Feels thoroughly contemporary
How can one create a home that looks and feels thoroughly contemporary yet is constructed from time-honored elements like stone, wood, shingles, and pitched roofs? When Messana’s brother and sister-in-law commissioned the New York City architectural firm Messana O’Rorke to design a holiday home for them in Jackson, Wyoming, this was the difficulty they faced.
Although the homeowners were attracted to the location because of its natural beauty (particularly the Grand Teton vistas), they shared the architects’ distaste for cliches of the American West seen in Western-themed interior design, such as antler chandeliers and plaid wingback chairs. They want an item with a distinctively modern bent.
Favoring the orchestration of monochromatic
The new monograph on Messana O’Rorke’s work, Building Blocks (published by Rizzoli and including an essay by yours truly), argues that her work is best understood as favoring the orchestration of monochromatic planes, minimalist volumes, and poetic light over colorful, pattern-filled, and often improbable assemblages.
This means that frontier kitsch is not their specialty. A lot of rules govern building design in this Jackson neighborhood. Messana elaborates on the tight construction rules, noting that there are limitations on things like the building’s height and roof pitch, the kind of materials that may be used, and the quantity of clear, unbroken glass. Although we had to modify the colors and words we normally use, our strategy remained the same. Here, we continue to prioritize clean lines and open layouts.
Mesana O’Rorke’s design spans the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, resolving the potentially conflicting demands of contextual sensitivity and contemporary brio, and was inspired by the spare, vernacular residences of nearby Mormon Row, a late-frontier settlement built by members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. The 5,000-square-foot building was broken up by Messana and O’Rorke into four volumes connected by glass-enclosed passageways to lessen the building’s visual effect.
(The architects have dubbed the glazed joints “gaskets,” alluding to Le Corbusier’s oft-quoted statement that “a home is a machine for life.”) Junegrass, the name given to the home, is derived from the way it looks from a distance, which is like a row of separate pavilions set against a breathtaking mountain range.
The interior of the environment
Stained cedar siding, cedar shingles, and rustic stone are used to give the pavilions a look of individuality. Massive pocketing glass doors in the middle volume, which houses the kitchen and living area, throw open the interior to the environment and vistas, at least when the weather cooperates. The evening sun may be seen from the comfort of a firepit and a reflecting pool at the front of the property.
The other side is a courtyard made out of staggered pavilions that houses a kitchen and eating area al fresco. Every decision we made was influenced by the breathtaking environment around us. Messana notes that they were always trying to “frame perspectives” and “manipulate sight lines” to increase tension and suspense.
The home spa
The interiors, typical of Messana O’Rorke, exude a calm assurance that belies their capacity to inspire thought and meditation. Wide-plank French oak flooring and fumed, wire-brushed wood in a warm gray stain are two of the room’s pristine details. The home spa has simple Carrara marble walls and a granite floor. Messana praises the design for its lack of excessively flashy materials and ostentatious flourishes. It’s difficult to find more dramatic and beautiful scenery than Wyoming’s.
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