Après, Sun Valley Style
A 16,000-Square-Foot Log Castle Gets New Life as a Luxury Retreat
written by Lori Currie
photography by Tim Brown
There is no property in the greater Sun Valley area that sparks the curiosity of locals quite like the sprawling estate on Buttercup Road, discreetly tucked between Ketchum and Hailey. This log and stone castle, spanning over 16,000 square feet and sitting on over nine acres, was originally constructed by a local real estate developer for holiday gatherings with his family of 28.
When the developer first bought the property in 1994, it was a modest 4,500-square-foot log house comprised of four bedrooms and two bathrooms downstairs, a master bedroom upstairs, and a three-car garage. The new owner enlisted the help of collaborating architect Mike Barker during two remodels over a three-year span. The initial remodel expanded the kitchen to fully commercial grade chef’s status, with a large island and an adjacent 500-square-foot sunroom. The great room was graced with a massive fireplace featuring two large antique dragon andirons and a 35-foot-high, 365-degree viewing cupola on top. A porte-cochere was added to the east entrance along with a two-bedroom guest suite over the garage. During the second remodel, the team turned the three-car garage into an entertainment game room and added five more bedrooms with baths over a four-car garage, a steam room, a 1,000-square-foot gym, and a true wine cellar.
On a trip to Belgium and Spain, the owner found dozens of antique artifacts including doors, which were shipped back to Idaho and installed in the house. The iron spire work on the five fireplace stacks were modeled after Belgium churches. More inspiration was derived from European castles, which looked as though they had been built over several centuries.
Much of the décor and finishes in the home were thoughtfully and meticulously sourced by the owner. On a trip to Belgium and Spain, he found dozens of antique artifacts including doors, which were shipped back to Idaho and installed in the house. The iron spire work on the five fireplace stacks were modeled after Belgium churches. More inspiration was derived from European castles, which looked as though they had been built over several centuries. When the team started expanding the house to the north, the architecture and construction techniques intentionally changed, which made the home look as though it had been built in phases.
The residence featured many antique rugs throughout, but one in particular, in the upstairs library and card room, was a favorite of the owner. He commissioned local artist Mary Kenneally with Archive Decorative Finishing to paint the ceiling of the room with various duck hunting scenes loosely inspired by the rug. Kenneally also did several other European-style paintings throughout the home, including one with gold paint in the primary bath.
Great attention to detail was also paid to the landscaping on the property, which initially included a tree farm on the north end. At one time, there were 3,000 trees scattered across the nine-plus acres. Three large ponds were built for irrigation and aesthetics along a stream with a waterfall and a fountain.
“In the luxury rental market, we’re seeing a transition away from Airbnbs to people who would rather have a nice hotel, quality housekeeping service, and a concierge to help recommend activities. The problem with this is it often comes with the attachments of a hotel, which might mean a tiny room, loud neighbors, and all of the hustling and bustling of a hotel.”
–Adam Tuttle, Consultant, Après Vacation Homes
When the property was sold, it changed hands several times until, in a stroke of serendipity, it was bought by a newly formed luxury rental company, Après Vacation Homes. The vision behind Après is to provide guests with the personalized experience of a lifetime, from world-class skiing to fishing outside your back door. Après destinations–Après Sun Valley, Après Montecito Beach House in California, and Après Kenai River Cabins in Alaska–encourage opportunities to get plugged into nature and explore farther than before. Guests should feel like they’re at an Aman, Four Seasons, or Ritz Carlton hotel. Except they will have the entire property completely to themselves.
“In the luxury rental market, we’re seeing a transition away from Airbnbs to people who would rather have a nice hotel, quality housekeeping service, and a concierge to help recommend activities,” says Adam Tuttle, consultant for Après Vacation Homes. “The problem with this is it often comes with the attachments of a hotel, which might mean a tiny room, loud neighbors, and all of the hustling and bustling of a hotel.”
Tuttle formerly worked at the Four Seasons and went on to start Economic Luxury, where he consults with some of the biggest names in hospitality such as Caesars Palace, Four Seasons, Montage, Pendry, Hershey, Ritz Carlton, and other luxury clients to find out how they deliver luxury and then train their staff. “We’re bringing that level of luxury to the Wood River Valley. Après Sun Valley will be unlike any property currently available for reserve. We designed each room to be a complete sanctuary. Every room has a TV, a Four Seasons king-sized mattress, and every amenity you’d expect in a luxury hotel, from humidifiers and personalized robes to Bvlgari bath products. We even have moose plushies personalized for all the kids. We are asking, ‘How do we go beyond the standard experience guests are expecting and make sure we’re elevating that experience?’”
Once guests make a booking at Après Vacation Homes online, they’ll be contacted by an onsite concierge who will help organize their travel to Sun Valley. The concierge will know the right questions to ask to best organize a completely tailored, bespoke experience. For example, who will be traveling with you? Does anyone in your group have any dietary restrictions? What activities would the group like to do, choosing from a menu that includes skiing, a private chef, horseback riding, fishing, spa services, Nordic skiing, biking, snowmobiling, and more. “The more we understand our guests and the purpose of their vacation, the more we can ensure that we deliver a truly unique stay with surprises and delights along the way,” says Tuttle.
Upon arrival, the onsite concierge will greet guests at the door by name and provide a tour of the property. “The job of the concierge is to immediately welcome them to the home and get them comfortable. The concierge will know the guests so well, they’ll be able to anticipate their needs,” says Tuttle. That concierge will be with them during their entire stay, but not be intrusive. Arriving guests will have someone whose sole focus during their stay is to pamper them and their group.
