Life in Hawaii might sound like paradise, but after living in Waimea, on the big island, for 19 years, Lizzie and Mark de Reus were craving a change of scenery. They had previously lived in Idaho, and they missed the dramatic seasonal changes.
“We love the seasons,” said Mr. de Reus, 68, an architect who enjoys fly fishing and downhill skiing. “But in Hawaii, you really only get one season.”
For years, they dreamed of building a house near Sun Valley, Idaho, a resort city embraced by mountains. “It’s always been my absolute favorite place,” said Ms. de Reus, 58. “I love the cold weather, I love the mountains, and I love the wildlife.”
But one thing kept them tethered to Hawaii. “We were waiting on our daughter to get through school,” Mr. de Reus said. “She was thriving, so we didn’t want to disrupt that.”
A few years before their daughter, Sophie, left for college in 2019, the time seemed right to begin planning their new home. The couple spent about a year looking for a building site in Idaho before finding seven acres of forest backing onto the Big Wood River and Carbonate Mountain in Hailey, a small city about 13 miles south of Sun Valley.
“It’s just a beautiful setting with a protected riparian forest,” Mr. de Reus said of the site, which they bought in 2015 for about $600,000. “There’s lots of willows, aspens and cottonwoods.”
Mr. de Reus’s firm, de Reus Architects, has offices in Hawaii and Idaho, but most of its projects are in Hawaii, where he creates private resorts and luxury homes with deep eaves, indoor-outdoor pavilions and generous lanais, using materials like teak and lava stove. “I’ve made a career out of creating contextual architecture and designing buildings that are appropriate for the region,” he said.
For his house in Hailey, where the climate isn’t the least bit tropical, he wanted to do something different. It took some trial and error, and a few false starts, but after months of effort he finally found his design concept.
“What I settled into was the idea of a simple, modern barn form for the exterior,” he said. “And then on the inside, a modern cabin.”
The main portion of the 3,765-square-foot, three-bedroom house is a gable-roofed structure clad in black-stained Douglas fir, with a charcoal standing-seam metal roof. The structure connects on one side to a low-slung, single-story box that contains a two-car garage. A deep overhang at the back of the house shelters a stone terrace equipped with a gas firepit.
Inside, Mr. de Reus created a cabinlike coziness with wood and stone, using clean lines and beefy proportions to make the space feel more like a contemporary getaway than a rustic lodge, with some interior design help from Hawaii-based Sequoia Contract Works.
Much of the home is finished in whitewashed eastern white pine, including the walls, ceilings, doors, kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. Mr. de Reus chose a single variety of stone — a honed, dark-gray granite — for the floors and counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as the raised hearth on the living room fireplace. Doors and cabinets have white-bronze hardware from the Kyoto collection that de Reus Architects designed for Sun Valley Bronze.
The palette of hardwearing materials — including the oak floors and the blackened-steel elements in the kitchen island and fireplace — is designed to withstand decades of wear and tear.
“I like durable and honest materials — as they are, not dressed up,” Mr. de Reus said. “Restraint is my friend nowadays, and I try to keep things very, very simple and pared back.”
The main suite is on the ground floor, just off the living room. Upstairs, there’s a combined media room and home office, as well as two additional bedroom suites, one for Sophie and another for guests.
After years of design and planning, Young Construction began building in September 2018. The project took just over a year to complete, at a cost of about $1.95 million. The couple moved into their new house a few months before the pandemic struck, in October 2019.
Although Mr. de Reus had often visited the site to manage construction, Ms. de Reus didn’t see any of it until move-in day. “It was just an aspen forest the last time I saw it,” she said. “So when I walked into the house, I was stunned. I was absolutely blown away.”
It didn’t take her long to get settled. “Until March, I had six of the best months of my life,” she said. “And then we got shut down.”
While they wait for their social lives to resume, the couple have found plenty of creatures to keep them company. “My favorite thing is to take the dogs out in the open and hike,” Ms. de Reus said. “And to literally be with the moose, the elk, the owls and the eagles.”