Admit it, you have an inquiring mind, and you want to know about the team building your Sun Valley dream home. We understand the inclination. So we decided to bring you ShopTalk, conversations with the talented pros designing, building, and outfitting your homes.
BYLA is a design company specializing in outdoor environments. Founded and led by Ben Young, BYLA works on landscapes from the East Coast to Idaho and applies a practical hands-on approach that resonates with the natural environment. Through an engaging design process, BYLA creates insightful landscapes that respond to the way clients want to experience their outdoor spaces. Passionate about what they do, Ben Young and his Sun Valley project lead, Chase Gouley, never forget to have fun.
How did you get your start?
Ben Young: Slave labor at my parents’ house as a kid. That, and an early obsession with building forts. We had some really killer tree forts that were all linked by these bike paths in the forest. It was all about the landscape. My team jokes that every project we make has to have a secret trail somewhere.
Chase Gourlay: I got my hands dirty at a young age, both my mom and dad have green thumbs and spend a lot of their time in the yard. I definitely learned to love the landscape through them. We also had an ornamental tree farm growing up that helped pay my way through college. I spent a lot of time working the rows and chasing irrigation leaks—not your typical teenage summer but it definitely shaped who I am today.Do you have any special certifications or specialties?
CG: I come from a hands-on background. Chances are that at one point in my life I’ve performed a good portion of the work going on around the jobsite. I’ve done everything from digging the foundations on a house to setting the tile. I’d say the worst job I ever had was when I spent the summer cutting concrete—that is a tough job!
BY: I never knew that there was a profession called landscape architecture until 7th grade career day. A landscape architect came in and showed us pictures and drawings and it was all over from there. In high school I spent summers working at his company—in the field planting and moving dirt from one pile to the next. One summer, I think we planted 20,000 ferns. I haven’t used ferns again until this year.
What inspires you and your work?
CG: Other professionals in the trade really inspire me. We’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people over the years, and it’s super exciting to assemble a team to create something that’s never been done. Recently we’ve been working with Dembergh Brown Builders, Jennifer Hoey Interior Design, and David Soares who does incredible concrete work, among others.
“ESSENTIALLY, WE ARE WORKING TO DEVELOP LANDSCAPES THAT OFFER MORE INTEGRATION TO THE REAL GARDEN OF NATURE AND A CONNECTION TO THE REAL NATURE OF OURSELVES. THESE ‘GARDENS’ WILL HAVE TO RESPOND MORE TO EMOTION THAN SIMPLE STEREOTYPED VISUALS.”
–Ben Young, BYLA
How do you see your field changing in the next five to 10 years?
BY: I think we are going to see more immersive landscapes—areas where instead of looking out and saying, “My, what a nice garden!” you are really a part of that garden. Essentially, we are working to develop landscapes that offer more integration to the real garden of nature and a connection to the real nature of ourselves. These “gardens” will have to respond more to emotion than simple stereotyped visuals.
What project(s) are you most excited about right now?
CG: All of them! My motto is: If it’s not exciting, then we shouldn’t be doing it.
Describe your process—how do you work with clients, contractors, designers, and architects?
BY: We do a lot of online coordination—Pinterest boards to collect images that inspire clients and evoke emotions from them, hand-drawn sketches to help them envision the possibilities. The key is finding out what imagery motivates and excites our clients. We can then re-purpose those ideas into something that will work for the site. We are very hands-on.
“WE ARE DEFINITLEY KNOWN FOR THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX. MOST OF OUR LANDSCAPES TEND TO HAVE MORE BUILT FORMS AND STRUCTURES THAT IDENTIFY THE SPACE OR CREATE OUTDOOR ROOMS. I TRULY BELIEVE THE CALMER THE LANDSCAPE, THE BETTER.”–Chase Goulay, BYLA
Between Chase and myself, I think we have both worked in almost every trade in the construction business—concrete cutting anyone?
