When the coronavirus pandemic struck earlier this year, Cody Derrick was better prepared than many. He had already finished building a house in Salt Lake City that was designed to serve as a refuge.
“I keep saying ‘sanctuary’ because I can’t quite find another word,’” said Mr. Derrick, 40, the founder of Cityhome Collective, a real estate and interior design company. “How did this get so timed up so that I could be placed in quarantine, have a couple of friends over that are in my quarantine pod, and all of a sudden we’ve got a little sanctuary where we can fall apart, cry, meditate, do some yoga and work really hard?”
After owning a few homes that weren’t quite right, he had been intent on building a house that reflected his personal experiences and desires.
He had lived at the foot of the Wasatch mountain range (too remote) and in an urban apartment (not enough connection to the outdoors). What he really wanted, he realized, was a single-family house in a walkable neighborhood.
His search for land ended at a dilapidated former meth house, built in 1893, on a long, narrow lot in the tree-lined neighborhood of 9th and 9th.
Mr. Derrick bought the house for $234,000 in 2015, demolished it (which required cleaning all the debris before it could be recycled) and began working with Sparano and Mooney Architecture to design his dream house.
“He wanted to see how modern architecture could be inserted into this context of an established neighborhood that was a little bit rundown,” said Anne Mooney, a principal at the firm.
But Mr. Derrick didn’t want just any modernist house, she added. He wanted something transcendent: “He really has this idea of home as kind of a sacred space.”
As Mr. Derrick put it, “I’m not a religious person, but I’m a very spiritual person.”
He was committed to building a house that was uniquely his own, so he rejected conventional ideas like the assumption that a single-family house needs multiple bedrooms.
His 2,000-square-foot house would have just one bedroom, he decided, because that’s all he and his dog, Pearl, needed. (A separate multipurpose room serves as a pool house, yoga studio and guest suite.)
“I’ve been talking to people my whole career about being unapologetically true to what we feel will be most nourishing, inspiring or supportive for us,” Mr. Derrick said. “So I just went for it.”
Sparano and Mooney designed a home based on the idea of a long box of black-stained cedar and stucco, selectively cut away in some areas. “We sliced these voids into this singular mass to bring nature into the space in different ways,” Ms. Mooney said.
A carport at the front is “a modern take on a neighborhood front porch,” she explained, which leads to an entrance hall and, beyond, to an open, loft-like living room and kitchen with 17-foot ceilings, where a slender slice of windows runs floor to ceiling by the dining table.
The largest cutaway makes space for a courtyard with a pool behind the living room, and a bridge-like hallway provides access to the master bedroom in the back, while also creating space for a hammock.
Mr. Derrick felt no need to have a separate bathroom for his bedroom suite. Instead, the bathtub sits right beside the bed, the vanity is directly behind his headboard and mirrors are suspended in space (a small, separate room contains the toilet).
The goal, he said, was to have views of the trees outside, whether he is reading in bed or brushing his teeth.
When it came time to finish the interior, he wanted to give it an immediate sense of character. “I feel like houses should have a patina,” he said, although that can be difficult to achieve in a new building. “I wanted pieces that had lived a life already, so that when they came together there would be a sense of liveliness.”
His choices ranged from antiques, including a pair of Italian crystal chandeliers and a 19th-century Gothic wardrobe, to modernist pieces like a low-slung sectional from Molteni & C and Wishbone chairs by Hans J. Wegner. Accessories include succulents in weathered pots, antlers, mismatched brass candlesticks, a skull and crystals.
He also wanted to recreate favorite elements of his previous homes, including the atmosphere of the dining room in his apartment, which was painted a greenish black. “I was obsessed with the color of that dining room,” he said. “Everything felt good in there.”
So he decided to paint the entirety of his new home the same color.
By the time he was finished in the fall of 2018, he had spent another $900,000.
“It’s interesting to throw something out there for your future, and then show up and have it be better than what you had anticipated,” he said. “I’m just really grateful.”