing Provo River and the stark volcanic rock cliffs and cottonwood trees off of scenic Highway 32 is the Witz/Burton family home at Victory Ranch. Having owned several Park City homes since 1996, Bill Witz and Marlene Burton chose Victory Ranch as the location for their new home because of its access to the river and its views of the mountains and the Rees Jones golf course, all within proximity to their Park City friends, skiing and amenities.
“This is the first home we’ve built from scratch,” Witz explains. “With the expertise of our architect, Alex Schiel, and Sletta Construction, we were able to have everything we wanted—our artwork, my cars and Marlene’s garden.”
The general feel of the residence is open, but warm. At nearly 8,000 square feet, the four-bedroom home enjoys lots of natural light and plenty of windows (to capture the incredible views), but it also boasts plenty of cozy gathering spaces to accommodate intimate dinners as well as large gatherings. The couple of 33 years loves to entertain, and with a combined family of four children and nine grandchildren, functional space was a priority.
“The outdoor covered patio is like having another living room,” Burton attests, and the family spends a lot of time there. The space is outfitted with an antique pine dining table, colorful cushioned outdoor furniture, a fire pit and a Ty Loyola stump table. Within view is a half-acre fishing pond stocked with trout and guarded by a whimsical chrome bumper bear designed by Chicago artist John Kearney.
The skeleton of the home is framed in Virginia white pine timber, a healthy share of which girds a majestic octagonal great room. “The framework of the home was constructed back East, shipped here, and literally put together like Lincoln Logs, using pegs, not nails,” Burton explains. The center chandelier, which looks like contemporary metal, is actually also made of wood. It arrived in a seven-by-seven-foot crate, delaying the installation of the front door. Other beautiful woodwork in the home includes walnut flooring and custom-made furniture designed by Kizerian Interiors and built by Ty Loyola.
The home’s blueprint for living revolves around the couple’s passions. “Gardening is something I’ve always loved to do,” Burton says. Along with garden designer Brenda Broughton, she created a walled garden housing iris, roses, boxwood, hydrangea, espaliered apple trees, poppies, delphinium and more. Burton also has the benefit of a sunny and inviting greenhouse that, as she puts it, “is a full-time but deeply satisfying job.” The 20-year owner and founder of Sweet William, a women’s clothing store in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, seeks solace in this peaceful alcove. “It’s extremely calming and relaxing. I lose track of time caring for my orchids, nurturing my Meyer lemon tree and forcing spring bulbs.” Last fall, she had a crew of diligent landscapers plant 11,000 bulbs outside (no, that’s not a typo—11,000), and she hopes the results are spectacular.
Witz, a retired third-generation electrical contractor from Chicago, labored with architect Alex Schiel to design a detached building dubbed the Car Barn. The aim was to create a structure that appeared to have been on the property for years, yet one suited to housing Witz’s rolling antiques, which have been restored to their former glory. Witz can often be spotted in Park City behind the wheel of his ’46 Ford Sportsman Convertible or one of his other collectibles. But it’s not all four-wheeled fun: he also displays a ’52 Whizzer bike on one wall of the Car Barn. “I had one exactly like it when I was a kid,” he says.
Travel and art are also dear to the couple. Witz’s father, Leo, was an accomplished painter, and the home is filled with examples of his work, including a spectacular Impressionist-style portrait of the Chicago River. The couple also displays an appealingly eclectic mix of artifacts and artwork from their travels in Spain, Nepal, Africa, East Asia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Russia, New Guinea and elsewhere. Other highlights include contemporary rugs mixed with an old Wells Fargo stagecoach gun, Witz’s grandfather’s Knights Templar sword, delicate Handel lamps (the company was in the family on Witz’s mother’s side), an antique cash register from Durango and a funky Jersey Kinard goat sculpture next to a very modern-looking kidney bean–shaped bathtub.
“Our home isn’t ‘decorated,’” Witz explains. “It’s just filled with art and items we’ve collected over the years. We didn’t buy things for a particular place in the house; we bought things because we loved them, and then we found a place for them.”
All of the influences in their lives come together for Witz and Burton in a tasteful, interesting, yet comfortable way, in a home they love to live in. As Witz says, “There really wasn’t a grandiose scheme, but we’re very proud of the house.”