Utah Style and Design
Stewart art home

House Tour: Home is Where the Art is

October 21, 2019

On a sprawling ranch in Mount Pleasant, Sam and Diane Stewart weave together family history, Western art and contemporary design to build their dream home on the range.

Photos by Scot Zimmerman and Trevor Muhler

Those who know Diane Stewart, the founder of Modern West Fine Art in Salt Lake City, describe her as an arbiter of good taste and an advocate for the local arts community. Stewart opened the doors to Modern West—the gallery she started nearly seven years ago—but she’s been a patron of the arts and a collector for many years.

“Many of the artists whose works I’ve collected and have good relationships with had no representation in Utah,” she explains. At their urging, she started Modern West to support both established and emerging contemporary western artists.

Stewart art home
To ensure the new structure blended with the property, the team used corten steel on the roof and log walls with chinking that matched the existing cabins. “At some point the home is going to weather a lot more, and it will look like all the other buildings,” says Gregory Walker of WOW Atelier. / Photo by Trevor Muhler

It’s no surprise then, that art was at the forefront of her mind when the time came for her and her husband, Sam, to build a new ranch house on their sprawling, pastoral property in Mount Pleasant, Utah. “I design from the inside out because the art is such an integral part of any home I live in,” she explains. “It’s always a balance between the design of the home and the art.” 

Stewart art home
The entry doubles as a front gallery when you walk into the home. Some of the art in the home is from artists that Stewart represents at Modern West Fine Art. “I would never represent an artist that I wouldn’t put in my own home,” she explains. The sand paintings are by Charles Henderson and the console tables are by J. Scott Anderson. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

And this particular home was especially close to the couple’s hearts: Sam’s family has owned the 1,000-acre ranch—complete with 200 head of cattle, a gaggle of guest cabins and a barn—since his birth, and he spent much of his childhood there. So when a flood destroyed the property’s original ranch house, a 130-year-old adobe structure, it was a major blow. “My husband was in mourning,” Stewart says. 

With time, they decided to rebuild, but it was important that the new home paid homage to the property’s rich history.

Stewart art home
Floor-to-ceiling windows and doors fill the great room with natural light. “The home has beautiful vistas,” Stewart says. The mixed media piece above the bar is by Dolan Geiman from Modern West Fine Art, and the bronze sculpture is by James Fraser. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

“We wanted the home to be contemporary, but we didn’t want it to look like a spaceship had landed,” Stewart explains. They also wanted the home to have both public and private spaces, so they could host family gatherings and invite groups to enjoy the on-site art, but still have a quiet space where the couple could retreat. And, of course, the home needed to showcase their impressive art collection.   

Stewart art home
The doors in the great room open up to the pool and outdoor sitting area, providing a seamless transition from inside to out. The bar provides a convenient place for guests and the grandkids to grab refreshments from the nearby pool. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

To help bridge the past with the present and bring the couple’s vision to life, Stewart called upon her trusted collaborators at WOW Atelier, a boutique architecture firm and creative studio based in downtown SLC, whom she previously teamed up with to design her Modern West gallery spaces (Stewart recently moved the gallery from its initial SLC digs on 200 South and 200 East to a hip, new location at 412 South and 700 West).

Stewart art home
Hickory wood flooring moves up the wall into the kitchen’s wide seating nook. The oil painting is by Jeff Pugh. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

“Diane’s style is impeccable,” says Gregory Walker, one third of the trio behind WOW Atelier, along with Chimso Onwuegbu and Benjamin Wiemeyer. “She knows what she likes, but she’s also a great collaborator—maybe it’s because she works with artists, so she’s used to more fluid conversations. We talked a lot about ideas.” 

Stewart art home
Walker and his team laid out the entire site to have the sun shine in a perfect line between the split roof and onto the two Jun Kaneko sculptures on July 24th, a special holiday for the Stewart family. / Photo by Trevor Muhler

Walker and the team at WOW Atelier approach each of their projects with a bespoke ethos, treating architecture and design like couture, and the ranch house was no exception. “We were obsessed with the idea of the home being perfect for them,” he says. “It can’t just be a beautiful thing—it has to work.”

Stewart art home
“I wanted a large gathering table that was connected to the kitchen,” says Stewart, who loves to cook and entertain. Walker designed an oversized island and fashioned a corten-steel hood above the stove to repeat the home’s rustic roofing material. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

They designed a contemporary structure with a unique split roofline and a clear division between public and private spaces: one section of the home includes the great room, kitchen and dining area, while the bedrooms and an office/sitting room are in a separate section. An outdoor living area and pool create a fluid layout from the inside to the outside. “The home is not large, but it’s meaningfully designed and perfectly accommodates how we want to use it,” says Stewart. 

Stewart art home
The 1,000-acre ranch not only hosts the new house, a number of guest cottages and a barn, but also 200 head of cattle. / Photo by Trevor Muhler

To juxtapose the new with the old and as a nod to the property’s past, Walker and his team built the home using the same materials as featured on the existing cabins.

Stewart art home
In the master bedroom, a wide fireplace provides the perfect perch for a painted wood piece by Sheldon Harvey from Modern West Fine Art. The fireplace wall is accented with custom leather panels by WOW Atelier as a reference to Sam’s cattle living on the ranch. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

“We put corten steel on the roof so it rusted out, and we did log walls with chinking exactly the way the original cabin was built that Sam lived in when he was little,” Walker explains. “We didn’t want this to feel like some foreign thing. The materiality was really important.”

Stewart art home
The master bathroom features two vanities and a large soaking tub. The mixed media piece above the tub is by Jann Haworth from Modern West Fine Art. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

Inside, art abounds throughout the home. An entryway gallery greets you when you walk through the front door and sets the tone for the collection to come. In the master bedroom, an extra-wide fireplace mantel provides the perfect perch for a large piece by Modern West artist Sheldon Harvey, while  in the great room a custom bar area was designed to accommodate a commissioned piece by Modern West artist Dolan Geiman displayed above the bar. Outside, two thoughtfully placed large ceramic statues by Jun Kaneko face eachother below the home’s split roof.  

Stewart art home
In the private office and sitting room, the team strategically positioned the custom desk so Sam could work while watching the grandkids in the pool. The mixed media piece on the left wall is by Dave Newman from Modern West Fine Art. The oil painting on the far wall is by Doug Snow. / Photo by Scot Zimmerman

For the interiors, Stewart and Walker teamed with designer J. Scott Anderson. “I wanted the design to recede a little bit and the art to be front and center,” says Stewart. “I also wanted it to be textural. We used a lot of Native American textiles, and all of the fabrics have a nice hand to them. We kept it simple and sleek so the art could shine.” 

Stewart art home
The front of the home opens to flourishing gardens and a swimming pool where the family can hang out and enjoy the ranch’s scenic beauty. / Photo by Trevor Muhler

Despite owning additional homes in Salt Lake, Palm Springs, Paris and New York, the Stewarts spend a lot of time at the ranch house—including weekends and summer holidays— and they always look forward to it. “This house is about family and we’re very rooted to this part of the state; that is part of the draw,” Stewart explains. “Our grandchildren say it’s their favorite of all of our homes. The art in the house is precious, but the rest of the property is kid heaven; it’s different than city life.”

Stewart art home
Homeowners Diane and Sam Stewart

The Stewarts’ grandkids and guests alike can truly roam free on the ranch. It’s the same wide-open, awe-inducing Western landscape that has inspired artists for years, and, with the Stewarts’ influence, it will continue to inspire for years to come.

Want a look at more homes in Utah? See more House Tours here.

Tessa Woolf

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