The Boise Highlands area has always held a certain appeal for Boise residents since the development got underway in the late 1950s. Some of the roads were still gravel, but the neighborhood found itself winding up the side of the Foothills in the Crane Creek drainage. What is known as the Upper Highlands became a hot spot with its gorgeous views and the modern ranch home styles that were sweeping the country.
Chris and Emily Allen happen to have one of the sweet spots in the Upper Highlands, just a few houses down from where Highlands developer Richard B. Smith built his own home. The Allens' house looks down on Hulls Gulch - Red Fox Trail and Chickadee Ridge Trail - and they have perfect moonrise views of Lucky Peak and Table Rock. The house is also high enough up the hill to catch some evening sun in the dining room and kitchen.
"The location is just unbeatable," Emily said. "It's in the Highlands on a flat property on a flat road."
Not bad for a home they bought two years ago sight unseen while living in Portland.
Chris, though, was a Boise native and Boise High School graduate, so he was familiar with the area despite having moved away more than 20 years earlier. He also had the advantage of a mother who still lived in town and could check out the house for them. It didn't take long for Mom to tell them to jump on it. It's not the kind of home or location that stays on the market for long.
"We feel real fortunate," Emily said. "We were really expecting it to be bad. But it was in fine condition. It met all of our needs, but needed some updating. We bought a project, and a lot of people don't want to buy a project. But it's amazing what some paint and a carpet will do."
The custom-designed home was built in 1961 and sits on a level half-acre plot with a view that should make other people jealous. The Foothills fill the view from the backyard, and there is easy access down to the trails in Hulls Gulch.
Only the third owners of this property, the Allens got started on the updates soon after buying the home.
The first thing to go was the old cedar-shake roof. Next came a redo of the master bedroom. By today's standards, the master bed and bath were too small. By the time that was completed, the home had gone from 2,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet.
Other plans are on the table. Someday there will be an in-ground swimming pool in the backyard, and Chris says he is going to do something about the landscaping at some point. All that lawn on a half-acre plot tends to soak up a lot of water. The kitchen will likely see some remodeling at some point, but then, what kitchen doesn't?
"We plan on being here forever, so we see it as a lifelong project," he said.
They also plan on keeping to the mid-century ranch style that works so well for the home.
"I like the open feel and single-level living," Emily said. "It's efficient. There are no spaces in this house that are not getting used. It's a pretty open canvas."
The open feel and open canvas also make it a perfect place for their three kids, two girls and a boy, ages 10, 8 and 5. This becomes even more obvious when one of the children and some friends suddenly go racing through the house from one end to the other and back again. A spacious floor plan and large backyard are ideal for that kind of energy. The five bedrooms were a requirement when they moved in, and there is plenty of room for everyone and guests. The Allens do a lot of entertaining, so the roomy dining room and large patio are also important elements.
Chris has an engineering background and works Downtown, so the location is as ideal as the design.
It's a perfect home for the Allens. The family photo taken in the front yard looks like a modern-day Norman Rockwell pose, just the image you would expect in the Upper Highlands - where the mid-century style of home still lives and breathes.
"It's got its own character, and it totally works for us," Chris said.
Emily said they always wanted a home that feels like a destination - the kind of place that welcomes you home after a trip or vacation.
"We're always going to want to come back here."
Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and video journalist who has worked in the Treasure Valley for more than 20 years.