Top mountain west design firm takes older styles modern while honoring western spirit
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, May 22, 2018 – Log homes have been a familiar fixture in the Rocky Mountain West since turn-of-the-century homesteading days. But the recent rise in popularity of Mountain Modern architecture has left older log houses languishing, with prospective homeowners rejecting the style as dark and outdated. Still, especially where an older home has good bones and a sensible layout, there’s an opportunity to burnish the rustic charm while inviting a more sophisticated contemporary aesthetic, says Rush Jenkins, design director of Jackson Hole interior design studio WRJ Design. Jenkins and his partner and WRJ co-founder Klaus Baer have been helping clients renovate log homes to achieve a distinctive alpine elegance for years.
“It’s satisfying and fun to transform an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan,” Jenkins said in a recent interview on updating log homes for The Clear Creek Group Blog. “Log homes are a great way to begin with the traditional, and from there, make design decisions that incorporate a more current aesthetic. In doing so, you can get the best of what you might love about both.”
Darla Worden, editor in chief of Mountain Living magazine – which recently named WRJ Design to its ML List of Top Architects & Designers 2018 and has honored the firm with a Home of the Year win – sees the updating of log homes as a trending topic with the magazine’s readers. “We are seeing more renovations of log homes that were built in the '80s and '90s,” she says. “They are being refreshed by updating the logs: sandblasting old varnish or finishes and then refinishing through a number of processes including lacquer, stain and whitewash.”
WRJ’s Jenkins studied design in London and Japan and spent years in New York City as Sotheby’s Design Director before opening WRJ Design in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with Baer. But the heartfelt tug of Western culture and traditions runs deep in Jenkins, who was born and raised on a farm in rural Idaho. “Working within the historic Western log vernacular is not just creatively fulfilling to me, it’s emotionally fulfilling as well,” he says.
“The log home evokes a very romantic notion of the West that harkens back to times gone by and original homesteads. At the same time,” he explains, “they can be challenging to live in because today we like living in light-filled homes with big open spaces, while log homes tend to be dark with a close in feeling. The great thing is that those issues can be addressed in a variety of ways.”
Some of WRJ Design’s favorite ways to update log homes?
Make the palette palatable: The orange and yellow tones in log walls, floors and trim have fallen out of favor. Refinish the highly glazed log walls and replace floors and trim with current options. Switch heavy, traditional and dark leather furnishings for clean-lined contemporary pieces in light colors.
Let there be light: Replace wooden windows with steel and double-paned glass; the rewards are twofold: bringing more light in, while achieving a Mountain Modern vibe that embraces daylight and views while keeping cold out.
Freshen fixtures and finishes: Update kitchens and baths with up-to-date finishes and sleek fixtures; use interesting tile and warm stone for natural materials with a modern aesthetic.
Straighten up: Choose crisp, clean lines in hardware, cabinetry and furnishings to offset logs’ visually dominant curves.
Get down to details: Carefully curate lighting, rugs, art and fabrics for drapes, throws and pillows to create finishing touches with subtle layers of texture and tone.
Ultimately, behind WRJ design decisions is always the goal of creating a serene and harmonious environment. Log homes can provide a relaxed luxury that tells a uniquely Western story. “Our clients trust us to find creative solutions that embrace the present,” affirms Jenkins, “but always with a respectful nod to the past.”
About WRJ Design:
Headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming, WRJ Design imparts the special serenity of its local Teton landscape to interior designs in Jackson Hole and across the country. Begun out of a passion for great design by Rush Jenkins and Klaus Baer, WRJ creates experiences and environments through its designs that provide timeless reflections of homeowners and their collections, combining the work of regional artisans with finely crafted European furnishings and accessories, and historically rich one-of-a-kind pieces curated from around the world. WRJ Design has been honored as top U.S. mountain designer by Rhapsody magazine and awarded the 2016 Home of the Year by Mountain Living. Two WRJ projects are featured in the recent book Rustic Modern. For more information visit http://www.wrjdesign.com/.
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