When Steve and Alexi Conine first sat down with architect Brad Hoyt to talk about the design of their vacation home in Jackson, Wyoming, they had an unusual feature in mind: an interior slide. “It was their idea from the word go,” Hoyt says. “Usually, we’re the ones pushing the design, but the Conines were a lot of fun.”
In addition to the slide, the couple had a list of whimsical requests: flat-screen panels inlaid into the entryway floor for displaying videos and photos, a room for housing and heating sports gear, a living roof complete with solar panels, a triple-stacked bunk bed in one of the kids’ bedrooms, and a Picard steam-injection oven for baking the perfect baguette and making pizza with their three children.
“We decided to try to do things you might not do when designing a functional home,” says Steve, who is a software engineer as well as the chief technology officer and cofounder of an e-commerce home-decor site. “Early on we went into mindset of ‘take advantage of what we’re doing here and try things that haven’t been tried before.’”
The first design challenge was that the double-sloped lot was subject to height restrictions: 37.5 feet from the highest point of the roof to the lowest point of grade. So Hoyt stacked the home’s three levels, raising the kitchen and dining area to accommodate a family room and guest suite underneath and bedrooms above. To ease the transition between spaces, he suggested heated concrete ramps instead of stairs, a “more seamless and unique” solution.
Hoyt’s firm also worked to lay out the slope and geometry of the slide. General contractor Chris Mommsen of Stewart Construction Services found a craftsman from Idaho Falls who tented off the area and spent two weeks shaping the fiberglass gel-coat material into the structure. The Conines then bought a $400 Philips LED lighting kit to illuminate the slide’s interior; their 11-year-old daughter used the kit’s accompanying app to create multiple settings, manipulating the infinite palette of colors into themes for different holidays. “It’s been so much fun,” Alexi says. “We really don’t regret it.”
When it came to the techy details, it helped that Steve could program and build some of the features himself. In the foyer, the five high-definition computer monitors in the cement floor are controlled by an app he coded. The family can pick which photos or videos to display—everything from molten lava to mud to a video of the kids playing on the foundation of the house as it was being built. “Depending on who shows up, it can be fires of hell or a nice flash of light,” Steve says. He wrote a second app to control the family photos that cycle on the two monitors on the wall between the living and dining areas, and posted the codes for both apps on GitHub. A computer cabinet that he set up in the basement controls all of the screens in the house, plus features ranging from security to heating.
The Conines also devised a solution for the blazing late afternoon sun on the west side of the house. They knew they wanted some sort of system that could provide more shade than umbrellas and awnings, so they decided to experiment with screens that would run along the outside edge of the house. The first thought was to use magnets to hold fabric onto railings, but Jackson’s strong winds made that impractical. Eventually, they started looking at the heavy trolley systems used by meat packers, mocked up their own version using sheets, and figured out the best material for the job: stainless-steel chain-mail mesh, which would be sturdy enough to handle the wind, yet transparent enough that the family could still enjoy the mountain view. It took the architect and builder four days of experimenting to make it work, but in the end, it was the perfect solution.
Of all the custom features in the house, though, it’s the slide that’s still the family’s favorite. “It’s totally the top of the list,” Steve says. “The architect and the builder really worked on it to make it perfect,” adds Alexi. “It’s so much easier than taking the stairs. Everyone takes the slide.”