To create a mountain getaway tailor-made for their needs, the owners of this Canmore escape found a way to get everything they wanted, including two kitchens and an intimate space that can still hold up to 50 guests
By Karen Attwell | February 1, 2011
Photography by Jared Sych
When Janet and Leonard Traub considered their future retirement home, they spent a lot of time sifting through different choices. They knew the house would need to be close to a mountain park. It would need to be a place for their large family – spread between Calgary and Edmonton – to come together. And they knew it would need to be perfectly tailored to them.
“It has always been a treat for us to come to the mountains,” says Janet who, with her husband, now spends half her time in Canmore and half in Edmonton as the couple eases into retirement. After researching the area around Banff and Jasper extensively, they settled on Canmore and purchased the lot for their future mountain hideaway in 2004, eventually breaking ground in 2007.
Janet says that, initially, she and Leonard sat down and made a list of the rooms they wanted in the home. In addition to the usual bed, bath and kitchen requirements, the list included an office, media room, painting studio and a separate bakery. However, the couple didn’t want to build a massive home. “We wanted it to be intimate for my husband and I, but also [be] able to open up for 50 or more,” she says.
The team that answered the Traubs’ design challenge included architectural technologist Loren Harms and designer Lori Parker, both of Canmore. Parker describes the finished home on the Silvertip Golf Course as the embodiment of classic mountain elegance. “The house has been edited in so many ways,” says Parker. “It’s very simple. That was the goal.”
Yet, when the five Traub children and their collected 10 grandchildren come to visit, there is space for everyone in the 4,900-square-foot home, which features four bedrooms and a den.
Parker says many elements of the home were created in close partnership with the Traubs, and with Janet in particular, as she’s a painter and has a great design sense. “I was told that she may be a very challenging client, and I thought, ‘Bring it on,’” says Parker. “If she really cares about every single drawer and what’s in it – awesome.”
In addition to a shared vision for the classic mountain home, Parker and Janet also hold a mutual reverence for mountain life. “It’s a different lifestyle. There is a larger focus on our recreational time,” Janet says, adding she and Leonard wanted the house to reflect that focus by keeping a casual feel. They also wanted a space where people would be comfortable, but without tipping into a clichd mountain design esthetic. “We didn’t want horses and bears and twigs and things.”
What the couple did want was something completely tailored to their needs. Parker, who approaches her work with the clients’ lifestyles in mind, says she often hears people say they like to cook. However, she began to understand that this was a little more involved than usual when she discovered that Janet ran the Bee-Bell Health Bakery in Edmonton until she sold it in 2006. “This is a woman who cooks,” says Parker. “This is a woman who spent six days a week, 10 hours a day, building a bakery in Edmonton.”
To that end, the house has two kitchens. A spacious, modern kitchen, overlooking what Parker describes as one of the best views in the valley, is fitted with a central island set beneath simple school house lights, Bianco Antico granite counters and the creamy quarter-sawn oak used throughout the house, in everything from the flooring to the cabinetry. A separate bakery, one floor down, has a maple table where Janet makes, among other things, breads and pizzas.
“The lower kitchen is kind of a dream,” says Janet. “It’s nice to have work areas where you can be a bit carefree.”
And she doesn’t confine her culinary magic to the indoors; the patio outside features a Le Panyol oven, imported from France and made of clay terre blanche bricks.
“You have to heat it with wood to 800 or 900 degrees, and then let it decrease to whatever temperature you need.”
In addition to the bakery, the lower floor also features a spacious entertainment room that’s used as a dining and party space, particularly for larger family gatherings. And although it features a 350-bottle wine storage area behind sliding, glass double doors, Parker says the Traubs’ grandchildren can take over the space with no worry about spillage.
While the house is built to ensure there will always be great food, it was also built to highlight art. The main floor’s open-concept living, dining and kitchen space is topped off with the couple’s collection of contemporary Canadian art. Janet says the collection represents artists from different geographic locations, age groups and career levels. The youngest is 23 and the oldest, 85. “It wasn’t about choosing it on that basis,” she says. “It’s just how it ended up.”
There is also some stunning natural artwork. Idyllic views of Ha Ling Peak and Mount Rundle are framed by dramatic, two-storey windows that fill the entire west wall. Immediately adjacent is a classic Rumford fireplace clad in local Rundle rock that has all been fitted by hand. Parker says the rock was quarried near Canmore, including the 1,500-pound hearth. Between setting the concrete foundation and completing the masonry and rockwork, it took an entire year to install the home’s three fireplaces and outdoor oven.
Upstairs, the master suite looks out on the east end of Mount Rundle. “It’s a beautiful, calm, serene, elegant bedroom,” says Parker. The ensuite is separated from the sleeping area by a wall that ends just before the west-facing windows, ensuring the view is never interrupted, whether it’s enjoyed from the bed, the free-standing soaker tub or the vanity.
Parker and the Traubs are proud of having used local trades and artisans almost exclusively in creating the home. In addition to the masonry, millwork and wall plaster, many of the other finishes were locally sourced or produced, including the hand-forged spindles lining the oak railings.
“As much as you can keep [the design work] in these homes to the people in the town, I think that’s the right way to go,” says Parker.
After 10 years spent designing mountain homes, interior designer Lori Parker has developed a point of view on the art form. To be successful, she says, this style of architecture should be as natural as possible.
“I like colours and textures and layers to be brought in on that really good organic base,” says Parker. “Art is what starts to tell the story of the people.”
In addition to complementing nature, she says, the simple esthetic for mountain homes grows out of the lifestyle. “These are casual homes. In the mountains, you have a different life. You are coming in with hiking boots and clothing that is jeans and fleece, and the house needs to accommodate that.”
Following trends is unlikely to work for this type of design. Instead, Parker tries to create a look inspired by the area. She says the entire palette for Janet and Leonard Traub’s home can be found in the riverbed of Cougar Creek.
Parker says humour is important, too. After all, the homes are getaways designed around play, and the design should reflect that.
Visitors to the Traubs’ home will find whimsical and, at times, cheeky details throughout, including a tasteful “do not feed the bears” sign displayed on the lower balcony’s outdoor oven and gold-painted antlers on display in the upper hall.