Gem State: Living with Nature in Idaho's Mountains and Valleys

Gem State: Living with Nature in Idaho's Mountains and Valleys

Idaho's nickname is "The Gem State" for its abundance of natural resources and scenic areas, from steep canyons and valleys to snow-capped mountains. It's no surprise that the state's architecture draws from this context, especially for remote housing projects. Reinterpreting building methods, materials, and spatial relationships, architects have designed a series of incredible homes across Idaho that are redefining how to live in nature.

© Aaron Leitz© Art Grice© Andrew Pogue© Gabe Border+ 14

Courtesy of Imbue Design
Courtesy of Imbue Design

While Idaho has diverse landscapes, it's also home to extreme environmental conditions. Home to some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States, the state ranges from the windy, high desert to other-worldly areas like the 618 square-mile lava field Craters of the Moon. As a result, residential architecture is grounded in place, homes that are both pragmatic and inspiring by design. Utilizing local materials and drawing from Idaho's history and building traditions, the following projects reimagine remote living across the state.

Boar Shoat House / Imbue Design

Courtesy of Imbue Design
Courtesy of Imbue Design

The owner of the Boar Shoat (a family term for youthful vivacity) wanted to gain distance from city living. He wanted a retreat - a place where he and his family could withdraw digital connection while communing with nature and each other. The resulting site choice opens up to the great Rocky Mountains of Southern Idaho.

Stirrup House / Olson Kundig

© Aaron Leitz
© Aaron Leitz

This 6,500-square-foot home, which sits on a quiet cul-de-sac in Ketchum, Idaho between Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain, was designed around the client’s collection of contemporary art alongside commanding mountain views. Throughout the home, windows frame views of exterior artworks against the forested landscape beyond.

Hood River Retreat / Wittman Estes Architecture + Landscape

© Andrew Pogue
© Andrew Pogue

A series of family cabins hidden in the forest and overlooking Washington's Hood Canal, the Hood Cliff Retreat is located atop a bluff on the western shore of Hood Canal in the Pacific Northwest. Rethinking the existing structure built on the site in 1962, the owners asked for an indoor-outdoor retreat that would allow them to be closer to the land.

Henry Point / Michael Flowers Architect + Farm Research and Design

© Larry Conboy
© Larry Conboy

Located on a hillside property overlooking Hayden Lake, the Henry Point project is a 830 sqf loft addition and intensive reprogramming of an existing lake cabin in northern Idaho. The project connects visitors of family and friends to the surrounding landscape through a series of decks and operable facades that create large indoor/outdoor gathering spaces.

Canyon House / Paul Hirzel

© Art Grice
© Art Grice

The Canyon House was designed for owners that wanted a year-round retreat to cultivate the "spiritual aspects in the trinity of human, fish, and river". The house was designed as a place to write, sleep, talk, eat, read, fish, cleanse, garden and wander. They also a wilderness place for their grandchildren to visit.

Teton Residence / RO | ROCKETT DESIGN

© Gabe Border
© Gabe Border

A young family desired to build a retreat on a large lot located outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming in Teton County, Idaho. The design locates the house amidst an expansive wetland that fluctuates seasonally. There is a small, spring-fed creek to the south as well as mountain views to the east and west.

River Place / Paul Hirzel

© Jim Van Gundy
© Jim Van Gundy

At the end of a single lane road cut into a hillside, on a dry west-facing slope near Juliaetta, Idaho, the owners wanted to restore a pioneer vineyard. Preserving the most ideal land for the vineyard, the team located two structures – one above a flood plain, the other perched on a narrow basalt cliff overlooking a spawning pool on the Potlatch River.

Outpost / Olson Kundig

© Tim Bies
© Tim Bies

Set in the remote, harsh high desert of Idaho, Outpost is an artist’s live/work studio and sculpture garden. The building’s compactness restricts site impact and reinforces the desire to be outside. The footprint of the house is the limit of intrusion into the land—a simple, clearly defined space.

About this author
Cite: Eric Baldwin. "Gem State: Living with Nature in Idaho's Mountains and Valleys" 27 Oct 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/949752/gem-state-living-with-nature-in-idahos-mountains-and-valleys> ISSN 0719-8884

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