Building From Here: Bear Lake Cabin

By August 27, 2019Newsletter

The Larsons have been escaping to Bear Lake for years. Mary’s great-great-great Grandfather, John Nebeker, moved to Bear Lake in 1873; he was one of the original settlers in that valley. The Nebekers settled the East side of the lake where they spent decades working the land as ranchers and farmers. Brent’s father, Reed Larson, built one of the first lakeside properties on the West side. So it’s easy to see why the Larsons are attached to both sides of the Lake. Besides their familial connections, the beautiful lake with its opportunities to boat and play draws them back year after year. When the cabin they shared with Brent’s family became too small to fit four generations, Brent and Mary decided to build on the North Eden property.

On the East side of the lake, Mary’s family has a secluded lot about a half mile away from the nearest neighbor, and even further from any kind of store. It was hard to picture any kind of cabin taking shape. Mary describes the first site visit with Warren Lloyd, their friend and architect, as discouraging–it was a cold, rainy day, mosquitoes all around- the site looked bleak. Who would want to build here? Warren’s response to the site? “I love it.” After retreating back to the Larson cabin on the west side of the lake Warren got right to work. The sentimental connection to the land and uninterrupted views of mountains and water combined to form a dramatic setting for a new family home. He quickly sketched out a drawing of a cabin. And that’s how it all starts–with a location and a prevailing idea.

Although house plans start with a location and an idea, the actual design process involves much more. Drawing inspiration from the farmland behind and the lake in front, the team worked in order to make a home that fits its surroundings. The vision of the cabin came together as a beach house with farm influences. With Lloyd Architects working on the structure and design, Jessica Bender of Box Street Design worked on interior spaces.  Considering the various colors of the site, Mary went out to the beach to find a few of the beautiful rocks that dotted the beach: these stones became the color palette for the cabin. The once dreary location was beginning to come to life.

A cabin set on uninhabited land on the East side of Bear Lake posed a unique set of challenges: direct sun exposure could overpower the whole house, the remoteness of the property was problematic, and the complete lack of infrastructure (no sewage system, roads or access to power) created more than a few headaches. The Larsons wanted to maximize the space they had without creating something that detracted from the natural beauty. Set between green fields and the turquoise lake, the potential for views was great– but only if they could figure out the right angle to see above the sand berm. Finding the right contractor and construction crew to work through these complications was important. Smart Construction of Bear Lake proved to be the right team for the job.

Building the cabin on a higher foundation away from the shore maximized beautiful views. The specially engineered roof creates protection from direct sun exposure and heat at Bear Lake’s high elevation, while also providing shade and cool spaces along porches throughout the day. The cupola on top allows for increased airflow and natural lighting.  A drainage system was created that minimized impact on surrounding farmland.  Exterior lights around the house all point down in order to decrease light pollution from the cabin; on a summer night you can see the Milky Way. Piece by piece and detail by detail, challenges turned into opportunities, creating a distinctive home in harmony with its surroundings.

Four generations now gather together at the family cabin. Several rooms throughout the home provide large spaces for family time spent eating, playing games and everything in between. A seven- bed bunkroom with tons of fort-building potential adds to the magic–a perfect little retreat for cousins. The builders engineered a loft on the first floor that allows the kids to escape from the adults–and vice-versa.

There’s a sense of practicality and durability throughout; it’s a space to be lived in without compromising design and grace. From their family room, Mary’s mother describes the view like being on a boat: all you can see is the crystal clear water of Bear Lake, a lake that has long been a home away from home for the Larson and Nebeker families. A new cabin reflects a new phase of life, with all the attachments of a familiar location. Building from here means building from the places that you love the most. A new place to call home.

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