Master stonemason Twig MacCaughern had always dreamed of building his own home. “Doesn’t everyone?” he asks. So when he and his wife, Linda Lee, found a 7.5-acreSilver Creek property with incredible views, they knew the time had come.
Since MacCaughern had been thinking about his dream home for 20 years, he knew exactly what he wanted. With a nod to several years spent living in France, he envisioned a European farmhouse. “We wanted something comfortable where people could be together all the time—that’s farmhouse life,” MacCaughern says.
Park City residents since 1995, MacCaughern and Lee also had a fairly clear idea of the house they didn’t want. “We’ve seen a lot of houses that are all for show but not usable,” Lee explains. “And we didn’t want the ‘mountain home’ look that gets done over and over again.” They got still further inspiration from a former Silver Creek neighbor with a unique pedigree. “Picabo Street [the Olympic ski racer] used to tell us how she envisioned herself going through the race course,” Lee continues, “so we would envision the traffic patterns in our house: Where would it be comfortable to have coffee in the morning? Which way should the bed face?”
With all of these ideas brewing, the couple chose to serve as their own architects. MacCaughern drew up a basic home layout with a large great room and two wings—a master on one side and kids or guests on the other—encompassing three bedrooms and an office. The entire home is on one level, “in preparation for our old age,” he laughs. “We love this house so much, we’re planning on being here until we die, so we made sure it was wheelchair accessible, too. That’s how long we’re staying!”
The defining element of the home is its elaborate use of stone, a love of which MacCaughern developed at an early age. “We moved to rural Connecticut when I was 8,” he recalls, “and when my dad cleared some land for a garden, I decided I wanted stone steps. I was too small to move rock, though. So apparently I directed my father on where to put the stones. By 12, I was building stone walls for my mother’s gardens, and at 22, while working as a dog trainer, I built stone walls for the owners of the kennel. That’s when I decided stonemasonry was what I wanted to do.” A stalwart fan of the traditional dry-stack method that he grew up observing in the old stone walls of New England, he meticulously placed thousands of rocks in his home, to beautiful effect.
In fact, MacCaughern handcrafted as much as possible in the home. “Every job Twig does for his clients is very specific to them so that it fits their lifestyle,” explains Lee. “We did the same thing for ourselves. There is nothing cookie-cutter about anything in this house.” MacCaughern built the white-pine kitchen cabinets, poured and stained concrete for kitchen counters, and, to get the farmhouse look he wanted, hand-plastered most of the walls in the home—8,000 pounds’ worth. He carved stone sinks for the washrooms, crafted stone surrounds and headers for all of the French doors and windows, built three stone fireplaces, and cut all of the stone for the flooring (made of New York state bluestone that he drove cross-country himself). The dining table is a solid piece of sandstone that MacCaughern found in Colorado, weighing in at more than a ton.
The rest of the stone in the house was harvested closer to home. “In old Europe, people showed off their level of wealth with their stonework. If we were really wealthy, all of our stone would have been from the local quarry—but we could only afford cornerstones from there. The rest of the stone came from our own land,” MacCaughern explains. “I like the mix.” The uniquely beautiful façade on the outside of the house is a combination of volcanic stone that MacCaughern harvested from his property and limestone from southern Utah. The stone terraces outside were built with sandstone from a local quarry. MacCaughern estimates that he has already used about 300 tons of stone in the retaining walls, the house itself, and the patio—“and counting,” he adds, as he’s still finishing the outdoor living spaces.
Both MacCaughern and Lee love to entertain, so the kitchen area received particular attention. Lee’s family owned a Chinese restaurant in New York City, and she now delights dinner guests with multicourse Chinese meals including her famous long-life noodles. MacCaughern is a master bread maker, baking his custom loaves in a handmade, fire-powered stone oven (go figure), but his specialty is pizza. The couple is admired for hosting pizza parties, for which MacCaughern makes all of the dough by hand and Lee helps prepare different toppings. Guest favorites include the Thai pizza with roasted red pepper, fontina, caramelized onion, chicken, garlic, ginger, hoisin, and black bean sauce, and the coveted clam, garlic, and parmesan pizza.
The couple finds the home equally appealing when they’re just on their own. “I wanted peace and serenity in our home,” Lee says. “Things are a little sparse, just some things from my mom and dad’s house, like silk paintings from my Chinese heritage.” A vice president at Scholastic book publishers, Lee makes many flights between New York and Utah, so it’s important that she has space to wind down. “After we completed the house, someone gave me a book about feng shui,” she recalls. “We had actually already done it naturally. The whole thing was organic.”
As striking as some of the interior spaces are, the couple’s front-of-the-house garden is perhaps the crown jewel of the place, especially since it thrives in what MacCaughern refers to as “Dune”—the volcanic ash layer that makes up much of the property. The raised beds are resplendent with microgreens, arugula, broccoli rabe, beet greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, peas, and carrots. Often the couple make their summer suppers simply by grazing from the garden. With future plans for a home vineyard, MacCaughern and Lee this year harvested their first two clusters of red Concord grapes, hoping to someday toast with homemade wine the simply sublime life they’ve created in this house with the heart of stone.