The House that Wine Built
Story: Jayne Russell
Photography: by Audrey Hall
DIRK AND CHARLIE HAMPSON BUILT A TRADITIONAL, INVITING VACATION HOME IN IDAHO, “FAR ENOUGH BUT NOT TOO FAR” FROM THE THREE NAPA VALLEY WINERIES WHERE DIRK IS PARTNER AND DIRECTOR OF WINEMAKING.
Dirk Hampson partner and director of winemaking at Far Niente, one of the most exclusive e wineries in the Napa Valley, and his wife, Charlie, knew exactly what they wanted in a vacation home—fine craftsmanship, traditional western style, and a homey atmosphere. They wanted a dream home in a family-friendly town where their four children—ages 8 to 15—could ski, ride their bikes and safely wander. In addition, they wanted their vacation home to be located “just far enough but not too far away” from their primary home in St. Helena, California. “Given that we’re in the wine business, I also wanted a place that would have a few nice restaurants,” says Dirk.
“We settled on Ketchum, Idaho, famous for its small-town atmosphere…where we had already been going to ski for about seven years,” says Dirk. Ketchum was not as crowded as the skiing options in California and didn’t draw large crowds like’ Vail or Lake Tahoe. It was not the easiest place to reach—you had to fly through Salt Lake City or take a puddle-jumper to Hailey—so Dirk and Charlie agreed that their stays would always be longer than a mere weekend away.
The Hampsons wanted a simple, back-to-nature feel to their vacation house, but they insisted on the finest craftsmanship available. Because they knew exactly how they wanted their home to look and feel, they felt they could design it themselves. “So many of today’s log homes look architect-designed,” says Dirk, “and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we wanted something simpler and more rustic…a traditional, unpretentious, rectangular log cabin with a big porch.”
After much research on the Internet, reading magazines and talking with friends, the Hamp-sons found their perfect working partner. Tim Bullock of Bullock & Company has been designing and building handcrafted log and timber frame structures since 1979. “We gave Tim our ideas and a general floor plan, and he miraculously turned all of that into a set of plans and, eventually, into our home,” says Dirk.
“SO MANY OF TODAY’S LOG CABINS LOOK ARCHITECT-DESIGNED… WE WANTED SOMETHING SIMPLER AND MORE RUSTIC.”
The Bullock & Company designers who sat down with Dirk and Charlie included everything they had envisioned in the technical drawings—from the traditional rectangular shape of the cabin, to extra windows for loads of natural light, to a large, 360-degree wraparound porch that can be enjoyed in all kinds of weather.
Once the design was determined, Bullock’s master craftsmen cut and dried logs to fit so perfectly that, after they age and settle, they should not need any chinking. The home was first assembled on Bullock Et Company’s lot in New Lowell, Ontario, Canada. Then each of the pieces was numbered and the whole structure was dismantled, loaded on trucks and delivered to the construction site. This process involves four to five months of work by master craftsmen. A single beam can weigh 3,000 pounds and can vary from 12 to 22 inches in diameter.
Tim is always present during the fabrication of Bullock’s custom homes. He works closely with a local general contractor—in this case, Storey Construction of Sun Valley, who graded the building site and made sure the plumbing and septic systems were in place—to prepare for the fabrication of the Hampsons’ home.
Even before construction began, the Hamp-sons had a family meeting to name their home. “After much discussion, we settled on Fox Den Lodge,” says Dirk. Fox Den Lodge is a 2,500-square-foot structure with a 2,000-square-foot wrap-around porch, built on a 1,500-square-foot basement and an underground garage. The four bedrooms and three baths are on the upper floor. The kitchen and dining room are on the first floor and open into a beautiful two-story great room.
The focal point of the great room is the unique two-sided large stone Rumford fireplace, bringing warmth to the great room, as well as an outside living space and hot tub area.
“We wanted unique bookcases in the living room,” says Dirk, “and Tim, inspired by two uncut tree trunks in his warehouse, sent us a quick sketch.” Bullock’s signature piece for this home is a huge “tree” bookshelf in the great room. The trees appear to be growing out of the floor and gracefully supporting the 10-foot shelves. “It looks simple but it was more complicated to put into place than any of us originally expected,” says Dirk. Because all the shelves were attached to the log walls and the walls were still shrinking and moving, the bookshelves kept tilting and had to be redone after “the place had shrunk.”
“IT is VERY SOOTHING AND COMFORTING…KNOWING THAT NOTHING 1S GETTING THROUGH THESE SOLID LOG WALLS.”
During the planning stages, Dirk and Tim talked about the natural aging of the wood structure and how tight the seals were eventually going to be. Dirk says, “You lie in bed at night and listen to the wood creak as it cures itself. It is very soothing and comforting as you listen to the wind outside, knowing that nothing is getting through these solid log walls.”
Tim says that the house will take four to five years to complete its curing process. At that time, workers from Bullock Et Company will go back and see if any caulking or chinking is necessary to maintain the structural integrity.
The kitchen, designed to be easy, functional and open, is kept simple with stainless steel appliances. “We love to cook and eat but, well…this is a vacation home and we decided not to make a huge kitchen statement,” says Dirk. The U-shape allows the kids to sit at the raised counter and be outside of the kitchen but still be part of what’s going on. The raised counter also shields anyone sitting at the dining room table from “the mess that’s in the kitchen.”
Every room feels spacious and is bathed in natural light with spectacular views of the valley and national forest. Even the laundry room, just off the kitchen, looks out onto the lush landscape. “so whoever is doing the washday chores doesn’t feel banished,” says Dirk.
Life at Fox Den Lodge is pretty basic—reading, doing puzzles, hiking up the hillside in summer and sliding down in winter. Real cross-country skiing paths start just a few hundred yards from the front door. After a hard day of relaxing, Dirk enjoys napping on the leather sofa in front of the fireplace in the living room…or just sinking up to his neck into the hot tub outside.
Fox Den Lodge is big enough for this young family to be able to spread out, and yet there’s always a quiet corner to snuggle into with a good book and a glass of fine wine.