For both of us and for our clients, that experience allows us to develop details and to keep what we are creating buildable for our tradespeople.
What other specialties do you have in-house?
BY: Last year for the holidays we created our own pop-up furniture and accessory store for landscape items. We made couches, lanterns, tables, art. Creating objects and furnishings for our clients I would say is a specialty.
BY: I think having fun at what you do is a trick of the trade.
CG: I think it’s important to remember that it’s landscaping, not quantum physics. The whole process should be fun—not daunting. I’ve also learned that it’s not always about the design but rather the experience created.
If I walk away from a project with a friend rather than a client, we were successful.What is the difference between a good landscape design and a BY: You don’t really notice good landscape great landscape design. A great landscape design should make you say “wow” when you experience it. Good just doesn’t cut it.
Do you have favorite products you prefer or are known for?
CG: We are definitely known for thinking outside the box. Most of our landscapes tend to have more built forms and structures that identify the space or create “outdoor rooms.” We like to compose the plantings in larger masses, allowing the landscape to have more continuity and meaning. I truly believe the calmer the landscape, the better.
What word(s) do people use to describe your work?
BY: The best compliments we get are when people say we transformed their property in a way they never thought possible. When we can come change the way a client thinks—when they are so they never could imagine—those are the descriptions I remember because they mean something.
If you weren’t in your field, what would you be doing?
BY: Scooter Rental Shop on a Greek Island.
CG: I’d be a backcountry pilot.
Susan Witman Interior Design (SWID) is a full-service custom residential and commercial interior design firm located in Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho. With clients all over the country, Witman and her team embrace the unique challenges of each project. Known for her attention to detail and ability to translate what a client wants to a three-dimensional space that feels like a reflection of that client, Witman’s passion for design guides her.
What services do you offer?
I work closely with homeowners, architects, and builders to create an exceptionally finished home. I guide our clients through all aspects of home design which may include space planning, finishes, color schematics, millwork, cabinet design, plumbing specifications, furniture layout, and specifications through to purchasing and installation. I pay close attention to the details throughout the process. My knowledge of architecture and construction allows me to collaborate well with architects and general contractors.
I’ve worked on projects across the U.S., spanning from the East Coast to the West Coast.
“ EACH OF MY PROJECTS IS UNIQUE—BECAUSE EACH OF MY CLIENTS IS UNIQUE. I PRIDE MYSELF ON PRACTICING WITH A BROAD DESIGN SENSIBILITY BECAUSE I DESIGN FOR EACH CLIENT WITH SINGULAR ATTENTION… DESIGN THAT IS TRULY INDIVIDUAL… MEANS UNDERSTANDING HOW CLIENTS WILL LIVE IN THEIR HOME AND HOW IT WILL LIVE WITH THEM- HOW IT WILL SERVE THE CLIENTS AS THEY GROW AND CHANGE. ” –Susan Witman, ASID
Do you have any special certifications or specialties?
I am a National Council for Interior Design Qualification (N.C.I.D.Q.) qualified designer and I have been a Professional Member of the America Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for three decades. ASID provides essential continuing education through design and industry seminars to keep all practitioners relevant in this ever-evolving field.
I work hard to bring the client’s character, passion, and life into each room. I talk at length with my clients, listening to how they live in a space and how they want to live in it. I often work with contrasting visions, and the challenge (and the fun) is blending those visions and creating a chemistry throughout a home that is reflective of each client.
What is the difference between a good house and a great house?Great design isn’t just about understanding the technical aspects of design—it is about capturing stories. Design shouldn’t be separated from the people who live within that design—so it should be a part of their stories; it should help tell their stories.
Each of my projects is unique—because each of my clients is unique. I pride myself on practicing with a broad design sensibility because I design for each client with singular attention; I move easily from a French country residence to an ultra-modern design. A house is only a home when it reflects the personalities that live within.
