When an active family of six enlisted interior designer Hillary Taylor to help build their dream home, they came with an ambitious wish list. The clients had purchased one-and-a-half acres of undeveloped land at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, twenty-some minutes outside of Salt Lake City, and the time was right to build their forever home.
The family was quickly evolving: Not only was the couple preparing to take a step back from the professional sports industry that had been central to their lives for decades, but their kids were getting older—three were already out of the house, and one was still in high school. They needed a place for everyday family life—homework, sports, meals—as well as hosting large groups and events, including meetings with high-profile athletes and business partners. Ultimately, they’d need this versatile space to work for the decades to come, too. “We were building this house in anticipation of it eventually being an empty nester’s home, where their children would bring their own families someday,” says Taylor.
Also on the homeowners’ wish list: They wanted to maximize the property’s stunning views of the Wasatch Mountains—and they wanted to install a regulation NBA half-court basketball court on the lower level.
Taylor—who had initially moved to Utah for law school before meeting her now-husband and starting Hillary W. Taylor Interiors—is a mother of four herself, so she understood the family’s current and future needs. She was also game for the unique challenges of building a house on top of a basketball court. Working closely with architect Jon Jang over the course of six years, the design team began constructing the family’s dream home from the ground up. “Even though it was a large-scale project, it was managed down to the inch,” says Taylor. Here’s how they ticked off every item on their clients’ list to create their dream home.
Add Hourse-Country Charm
The husband pictured the home as a casual, Napa-style horse ranch; the wife, a Georgian-style brick house in Virginia horse country. She had grown up nearby on a street abutting Dimple Dell Park, which boasts 800 acres of open trails. The area had “more horses than people,” she says, recalling how she’d always loved the area’s homes, which all incorporated red brick. The design they landed on echoes both spouses’ sources of inspiration, complete with chimneys and knee walls constructed of red brick.
Make New Feel Old
To balance out the polished materials of the newly built home, Taylor sought out flooring and furniture with old-world charm, like Paris Ceramics Spanish marble floors for the two-story entryway. In the kitchen, an antique butcher block table and live-sawn oak flooring—aged by hand to look 200 years old—add a rustic French farmhouse feel.
Highlight Exterior Views
To highlight the mountain vistas that made the homeowners pick the lot as the site for their forever home in the first place, the office, dining room and main bedroom suite were constructed around the vistas. “Jon Jang really understood that’s what this project was all about,” says Taylor. “He doesn’t consider the desire for a view a cliché.
Windows and doors were placed for maximum effect. Steps from the tub, French doors open to a secluded garden patio and hot tub enclosed by hedges and evergreens. Likewise, in the dining room, the fourteen-foot ceilings and eight-foot French doors were sited so that when you’re sitting at the dining room table, you can see the majestic mountain peaks cresting at 11,000 feet.
Create Zones in the Kitchen
Given the family’s size and packed social calendar, Taylor divvied the kitchen up strategically, creating a butler’s pantry complete with a smoothie station for quick morning meals. “When the family throws dinner parties for a couple dozen people, the wife always takes on all the cooking by herself,” she says. So it was essential that the kitchen be zoned for different activities so she could be cooking while her kids were grabbing breakfast.” The surfaces had to be extra hard-working, too. For the kitchen counters, “we chose a pretty marble that had taken a beating already,” says Taylor; the wood floors and butcher-block table already has plenty of patina.
Make Open Spaces Feel Cozy
Given the massive footprint of the lower-level basketball court, Taylor had some serious square footage to work with on the ground level above. The space allocated for the living and dining rooms, front porch, and back patio alone was nearly ballroom-sized. “While we needed to create spaces that were gracious enough for large gatherings, it was important we also honor the homeowners’ casual approach to everyday living,” says Taylor.
Despite the grand scale of the rooms, Hillary achieved that warm-and-welcoming feel by bringing in crisp neutrals, sumptuous fabrics in soothing shades of blue, textured rugs, and window treatments that let the sunlight stream in. Even though the home was all new construction, the floorplan was designed to feel as if these central living rooms were the “original” part of a house, and the outer rooms were added over time.
Taylor also broke up the large floorplan by designing the main bedroom suite as its own self-contained apartment within the larger house. While the rest of the home was intended to accommodate a crowd, the ground-floor suite was optimized for the couple’s eventual “empty nest” years. “We separated the space so they can close off the upstairs and other less-frequently used areas, and just live on the first level,” says Taylor. “There are no steps or other grade changes on this floor, and the area has its own everything: a sitting area with a large TV and desk, multiple charging stations, a kitchenette, laundry, separate reading spaces, and access to the backyard.”
Experiment With Color in Secondary Bedrooms
While the couple wanted neutrals throughout the shared living spaces and a soothing and subdued palette of cream and dove gray in the main suite, they gave Taylor free rein to pick more vibrant parts of the color wheel for the rest of the bedrooms. For one of the daughters’ bedrooms, Taylor envisioned a bright, happy retreat. “Her personality is just bubbly,” says Hillary of the space’s inhabitant, who is also friends with her own eldest child. “She wanted lavender, and we just went for it, from the gorgeous Schumacher Chinois Palais wallcovering—which makes the small-scale room more airy— to the curtains, bulletin board, upholstered bench, and even the even the bathroom textiles.”
To enliven the basement guest room, Taylor pulled out all the stops as she looked to summer’s spirited colors and bountiful flowers for inspiration. She covered the walls in a classic sand-colored grasscloth, then layered in playful pastel textiles, like the nubby pink blend on the upholstered bench, tropical floral on the headboard, and a rosy brushstroke pattern that covers the pair of Billy Baldwin slipper chairs. Curtains in an oversized green-and-white gingham and framed contemporary prints over the Parisian mantel add even more of a graphic punch. The “fresh and energetic” mix makes the subterranean bedroom one of brightest spaces in the home.