Utah Style and Design

Photo Friday: Historic Homes Recipients of the Artists’ Touch

August 18, 2017

words and images by: Scot Zimmerman

Old Town Park City looked very different when Barbara Kuhr and John Plunkett arrived in town in the early 1990s. Despite warnings from locals passing by on the street who tried to discourage them from investing in the old homes, they acted on the potential they saw in the aging miners’ homes along the narrow road above Main Street.

The four homes renovated by Kuhr and Plunkett are seen in this aerial: the blue-green, violet, and yellow along Park Avenue, and the red behind that faces on Woodside. (Credit: Adam Heiden, Drone Stars)

For those who know the couple and are familiar with their firm, Plunkett+Kuhr, Barbara Kuhr and John Plunkett come with a reputation that they don’t take on challenges without making an impact. While living in France in the 1980s, they took charge of the signage for the Louvre’s design by IM Pei. In 1991, they designed the prototype for Wired Magazine, and helped to found the iconic publication dedicated to emerging technologies and its effects. As designers from 1993–1998, they cut new ground and won a national design award. (Source: Wikipedia)

During their demanding stint at Wired, they commuted weekly from Park City to Wired’s offices in San Francisco. This week I am featuring the couple’s four renovated homes in Old Town, done at a time they surely helped propel the revitalization of Old Town by demonstrating what is possible.

John says that for the yellow house, they returned it closer to its original form on the exterior and preserved and restored much of the interior while adding living space.  The design emphasizes natural light; every room and even some closets have a window. The reflective glossy ceiling paint bounces light. The green wall and bookcases serve as a reminder during the long winter that spring will indeed arrive.

The broad doorway connects the functional kitchen. The white Viking appliances blend with the woodwork.

The master bedroom on the main level opens to a deck and views of the bright colors of the terraced perennial garden.

An open lot planted in meadow grass is adjacent to the red house, which Kuhr and Plunkett currently use as an office. The yellow house can be seen in downhill on the right, and it is reached by steps.

The view from the deck of the red house is so peaceful and pastoral, it’s difficult to contrast it to the busy activities of Park City’s Main Street just a narrow block and a half away.

The lower level of the red house has a well-equipped kitchen for lunch breaks from the office, which is reached by the stairs to the right. It is a favorite place for summer evening entertaining. The neon Kuhr’s sign once graced a Montana department store owned by Barbara’s family.

The office can double as guest space, and the coordinated bright colors are a vivid reminder that it is the home to creative artists.

The blue-green home combines more modern finishes with the old wood rafters seen in the open ceiling. The aqua glass is a transparent bridge to the office area.

A skylight brings the sunlight inside, and the loft diffuses it to eliminate glare.

I’m afraid I haven’t had an opportunity to photograph the violet home yet, but I hope to soon.

John and Barbara are working on the design for other small homes, and I also hope to able to feature them when they are complete.

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