A successful remodeling project is really an indication of strong relationships. It’s the relationship between the old and the new — the strength of the materials and the strength of the ideas.
It’s all about the teamwork and the ability to problem-solve and create a unified vision. Sometimes, it requires compromise. Or, like this time, it requires an industrial-size steel beam.
Tucked into a quiet little neighborhood in Southwest Boise sits the home of Jeremy and Lynn Jeffers (and their dog Roxy). They have lived in this house since 1987. But the series of relationships that led to this particular remodeling project began almost 40 years ago on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow.
“We met on the first day of college at U of I and got married the day after we graduated,” Jeremy said.
Lynn would spend 29 years as a special-education teacher in Nampa and Meridian. Jeremy became an architect and worked as a director of project development for Albertsons for 25 years. Today, they have “reinvented” themselves, running an architectural consulting business out of their home. (Jeremy likes to say he’s one-third Warren Buffett, one-third Jimmy Buffett and one-third Frank Lloyd Wright.)
Back in 2000, they bought about 22 acres on South Locust Grove with the intent of building a new home.
“We were ready to build and had spent a lot of time developing plans, because we were going to be the only couple who built a house without a fight,” Lynn said. “But then we were like, ‘What are we going to do with 20 acres?’ ”
“And that was when we came to the realization that the property was creating stress in our lives,” Jeremy said, “worrying about irrigation and worrying about the taxes and worrying about the maintenance and the tractor and the equipment and the hay, and we said, ‘Wait a minute, what are we running to?’
“We wanted a space where we could entertain,” Jeremy said. “We had this table, for example, in the little dining area, and the space was so small we couldn’t even have the family over.”
But they had an outdoor patio right near the kitchen area that they realized could be reconfigured to make it a four-season space. (In Phase 2, they’ll eventually put in a three-plus bay/shop for Jeremy’s cars and add an art studio.)
“So we sold the property, sold the equipment and took the money and reinvested it in our little place here,” Jeremy said.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like it would be all that challenging to wall off a 24-foot patio and put some doors in it to create a more versatile space.
“We went to Maui for our 25th wedding anniversary, and where we stayed they had the big lanai with the big open space that just flows out,” Lynn said.
“We knew we wanted that open expanse, and we looked at putting a series of French doors in like Frank Lloyd Wright did, and we looked at putting sliders in, but you have to stack them somehow,” Jeremy said. “We wanted to be able to open the whole thing up, so how do you do that?”
The answer, of course, was easier than the solution. You put in a 24-foot door. Think of it as a big accordion of glass-paned doors.
“They weigh 100 pounds per linear foot, and I can open it with one finger,” Lynn said. “It’s a 2,400-pound door.”
That means the space would have no support columns — and they wanted zero threshold for the doors.
“It’s the patio. If I need to hose this thing out, the track needs to be able to drain,” Lynn said. “It’s pretty low maintenance. We can use the leaf blower and blow it out.”
This was going to be tricky. And it was going to take a bigger team. But it was doable.
“They both designed it together,” said Noah Richter of RCH, the general contractor on the project. “There was some design input from my end as far as material choices and inspirational pictures we pulled from — it was a collaborative effort for sure — but the overall design came from Jeremy and Lynn.”
But did the idea of a remodeling project calling for a 24-foot open-span doorway frighten him?
“Nooo. It takes a lot for me to get scared,” he said. Richter grew up with a home-building father in the Sun Valley area and was picking up nails at the age of 8. At age 21, his first project-manager job was a 13,000-square-foot home.
“It never really struck me as a crazy idea,” Richter said. “You have to be able to stretch your imagination and stretch the abilities of the people you have working for you to make things happen. ... ”
“All the right players need to be involved,” Richter said. “The structural engineers, the architects, the subcontractors, everybody needs to be able to understand and comprehend what we’re trying to achieve. It’s definitely a team effort.”
“That clear opening is unprecedented on projects I’ve personally worked on,” said Troy Stone of Wood Windows Inc. “That’s a very difficult door.”
Wood Windows had the right kind of door on display in its own conference room at its showroom in Garden City.
