A lens in the landscape
A photographer and a painter live and work among the aspens of Wyoming
Ed and Lee Riddell ― he’s a fine art photographer, she’s a book designer and painter ― sold their successful Jackson, Wyoming, advertising and design company, the building it was in, and their home. In one year.
“People were shocked,” says Ed. The couple had decided to simplify their lives and concentrate on photography and painting. The clean slate gave them the opportunity to ask themselves what was the space they wanted for their new life. With the help of Phoenix architect Will Bruder ― known for innovative designs that celebrate connections to the land ― they defined it.
Pictures: More views of the Riddells’s home
Bruder was no stranger to the Riddells: he had designed the building for their ad agency as well as the Teton County Library, of which Lee was a board member. And he stayed with them whenever he came to Jackson Hole. Ed says Bruder was a natural choice to design their home: “I never woke up and said I missed the business. But both Lee and I missed the space the business had been in ― that’s why we wanted Will to design our new home.”
They bought their lot because it contains an aspen grove. Ed told Bruder that he would love to live in a glass house, but the site wasn’t private enough for glass throughout. So Bruder designed the studio and the bedrooms with solid walls that have carefully scaled openings, and then he let the open-plan kitchen, living, and dining space melt into the aspens through walls of glass.
They also told Bruder that their studio was a priority. “There isn’t a distinction between life and work now,” says Lee. She and Ed work side by side in a room lined with books. A long horizontal window in front of their desks frames a stunning swath of nature. The proportions of this window and others were inspired by Ed’s photographs, which capture glimpses of the landscape in panoramic formats.
A hallway lined with Ed and Lee’s photography collection provides a measure of separation between the studio and the bedrooms. Its maple floor and walls create a warmth and consistency against which the black-and-white photos stand out.
“We let Will design the house right down to the last detail,” explains Ed. “By trusting him we got a much better product. The point is to get something you would not be capable of creating yourself.” Ed points to the lime green pillow on the sofa as the simplest example. When Bruder insisted they have it, Ed and Lee grimaced. “‘What? No way. We can always just put it out when he comes,'” Ed remembers whispering to Lee. But now it’s one of their favorite details. In the summer, it picks up the green in the trees, drawing the color into the room, and in the winter, it serves as a reminder of the season to come.
The sunlight in their home changes with each season, as well as throughout each day. “By living with us, Will learned how much I love living with light,” says Ed. Around 5:30 a.m. in the summer, there are a few fleeting moments when the sun is up and long shadows cast by the aspen trunks graphically stripe the maple floor. The aspen leaves tint the sunlight green in the summertime and gold in the fall.
“By the time many people retire, they don’t have the energy or the health to do what they really want to do,” explains Ed. “We thought about it and we did it.”