Hands down, the most satisfying part of a project is having a happy client. One of my clients from 10 years ago recently approached me with enthusiasm to create another home with the same team of architect, builder, and my services. Those moments inspire me.
What do you enjoy most about your business?
I spent my childhood wandering flea markets, going to farmhouse sales, and witnessing the exciting arena of auction houses. I learned early on that I thrived on the thrill of the treasure hunt. That adventure has evolved into my career, and the search for the perfect items for my clients.
What do you enjoy most about living and working where you do?
Twenty years ago when I moved to Sun Valley, I immediately felt a connection to the people, the town, and the landscape. The range of architectural styles in the Valley offers up interesting projects for designers and I appreciate working with the architects and contractors around here. I also enjoy being involved with many of the community organizations like Swiftsure Ranch and St. Luke’s.
Spring. The anticipation of new growth right around the corner inspires me. I’m also passionate about gardening—I find it feeds my creativity and my connection to the natural world.
J.E. Drywall specializes in installing drywall, plaster, and paint in high-end homes in the Wood River Valley. Owner Juan Espinoza provides bids to homeowners and contractors and is committed to doing the highest quality work while providing the most value to his clients.
What services do you offer?
Drywall, plaster, paint. We can start a job and finish to the expectations that high-end houses require.
Do you see your field changing drastically in the next five to 10 years?
Honestly, no. Houses are built every day, drywall and sheetrock are what makes the walls now as they have been for the past many years. While there is a lot of change in the construction field because of increasing technology, people still need drywall and sheetrock. But I do keep my eye out for better products, “greener” products that allow for better installation and more cost-effective products.
The Diamondback Townhomes project in Sun Valley is one of the projects I am most proud of. It’s a signature Sun Valley development and we’re proud to be involved. But every project we work on is a point of pride for us.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I enjoy working with my team and I like being able to keep the business a professional family-oriented organization. Also, I love working with the contractors and homeowners. I appreciate that I am always learning new ways to improve my business every day.
How did you know you wanted to work in this field?
I knew I wanted to do drywall since I was 21. It’s a great field to be in because every new home needs drywall. I always wanted to own my own business so I could make my own hours and be able to be with my family when needed.
“THE DIAMONDBACK TOWNHOMES PROJECT IN SUN VALLEY IS ONE OF THE PROJECTS I AM MOST PROUD OF. IT’S A SIGNATURE SUN VALLEY DEVELOPMENT AND WE’RE PROUD TO BE INVOLVED. BUT EVERY PROJECT WE WORK ON IS A POINT OF PRIDE FOR US.”
-Juan Espinoza, J.E. Drywall
I got my start when I was 21 working for Archive. This is where I learned the trade. Since I’ve owned my own business, I’ve been able to develop and live by my own standards and develop a reputation for the highest quality of work.
What inspires you? My family and friends inspire me to do the best I can with my business.Can you tell us about your process?
I look at the plans or the building, speak with the contractor or owner to hear about potential challenges and design specifications. I am committed to offering a fair, reasonable quote and following through with the highest quality work. After the initial sheetrock and drywall are installed, I work with contractors, electricians, plumbers, and painters to fix any holes made during the finishing of the house.
Any special services you offer in-house?
We also specialize in acoustic ceilings.
What do you listen to while you work?
I like to listen to all kinds of music while I work. My favorite band personally is Metallica.
What do you like to do in your down-time?
My favorite sports are soccer and dirt biking. I love the fact that we have so many canyons to go out and explore when I ride on my bike.
My favorite season is summer. The reason is that it’s warm and we can go camping, enjoy the lakes, take picnics—there is more to do that time of year.
Favorite trip you’ve ever taken?
My favorite trip I have ever taken was when I drove to Mexico.
I was able to stop when I wanted and see everything it had to offer. The drive was amazing.
What “toys” would you love to own?
I would like to own a 1965 white Impala, a speedboat, and a man cave!