In his newly remodeled Salt Lake City home, Billy Stern creates a sleek, light-filled interior shot through with witty details and modern style.
By Brad Mee | Photos by Scot Zimmerman
Gray-tinted high-gloss cabinets, a 10-foot-long brass hood, a duo-base island and the to-the-ceiling marble backsplash team to shape the new kitchen’s swanky style.
When Billy Stern first saw the home he would later call his own—perched on a hillside overlooking Salt Lake City—he was captivated by the vistas and the interior’s impressive volume. “It was this crazy structure with spectacular views and an amazing parcel of land surrounded by open space,” he recalls. At more than 12,000 square feet, it was a far cry from the pied-à-terre Stern was seeking during his search for a city-center dwelling.
A retro chandelier from Tomorrow’s House hangs above a dining table Stern found online and had lacquered by Chamberlain Cabinetry. Benjamin Moore’s Hail Navy dresses the room in deep, dramatic blue.
The story began seven years ago when Stern left New York City for Utah. He had resigned as general counsel for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for the position of chief legal officer for Ancestry, headquartered in Provo. Stern relocated to Park City rather than Utah County. “When you leave New York City, you don’t head to the suburbs. You go to a resort town,” he says with a laugh. Stern moved to Old Town, where he relished world-famous skiing and life along Main Street. Then, during the height of the real estate bust, he purchased an ultra-contemporary home in the ski town’s posh Promontory community.
Stern removed a wall to open the entry to the living spaces and views beyond. White walls and natural light flowing through skylights exploit the interior’s impressive volume while two flag-patterned rugs perform like art underfoot.
“The house was so modern and clean with spectacular architecture and views,” Stern says. “It was a cool, happy structure.” But because most of his social life was in Salt Lake, he began searching for a little place in the city to complement his primary mountain residence. That was when he unexpectedly discovered a very large house with, as Stern tells it, even larger potential.
Once clad in drywall and fussy railing, the striking staircase now features exposed concrete and beams as well as custom railing created by E3 Fabrication. Contractor DFS Construction, Inc. worked with Stern to transform this feature and the entire home.
Where many possible buyers saw only challenges, Stern recognized opportunities. “The house had way too much space and was too ugly, but as a result, it was a white elephant that nobody knew how to handle,” he says. While Stern admits that he didn’t exactly know what he was going to do with the dwelling, he knew that once he removed some walls and all the seafoam green moiré, he would have a blank canvas to “play with.”
In the powder room, a gold orb pendent reflects on a wall covered in mirrored tiles. New York City’s infamous Studio 54 nightclub inspired the room’s decadent décor. The tiles, countertop and flooring are from European Marble & Granite.
The home’s impressive concrete and steel construction also prompted his decision to take on the project. “The house is built like an office building, so I knew that structurally all of the wacky little rooms could easily be removed,” he explains.
Photographer Slim Aarons’ “Poolside Glamour” hangs above a deep, two-sided fireplace that connects the home’s front room to the living room.
Stern collaborated with a number of pros including contractor DFS Construction, David and Rachel Chamberlain, of Chamberlain Cabinetry, and interior designers Andrea Beecher and Matthew Hartzog to transform the outdated house. He began by divesting the house of its late-’70s décor—out with the wall-to-wall carpeting, the green silk, the curly-cue railings and the stained-wood moldings. On the main level, he removed senseless walls and reconfigured parts of the floor plan to open spaces and enlarge rooms.
On the main level, a grouping of modern furnishings floats on new quartersawn white oak floors.
“The volume was already there, but there were some walls where there clearly shouldn’t have been,” he explains. “They broke up views and ruined the flow.” Stern transformed the dark stairwell and outdated staircase by removing drywall to expose concrete walls and steel beams, creating spectacular custom railing and adding wood treads that match gleaming, quartersawn white oak floors that he added throughout. He also replaced all of the old windows with new, energy-efficient versions.
In the spa-like master bathroom, terrazzo flooring flows freely into the curbless shower and beneath the freestanding tub and walnut vanity by Chamberlain Cabinetry. Floor-to-ceiling tile reflects bright light throughout.
“I like the cleanliness of a modern aesthetic, so I incorporated the glass, concrete and wood that I liked so much in my Promontory house,” he says. “This one is not as interesting space-wise, but I tried to make it open and happy.” Indeed, as one moves throughout the home, the décor fluctuates between upbeat and outright playful.
Stern updated the indoor pool area and moved original chandeliers from the main level to hang over the water. “It’s high-drama and kind of funny,” he says with a laugh.
Just inside the front door, two enormous flag-patterned flat weave rugs infuse the entry with exuberant color. To the right, a shimmering gold chandelier gleams above a red lacquered table, anchoring a dining room painted deep blue. “Saturated colors are fabulous for high-drama rooms,” Stern says. Color frolics throughout in doses large and small, but most spaces are decidedly white. “You can’t do 14 rooms in vivid color. It gets old,” he explains. And while Stern thoughtfully doled out color, he let loose with details and design, ranging from chic to cheeky.
A chandelier from Tomorrow’s House in Salt Lake City hangs above the red dining room table.
The sleek kitchen, with stunning white cabinetry and a shining brass range hood all masterfully crafted by David Chamberlain, is awash in bright, heavenly light that flows throughout the swank interior. So, too, do devilish details and over-the-top treatments that reflect Stern’s roguish side. In the new glass elevator, for example, a lighted disco ball sparkles at the top of a shaft equipped with surround sound. “What’s an elevator without music?” Stern jests.
Hair-on-hide rugs, bold accent colors and modern furnishing give the living room a lively, hip vibe.
Old crystal chandeliers that originally adorned the home’s entry and dining room now hang above the indoor pool filled with inflatable duck and swan chairs. And the decadent décor of the powder room (Stern impishly air-quotes “powder”) boasts dark walls, mirrored tiles and photos of Divine and Grace Jones nearby. It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to the homeowner’s memories of the notorious Studio 54 nightclub during its ‘70s heyday.
Stern’s penchant for high-drama permeates the dining room, where blue walls stand in stark contrast to the home’s mostly white interior.
It’s those kind of touches that delight the homeowner. “I like a space that makes you smile,” he explains. And if there’s a single take-away from this remodel project, that’s it: make it happy. “People take their homes too seriously,” says Stern. “A home should be fun.”
Original round windows inspired Stern’s choice of tile for this stunning bathroom’s shower walls. The space, once part of the master suite, now serves the home office after interior walls were reconfigured.
Homeowner Billy Stern