In an effort to “gain distance from the clamor of city living” the owners hired Utah-based architecture firm Imbue Design, to design this off-grid and remote family retreat. Located in the Rocky Mountains near Paris, Idaho, this home relies on passive design elements and ultra-effective insulation to naturally control the internal environment while enjoying expansive views of the surrounding Bear River Range.
The client dubbed the project Boar Shoat, which the family says translates to “youthful vivacity”. The location speaks to the owner’s childhood where he spent many summer vacations enjoying a slower pace life, immersed in nature. Situated on a sprawling 60-acres of land, the comparatively small 2,125-square-foot (197-square-metre) footprint of the compound appropriately respects the vastness of its surroundings.
“He wanted a retreat – a place where he and his family could distance themselves from social stresses, withdraw digital connection, and commune with nature and each other,” said Imbue Design.
The building is actually three units that include a garage, main residence, and guest house, connected via an open air pavilion outdoors. In such a location, outdoor space defines the home as much as the indoor living areas. Covered by an expansive canopy to protect from the weather, the patio is equally protected on three sides by the rooms around it and allows a perfect frame of Paris Peak.
Since the nearest utilities are miles away, the entire home is self-sustaining, relying on the careful positioning of the expansive windows to provide passive solar heating. This warms the home during the winter by allowing natural sunlight into the space. Untreated concrete floors absorb and store heat from the sun, and will be allowed to age naturally to reflect the time shared in the space. The large windows also reduce the need for internal lighting. Even the outdoor courtyard is naturally lit with a massive oculus that streams sunlight in from every direction throughout the day.
The placement of the windows also allows for cooling by cross flow ventilation on warmer days and a roof overhang provides additional protection from the sun. An intentional focus on tight insulation optimizes interior comfort, however there is a fireplace to warm the space when extra heat is needed.
Photovoltaic panels on the roof support the electrical needs of the home, but the family does have a generator as a backup. Since there isn’t a natural water source, a cistern container in the garage is refilled by a local supplier, making water conservation crucial.
Inside and out, the style is minimalistic with a focus on low maintenance and sustainability. The exterior is protected from harsh winter weather with durable accordion metal sheets. Indoors, white walls create a clean backdrop for art created by the owner’s daughters. Furniture selections highlight natural elements, refusing to pull attention from the view through the expansive floor to ceiling windows.
– Off-grid family retreat
– Photovoltaic array on the roof provide the home’s power
– Cross flow ventilation used for cooling
– Roof overhangs or eaves shade the home in summer
– Concrete floors provide thermal mass and help heat the home in winter
– Airtight building envelope
– High performance windows, placed to capture sunlight and breezes
– Designed to provide a connection to nature
– Low maintenance materials – metal cladding, untreated concrete floors
– Construction materials and labour sourced locally
Before social-distancing became in vogue, the owner of the Boar Shoat [a family term for youthful vivacity] was looking for some isolation. So he went back to the place of his carefree childhood summer vacations, and that’s where he found it – along a gentle natural berm, next to a quaking stand of aspen trees, nestled in a sixty acre parcel of rolling grassy hills, surrounded by the great Rocky Mountains of Southern Idaho – perfectly in the middle of nowhere.
Naturally, the landscape is left ruggedly wild to further induce awareness of being encompassed by nature, yet away from everything.