Friday, March 26, 2010

Near Ketchum, a dream comes true

The home of David and Jill Hitchins is artfully nestled into the landscape north of Ketchum. Photos by Tory Taglio

For the Express

After having a residence in Weyyakin for 25 years, David and Jill Hitchins found themselves in a new season of life. They embraced the change with not wistfulness but joy. The Hitchinses were free to pursue things long left on the back burner, held at bay by duty; dreams and deferred wishes could now be fulfilled. They decided to indulge and build their dream house.

It was a five-year project. Architect Jim Ruscitto guided the couple in the choice of a location north of Ketchum. The Hitchinses loved the views and the three sides of the property bordering the national forest but were concerned with the close proximity of Highway 75. Ruscitto simply lowered the lot by three feet and sculpted the reclaimed earth into berms, which nestled the structure into the site.

Having traveled extensively and maintained an apartment in Paris for 25 years, they wanted the style of their dream home, European contemporary, to incorporate all that they love. The house combines the use of copper, stone and wood. A 1,750-pound rock serves as the mantle for the fireplace, set into a stone wall. Lichens were left on the rocks, adding texture and subtle color variations that were used as directions for decorating. When color is integral to the material, it registers less as color. The lichen allows the hickory floors, wood-coffered ceiling and chamois-hued, plastered walls to create a mellow and warm appearance.

Starting at the perimeter of the home, red pavers of the driveway combine with the rich wood rafters of the overhang to temper the light before light enters the house. Asymmetrically on either side above the entrance are two trapezoidal windows showcasing chandeliers like crystal constellations with sparkly moons and satellites spraying out at all directions. They are copies of those the Hitchinses admired and loved at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City.

They were designed by Hans Harald Roth for J&L Lobmeyr chandelier manufacturing as a gift for the Lincoln Center in 1966 by the Austrian government to commemorate the Austrian peoples' gratitude to America for its help in reconstruction after World War II. The metal spheres, called "sputniks," hold together the metal rods—known as rays—that reach out from the sputniks. The windows of the home had been built long before the purchase of the chandeliers, which became available only because of the 40th anniversary of the gift. The fit was serendipitous perfection, but getting them hung was something else. David Hitchins fondly recalls once discovering his granddaughter sliding down the stairs on her back, basking in the filtered light and prismatic rainbows caught for a moment in the glint of the chandeliers.

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Stepping into the home, one passes into another place—one of calm, protected enclosing. The Hitchinses enjoyed creating the home's decor themselves with carefully collected antiques, heirlooms, purchases from travel, surprise buys and sentimental relics. Every possession represents memories and the 46 years of their marriage. The few pieces of furniture only accentuate the fine architectural details enhanced by more than 100 windows, none of which required treatment. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said that good architecture is like fine tailoring—it is the terminal points that matter. The use of Rocky Mountain Hardware accents throughout the home, detailed fenestration and carpentry, and elegant masonry are the cuffs and collar that give the house definition.

The notion of home is inextricably bound up with that of fire. The warmth associated with fire conjures up memories of family life, conviviality, sharing and longstanding tradition. The expression of traditional values is nowhere more apparent than in the realm of cooking. The heart and soul of the kitchen is without a doubt the stove, and the Hitchinses chose the Lacanche range, hand-crafted by a family-owned company from Burgundy, France, dating back to the 18th century. Considered the Stradivarius of the kitchen, it is also aesthetically pleasing and plays its full part in the decoration of the room. Entertaining friends is an important part of the Hitchinses' life, as is using their home for fundraisers and hosting events for charitable organizations.

Dogs and grandchildren also enjoy the home and take full advantage of the national forest surrounding the property. Unable to sleep at 4:30 in the morning, David and his grandson decided to go "beaver hunting" at one of the nearby ponds. The plan was to sneak up on the poor beasts and surprise them with their flashlights, causing a great ruckus of slapping tails and slashing water. A good time was had by all.

This dream house celebrates the reality of living and is marked by a natural grace reflecting the people who live in it. Out of a complex mix of memories, emotions, aspirations and knowledge, the Hitchinses have built a life like no other.

Pick up the latest issue of Habitat magazine, on newsstands now, for more stories on the unique dream homes of Wood River Valley families.

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