Building from Here: Courtyard House

By October 29, 2018Community, Ideas, Projects

Erynn and John Montgomery were just newlyweds when they bought their tiny 60-year-old Tudor residence in the friendly, walkable 15th and 15th neighborhood of Salt Lake City in 1999. They fell in love with the 1930s architecture. The diversity of the community. The stores, parks and restaurants nearby. But they knew a family was in the cards, so they figured they’d eventually have to find a bigger place.

“So few homes in the city were built for today’s families. Sure, people probably raised eight kids in these little houses 50 years ago. But I’m not that tough,” said John. Little did the Montgomerys know they’d end up staying put for 20-plus years, having four children in the basement and turning that once-humble house into the modern, grown-up home their family needed.

It was in the early days of developing their personalized, custom travel business LANDED Travel as a side hustle that John and Erynn started to feel the crunch. Inspired by Erynn’s background with international nonprofits and John’s experience building another travel startup, LANDED became the perfect way to combine their expertise in creating tailor-made trips for discerning clients. But by this point, they had two toddlers and were running LANDED out of a basement bedroom with bad lighting and no heating or AC.

John had relocated almost every year of his childhood, so he was used to constant change. And the family had already begun their tradition of traveling internationally many months out of the year. But that only fueled their craving for a home they wanted to return to time and time again. It wasn’t until they met architect Warren Lloyd that they realized they didn’t have to move to get the space their family and business would ultimately need.

“I think there are a lot of architects that would say, ‘Oh, I know what you need and this is the way I’m going to do it.’ But not Warren. For example, I saw his first master plan and I completely revamped one area of the house. I gave it back to him, and he improved it even more. When I saw his next plan, I said … Done! Yes!” said Erynn.

The couple wanted to stay true to the roots of the home and the area. At the same time, they’d done a lot of growing up in the decade-and-a-half since they’d moved in. So it was only appropriate that the house grow up, too.

Warren saw unique potential in their deep, narrow lot with alley access from multiple angles. He proposed two structures that would allow for a healthy separation between work and family time, and created a new central gathering space for relaxing and entertaining. As amazing as it all sounded, Erynn and John’s young business, expanding family and commitment to frequent travel meant they had to keep a close eye on their budget. So they decided to approach the project in phases as they could afford it, taking their time to minimize waste, maximize functionality and make thoughtful decisions about quality and design details every step of the way.

(Left: Original house facade.   Right: Office addition and Courtyard connecting to house)

“Usually everyone’s in such a hurry, because somehow faster is better. What was fun about this project was that there was no rush. You just don’t have that kind of luxury on most jobs,” said interior designer Susan Taggart.

They started with the structure behind the main house, building a new garage on the ground floor and a spacious work studio upstairs. They then built what would become the new heart of the home, a central gallery connecting the garage/work space to the living areas up front. When the family was ready for phase two, they set up the kids’ beds, dressers and a temporary kitchen in the fancy new garage—right next to Erynn’s classic BMW motorcycle and sidecar. And that’s where they all lived while the main house was reconfigured to add two kids’ bedrooms, a bathroom and a second story for the master suite, and the kitchen and dining areas were redesigned.

The couple’s visual inspiration didn’t come from Pinterest, but from their plentiful world travels. For example, they sought out a vibrant cement tile they’d seen in Uruguay, only to discover it had been imported from Sweden. So they happily imported it to Utah for the kids’ bathroom floor. More inspiration came from the Japanese aesthetic both John and Warren had experienced during their travels in early life, as well as Susan’s exceptional design direction, curation skills and connections to local artisans who were willing to think outside of the box.

Many treasures from the family’s travels have found a natural home in a set of airy, Asian-inspired shelves custom-built around the entry to the new dining area. Books, vases, statues and more, all with their own stories, have created a microcosm of world culture and sparked much curiosity and conversation around the dinner table.

In the nearby kitchen, the team considered only what the family would truly use, while also adding carefully placed casement and clerestory windows for natural light and air flow.

They took the same thoughtful approach to the purposefully sparse master suite, making room for clothing, a washer and dryer, bathroom essentials and more behind a series of discreet panels. The windows were also perfectly positioned to frame the ocean of trees outside.

The middle of the home now holds the stunning central gallery and gathering space that manages to be both warm and inviting, yet simple and modern. It opens out onto an enchanting courtyard with a retractable awning.

“My favorite part of the house is the courtyard,” said Erynn, “My children fill it with music, and the paintings of the girls in the gallery are constant reminders of what we’re doing it all for—working hard to create these beautiful and enriching experiences for people.”

Since construction has been complete, the family has started celebrating fellow world travelers by inviting them to share their stories with dozens of guests at a time. They also enjoy hosting meetings with the many professional partners who have become friends of the family over time.

“One person leaves and another shows up. It’s a nonstop cabaret around here,” said Erynn, “At least once a week, somebody will come over for something business-related. The next thing we know we’re showing them the neighborhood and walking up to Mazza for lunch or dinner. People want to stay and spend the weekend here.”

When it came to the finishing touches on the front of the house, and the front porch in particular, the team considered both metal and wood, but went with a unique wall of dove-gray tile that perfectly complemented the wood panels above it. It all plays nicely with the laid-back essence and vintage appearance of the neighborhood.

“Now we work in our comfortable office all day and when the kids come home, we immediately get a hug. Then we walk by these gorgeous paintings of them as we head to the kitchen to prepare dinner. It just feels like we’re all in this together,” said John.

It’s a home to many stories, built for a family that’s creating more memorable experiences every day. By making it their own, the Montgomery family has achieved what some might think impossible: building a successful business around their family’s needs. In a place they know and love. Where everyone feels right at home.

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