There’s nothing quite like that first breath of crisp mountain air. Chasing that exhilarating sensation brings many to Sun Valley, including one family of outdoor enthusiasts who like to spend their spare moments skiing or hiking Idaho’s lofty landscapes. And, after a day on the slopes, they wanted to have that same sense of airy lightness throughout their home, so they recruited interior designer Erika Blank and designer Kimberly Mauney to reimagine its spaces. “They felt that the views should take center stage,” notes Mauney. But, adds Blank, “They also requested a soothing envelope that felt welcoming and warm.”
However, the existing residence by the architecture firm Ruscitto Latham Blanton and built by general contractor Magleby Construction-Sun Valley had hewed closer to the more traditional vibes of mountain living, with an emphasis on darker, more rustic detailing. “This makes a lot of the homes of Sun Valley inwardly focused,” Mauney says. “We really wanted to reverse that philosophy with a quieter interior palette so that the focus became what’s outside.”
Customization proved the key to lifting the overall mood of the space. The designers teamed with the general contractor that had originally built the home, working closely with project manager Chris Hoy. In place of darker, heavier finishes, selections like white-oak flooring and a subdued gray wash applied to the ceiling beams serve to soften the interior’s tones. More personalized details brought a welcome sense of delicacy, like the custom pewter range hood that lends a metallic shimmer to the open kitchen and the hand-painted tile with a pattern of pointillist circles in the powder room. “In our projects, we’re always asking what another interesting layer of material is that we could add to a space to take it up a notch,” notes Blank. “We are constantly trying to make sure we aren’t just simply checking the boxes and are considering how we can elevate a home, either through a cabinet detail or an unexpected finish material.”
The team also made subtle changes to the home’s flow, carving out gathering spaces to pivot to the outdoors. For example, Mauney suggested removing the kitchen’s upper cabinets to make room for more windows. “We knew just on the other side of the wall that there was the hillside,” she notes. The change makes the whole space feel more open and lets light filter around the main living areas. In the great room, they replaced sliding glass doors with windows and installed a banquette below to form a casual dining area. Moving this central communal spot next to the view “helps the space breathe a little more,” says Blank, adding, “We wanted it to feel open and not like we just have rows and rows of furniture legs. Billy Baldwin used to say a room with too many naked chair legs felt restless.”
For the furnishings, the designers looked to a middle ground, aesthetically speaking. “We had clients who leaned more on the traditional side of their personal taste, so they didn’t want a modern mountain home,” notes Blank. Consequently, “we pulled together pieces that felt more transitional. We skirted the living room furniture for a more traditional approach, selected transitional silhouettes and applied unique materials like leather or nubby textures to call back to our mountain surroundings.” Sprinkled in here and there are more rustic elements such as stone and iron that balance out the soft furnishings and light hues: a mix of grays, blues and wintry whites.
Of course, this is a house in the mountains for an active family, so, in deference to that lifestyle, the designers opted for performance fabrics. The choice means that form—and the airiness Mauney and Blank were after—isn’t subservient to function. Case in point: a white sofa in a mountain living room might seem an unusual choice, but tough textiles make it feasible. “It’s been a game-changer,” says Mauney of the new variety of sturdy materials. Besides standing up to normal day-to-day wear and tear, she notes, “In these homes that can get covered in dust, snow and mud, it’s so lovely to be able to offer your clients a lighter palette.”
With its outward orientation, ethereal palette and deceptively tough flourishes, the home speaks to a new way of living in the mountains. “We didn’t want it to feel like these rooms everyone had 20 years ago, where you were not allowed to go in and enjoy,” says Blank. “We wanted it to really speak to having a beautiful space while still feeling you can take care of it.”
Interior designer Erika Blank and designer Kimberly Mauney took a fresh approach to the interiors of this Sun Valley home. In the entry, they balanced the cool, watery hues of the James Cook painting with a custom wood-and-leather console by Sun Valley Woodworks topped with a pair of Currey & Company lamps.