Photography: Douglas Burke
When the Philadelphia couple set out to build a retirement home large enough to accommodate seven grown children and their families, they were determined to combine simplicity, style and sustainability. Luckily, they found a like-minded architect who devised a plan that met their needs and fulfilled their desires.
“We’ve always loved the Rockies,” says Mike, a commercial real estate lawyer and consultant. “For 15 years we spent summers in Jackson, but we decided we needed some place easier for the children to travel to.” The couple looked throughout the Rockies before renting two houses on Park City’s Daly Avenue. “We found that we liked the people in Park City,” says Sandy, a former head of a private school in Philadelphia. “They were friendly and open.”
On one of Mike’s Philadelphia projects, he met Rick Hoa, a builder from Salt Lake City. “I told Hoa I was looking for an architect who had a strong sense of design and who was familiar with the building codes of Summit County,” Mike recalls. Hoa recommended Jill Jones, a Park City resident who heads ajc architects of Salt Lake City.
“When Mike first called, I felt an immediate connection,” says Jones. “He was different from most clients. He didn’t tell me how big a house he wanted or how much he wanted to spend or how many cars he would have in the garage. Instead, he talked about the feel of the house, how views were important, and how he wanted to capture the sunlight.”
Within days, the two met in Park City, drove out to the site and walked the property — 40 acres that once was part of a cattle ranch. “He was respectful of the land,” says Jones. “He wanted the house to be very simple and calm.” By simple, he did not mean boring. “I told Jill we wanted to marry style and substance,” says Mike. “Most traditional stuff is pretty dull. I wanted to think outside the box.”
Jones met with Mike and Sandy and all of their children. “We filled a conference room,” she recalls with a laugh. “I had [multiple clients], but they all had a similar vision. They wanted a big kitchen where several people could work, a large open space where people could gather, and a dedicated playroom.”
“From all the places we’ve rented, we knew what worked for us and what didn’t,” says Sandy. “We didn’t want a loft because [grand]children wouldn’t be able to sleep through the grownups’ dinners. We knew we needed two dishwashers and two fridges. We liked round tables. And we didn’t want a log house because it would be too dark.” “And they wanted the house as open as possible,” Jones explains. “One space flowing into the next.”
When Jones suggested using corrugated metal on the exterior of the house, the couple was intrigued. “They liked the idea of indigenous architecture,” Jones recalls. “I showed them gable and shed roofs that had an agricultural feel.” Mike, particularly, got excited about the material. “Contemporary mine buildings are made of galvanized steel, which is low maintenance,” he says. “I liked the way it looked and that it wouldn’t require painting the exterior.”
The project grew organically as they factored in their needs. The Deans hired local builder Cliff Goldthorpe, who was responsible for many design features required to cope with high winds, snow and ice on sloped roofs and a kitchen where everyone could cook. Originally, the family had thought of building a main house and several guest houses. But when they discovered that the zoning didn’t permit more than one house on the property, Jones designed a core house with glassed-in galleries connecting the bedroom pods.
Sandy’s brother, a builder in Arizona, urged them to have a passive solar house. The house faces south to capture as much sun — and view — as possible. “I think of the house as contemporary southwestern,” says the architect. The slate floor absorbs heat as does the two-story trombe wall which offers support as well as being another heat conductor. The wall of glass in the living room is made up of small windows, many of which open. “We knew we didn’t want air conditioning, so we wanted maximum ventilation,” Mike points out.
Throughout the design process, much of which took place long distance, the Deans stayed true to their vision. “We are conservative, not flamboyant,” insists Sandy. “We’re into minimalism and have eclectic taste.” Every piece of art in the house has a story, such as a print bought in Indonesia, or oil paintings by the Deans’ daughter, Joy Every, an artist in Virginia who recently showed her work at Park City’s Kimball Art Center.
Throughout the house, the Deans melded form and function. The two custom dining room tables that seat 10 are round to encourage conversation. The red-stained chairs from Pottery Barn have a schoolhouse feel, appropriate for the home of a former teacher. The cabinets are alder, made by a local cabinetmaker. The color palette is soft and muted, with walls a soft green, the color of sagebrush outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. The setting is quiet and the interior is serene. “We are quiet people,” says Sandy. “We both read a lot.”
The Dean house is a testament to the family’s values and beliefs. People and nature are both important to them. Tall bookshelves are lined with books. There’s not a television or computer in sight. (They do have a small home office tucked away upstairs.) Their simple design sense carries over to all things.
When asked if she would change anything, Sandy looked around and chuckled. “I would do a better job coordinating the sheets,” she admits. “And I’d have towels all the same color.”
Michele Morris is the author of “The Cowboy Life” and has written for such national magazines as More, Garden Design and Travel & Leisure.