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Image: Alan Blakely

Stroll into any newly completed home or condominium in Park City, and it's immediately clear: the era of the traditional mountain home is over. Muddy palettes, ornate brocades, and showpiece taxidermy have given way to tonal color schemes, minimal accessories, and a focus on why people come to the mountains in the first place: the view outside.

Dubbed mountain modern or rustic contemporary, the shift is a welcome departure from the opulence and excess evident in the big-brown-house/paws-and-claws trend of the last couple of decades. But striking a balance between a truly modern aesthetic—typically associated with urban environments—and Park City’s rugged mountain locale requires treading carefully and looking at interior design and architecture with a fresh perspective.

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Image: Alan Blakely

Constantino Grandjacquet, principal with Summa Ars Architects (1500 Kearns Blvd, 435.655.3811, summaars.com), says that in the 1990s and early 2000s, most of his clients were second homeowners looking for a rustic retreat different from their metropolitan primary residences. Now, thanks in part to the virtual workplace, half of the families he works with have abandoned urban living and are making Utah their full-time home. “Younger families from places like Miami, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have discovered Park City and want to enjoy the lifestyle here year-round,” he says. “With them comes a heightened level of design awareness and knowledge that’s fueling not only a more contemporary aesthetic, but a new level of craftsmanship and creativity as well, a challenge that I’m finding very exciting.”

By designing homes that are greener, customizing technology to how people interact with their homes, and using indigenous materials in creative ways, Grandjacquet is interpreting his clients’ urban-based tastes for life in the mountains. As part of a remodel on Inge and Jason Travis’s Old Ranch Road–area home, for example, Grandjacquet replaced stone siding and gables with weathered wood and cold-rolled steel, instantly updating the ranch-style structure while at the same time subtly referencing Park City’s mining past. Large bay windows and sliding glass doors further the home’s unexpectedly contemporary feel while allowing the Travis family to enjoy every aspect of surrounding hillsides.

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Image: Alan Blakely

“I think the recession definitely moved people’s tastes toward simplicity,” reflects Rebecca Buchan, founder and principal of Denton House Design Studio (52 Exchange Place, SLC, 801.333.8156, dentonhouse.com), whose client roster includes Talisker, The Yellowstone Club, and, most recently, the Stein Eriksen Residences in Deer Valley. “People are no longer interested in segmented layouts, heavy timbers, and a home full of hard-to-care-for furniture. My clients at the beach and in the mountains alike want open layouts, durable textiles, and brightness. They want a place where they can go to enjoy their family and the outdoors and not have to worry about anything else.”

Finishes in the Stein Eriksen Residences include Calcutta and Carrara marble, subway tile, and oak flooring—all typically considered more traditional materials. Buchan made them contemporary by accenting the marble and tile with sleek chrome, and selecting rift-sawn, lightly stained oak for the flooring, creating a cleaner, more linear look. To maintain the 360-degree-views afforded in these stunning Deer Valley condominium residences and single-family homes, Buchan kept window treatments to a minimum; throughout, tonal yet very layered and textural fabrics soften the homes’ straight lines. And statement light fixtures and chandeliers lend a whimsical touch.

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Image: Alan Blakely

One glance through Michele King’s (michelekinginteriordesign.com, 435.640.1000) website project portfolio—arranged by year—and the advent of the mountain-modern trend in Park City is put in stark relief. “The shift started happening about five years ago,” King notes. “Baby Boomers are getting to an age where they want to downsize, exchanging their 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot homes—with all the stuff they’d collect in these enormous spaces—in favor of something smaller and easier to manage.”

But smaller and simpler by no means equates to low quality. The Enclave at Sun Canyon, a town- and custom-home project for which King completed the interior design scheme last year, is replete with high-end finishes. Walls in both the town homes and the custom homes are Level 5 drywall (“in other words, flawless,” King says), all the limestone and travertine are high grade, and in the kitchen is Thermador and top-of-the-line Kohler. “In smaller spaces with less stuff going on, investing in high-quality finishes becomes even more important,” King explains.

An aspect gratefully absent from the current mountain-contemporary design trend is that faddish, Miami Vice feel that was all the rage in the 1980s. “I think of it as classic contemporary,” Buchan says, “a take on modern design that will last longer than five minutes.” 

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