Photos by Alan Blakely
In Provo, a steep hillside lot inspires daring architecture and interior spaces that are equally ingenious and inviting.
Walls of windows spanning the back of this daringly modern home are a dead giveaway: the owners value its views. When architect Richard McCann first showed the empty hillside lot to clients Gerry and Shana Hart, the property’s challenges were obvious. “It had an odd drop-off and is shaped like a triangle on a peninsular point,” says McCann. The Harts, however, saw far beyond these shortcomings. They looked out to the endless sky and broad scenic vistas of the valley below and envisioned their new home on this very spot.
From day one, the topography and scenic panoramas inspired the home’s architecture, indoors and out. “If you drove out here before the house was built, you’d never guess any house would even fit on this site,” McCann explains. Today, three 80-foot-long concrete walls retain the exterior landscape, the garage suspends over two points of land and a sky bridge connects the main home with a two-story music studio. Inside, the spacious living areas and hallways jog upward following the mountainside’s steep slope. Sculptural, open-tread stairways connect family spaces and act as functional art. And at the core, McCann inserted a mammoth pillar-like wall of board-form concrete that hosts fireplaces and connects all three levels.
“The Harts had very specific things they wanted,” the architect says. “I enjoyed designing around the views, but most of all, how the Harts live.” Indoor-outdoor living, impromptu gatherings and congregating teenagers drove the layout. The couple’s must-haves included an open-kitchen pan try, a music studio for Gerry, a craft room for Shana, a pool and a lower-level hangout for their three teenagers and their friends. The Harts also insisted on using the furnishings, décor and art they had collected over the years. Missing from the want-list were unnecessary spaces like an ostentatious entryway or any trendy decorative details. “Going flashy is easy. It’s much harder not to,” Gerry explains. “We want to like this home years from now.”
The Harts collaborated with McCann and interior designer Penny Dille of CopperHAUS Design to finish the interior. The couple had previously lived in New York as well as Oklahoma—Gerry producing music and Shana teaching special ed—so it was no surprise to McCann and Dille that their clients’ taste would drive unique style. “Gerry’s cool edginess is seen in the architecture,” says Dille. “Meanwhile, Shana’s eclectic eye is woven into the lighting, furnishings and art.”
The team created a decidedly modern style, but one with warmth and a mid-century, flea-market vibe. “There are elements I love about modern: it’s clean, sleek and simple, but I wanted our home to represent us and our kids’ personalities,” says Shana. Woven textiles, wide-planked wood flooring, vintage music posters, collected knickknacks, and estate-sale furnishings make the home comfortable, as well as family-friendly.
The open kitchen and living room areas act as Grand Central Station for the active family. “We wanted a flow that would be easy for traffic to converge where we would hang out,” Gerry says. The kitchen opens to the living room, dining room, craft room and garage entry. Bedrooms are purposefully smaller, so instead, everyone congregates in the living spaces. McCann flipped the stairwell from the original plan, so garage traffic doesn’t go straight to the stairs. “From the living space, we can see the kids and their friends on their way downstairs,” Gerry explains.
Room to room, windows flood the interior with views and natural light. “We spent a lot of time with Richard on the windows, choosing shape, size and color. I didn’t want to spend all that money and time and not have them be a major feature,” Shana says. Neutral furnishings and white walls similarly accentuate the windows and the vistas they frame. “The whole house is painted white, so the views and the windows all function like color would on a wall,” Gerry says. “We didn’t want to fight with the outside,” Shana says.
The end result is a boldly modern home that melds levels of intriguing and livable spaces all framed with stunning views and dynamic architecture. The talented architect, insightful designer and their adventurous clients succeeded in turning this troublesome yet inspiring site into the setting for a home that suits it spectacularly.