“We’re going to politely encourage people to have an adventure. If you come here, you’re going to get out there and explore. And when you return home, you’re guaranteed to have a story to tell.”
–Adam Tuttle, Consultant, Après Vacation Homes
“The idea behind Après Sun Valley is, ‘How do we create something that doesn’t exist in the Wood River Valley?’” says Tuttle. “How can we do something that’s meaningful to each party? It’s the idea that you will get someone who’s present and engaged enough that they know what that meaningful thing will be. The real goal with anticipatory services is to say, ‘I know you, your group, and this Valley so well that I can precisely meet your needs.’”
For example, maybe half your party wants to go hiking and the other half wants a spa day. Or maybe some of you want to experience a different Sun Valley restaurant each night, and some want the Après private local chef to plate beautiful dishes right in front of you. Après wants to offer as much onsite as possible: chefs, massage therapists, yoga practitioners, cross-country skiing from the house straight onto the bike path. The house is the perfect spot for some R&R, featuring a hot tub, an infrared sauna, steam room, and cold shower. There are plans to build a pool that can accommodate 16 to 20 people.
Après has been talking to local vendors and businesses about some unique onsite experiences. For example, they are planning to stock the pond in the backyard for fishing, and guests can even enjoy a private casting clinic prior to tossing in their lines. The idea is to take experiences that are readily available but really personalize it for guests and ensure all guides are trained for a luxury experience, taking you beyond the ordinary.
“We’re going to politely encourage people to have an adventure. If you come here, you’re going to get out there and explore. And when you return home, you’re guaranteed to have a story to tell,” says Tuttle.
For the avid skiers in the group, Après has partnered with Sun Valley Heli Ski for a true luxe adventure: Sun Valley Heli Ski has said they could land their helicopter on the back lawn to pick up guests for a day of skiing, an amenity not available at other luxury rentals. “We want people to come to this property and walk away feeling connected to the extravagant side of Sun Valley,” Tuttle adds. “We want this to be a place to gather and be indulged.”
Après Sun Valley will also be available for a variety of events. The backyard, with its water feature and picturesque ponds, is the perfect backdrop for weddings. The house is capable of housing an entire wedding party, approximately 30 people. It has four ensuite rooms upstairs, four rooms downstairs, a bunk room with five full-sized beds and one nanny room. There’s also a butler’s studio that could be used for a personal assistant. “You’ll get ready at the house, with no stress of getting to the venue on time,” says Tuttle. “You can have your vows and reception in the backyard. You will not have this pressure of ‘get there and get out.’ You can relax. You don’t have to worry about renting a party bus or worry about noise complaints. This really is an intimate setting that will easily allow for a 200-person wedding.”
Also, Après says they’ve been looking at having corporate retreats or workshops hosted at Après Sun Valley, where your entire executive staff can be upstairs, and your training staff can be downstairs. Because it’s a space that can meet many demands and needs, Après has started partnering with local realtors, wedding planners, the Chamber of Commerce, travel agencies, virtuoso agents, and others to get the word out about the house and its unlimited potential.
Wellness getaways can bring in a group to promote a change of lifestyle and work with clients on changing nutrition habits and exercising or hiking in the great outdoors. “Health concierges say, ‘We’re going to work together to help you live a healthier lifestyle.’ Après is a great spot for that,” says Tuttle.
The property will enable this to happen. “The house is going to assist in facilitating some incredible memories, and the spaces–from the bedrooms to all of the gathering spaces–have been purposefully designed to enhance that,” says Tuttle. “The house is large enough that you can spread out. You can choose how much togetherness you want. You can escape whenever you want to get some alone time.”
Every room has a purpose and has been planned precisely to enhance that intended experience. For example, the great room was designed as a space for gathering and conversation. The absence of TV, coupled with overstuffed chairs in front of a grand fireplace, sets the scene for guests to connect with friends and family. The movie room downstairs represents a total dedication to cinema, with surround sound, a wrap-around sectional, and snack stations. The game room has a pool table and shuffleboard; the kids’ bunk room has a foosball table. The upstairs TV room has an Xbox and will be stocked to the brim with drinks and snacks. The cupola beckons you to soak up the views, and at night, to enjoy constellations in the Dark Sky Preserve. The Hemingway Library features a copy of every one of Papa’s published books, to be enjoyed in front of the fireplace in one of several cozy chairs. A generously sized locker room has individual lockers for guests’ ski gear, and the three-car garage is reserved for guests’ use. An elevator spans all three floors, making the home fully ADA compliant.
One of the more unique areas of the home has affectionally been dubbed “the dungeon” or “the vault,” consisting of a red-paneled room where guests can play poker until the wee hours while enjoying a glass of whiskey or a bottle of wine from the nearby wine cellar. The vault has notable speakeasy vibes, including an exterior door with a mafia-style peephole, and Tuttle says they plan to lean into that ambiance by making the speakeasy part of some of their backyard events, where guests will need to relay a secret password to enter the space, essentially being transported to a different time.
When it comes to luxury living, Après Sun Valley stands as a testament to what’s possible when you forgo a hum-drum rental experience and seek out a company that continually strives to elevate its offerings. With its rich history, thoughtful design, and commitment to anticipatory services, Après Sun Valley is poised to redefine the concept of a luxury rental.
“The house is going to assist in facilitating some incredible memories, and the spaces have been purposefully designed to enhance that. The house is large enough that you can spread out. You can choose how much togetherness you want. You can escape whenever you want to get some alone time.”
–Adam Tuttle, Consultant, Après Vacation Homes