“Lynn fell in love with that door the minute she saw it,” Stone said.
But as far as it was known, no one around here had ever installed anything larger than a 16-foot door. The 24-foot door was going to be a bit challenging.
“It did take a structural engineer to figure out what kind of beam could be put in there so we could install that door properly,” Stone said.
That’s where Jeremy Parrish of Structural Edge Engineering entered the picture. It was his job to figure out how to temporarily support the roof so they could remove the columns that were there and then figure out what was needed to span the 24-foot opening.
For the door to work, they had to make sure the numbers were just right. They only had three-sixteenths of an inch tolerance in the center of that span, or the doors would bind and not fold open. Any bowing and the door would get pinched.
“Actually, it turned out to be fairly simple,” Parrish said. “We had to use a steel beam.”
“Not too many neighborhoods would allow you to bring a crane in and a big steel beam and lift it over the trees into the back yard,” Jeremy said.
“Once we figured that out, the only obstacle was to figure out how to get from A to Z,” Stone said, “and there were a lot of people involved with that.” And a very big crane.
There was also the issue of the door’s threshold. To be a true indoor-outdoor room, the tile had to flow from inside to out and back again. No steps. No frames.
“The only thing that was acceptable to them was a zero threshold,” Stone said. “And it’s holding out, even with all this snow we’ve had. ... It worked out great.”
The good stuff
The craftsmanship that went into the finish work was another impressive part of the overall teamwork.
“The guy who laid the tile was fussier than my mother ... and it just did my heart good,” Lynn said. “It took him three days to lay this tile. I wanted a completely random pattern. And he made it up as he went along.”
The tile work was done by John Villanueva of Rock Solid Limited, and it’s heated, too. That wasn’t in the original plans, but it’s now one of Lynn’s favorite parts.
“This is the best place to take a nap,” Lynn said. “It’s like I have my own yoga studio, because the heated tile actually heats through my yoga mat. Yeeahhh. ... ”
The beautiful mitered wood above the door was fussed over just as much as the tile. And that smooth, vertical-grain Douglas fir on the ceiling is another one of the room’s striking features.
And this basic remodel to make their home more livable? In the end, the new sunroom wound up winning a 2016 award for Best Use of Idaho Wood by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Idaho Chapter and the Idaho Forest Products Commission.
“Lynn says she’s got a floor on her ceiling,” Jeremy said. And that’s exactly what it is.
“It went from an enclosure into an artwork,” Jeremy said. “When you start looking at the detail, the joints on the ceiling, the finish work on the ceiling … it just makes you smile.”
“What stands out to me is that they were able to take an existing space and turn it into a completely different use …without adding any square footage to it,” Parrish said.
The couple now love kicking back in their four-season room (or their “three-and-a-half-season” room “because we don’t have an ocean,” Lynn jokes).
And for the first time since they’ve lived in the home, they were able to host Thanksgiving dinner for their family.
“We used our patio a lot, but not like we do now,” Lynn said.
“I call it the mag wheel philosophy,” Jeremy said. “You put a mag wheel on your car, it doesn’t help your resale value at all, it doesn’t help your performance at all, but it makes you happy. This makes us incredibly happy.”
And someday, if the house is ever taken apart, someone will find — in teacher’s chalk — a hand-drawn heart with L+J on a steel beam.
Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and print journalist who has been working in the Treasure Valley for more than 30 years.
The patio project team
▪ Structural Edge Engineering (structuraledge.com): Jeremy Parrish, structural engineer.
▪ RCH Construction Inc. (rchboise.com): general contractor with Noah Richter (owner) and Tray Tuttle (project manager)
▪ Wood Windows Inc. (woodwindowsinc.com): door Supplier
▪ Rock Solid Limited: John Villanueva (the tile floor)
▪ Centers Electric: Eric Centers (lighting and electrical)
▪ Gingerich Site and Underground (gingerichsite.com): Travis Gingerich (landscaping and excavation)
▪ Dave Berry Construction: concrete footings and flatwork
▪ Mindbender: Jake Upham (structural steel fabrication)
▪ Blackbird Custom: Andy Shinn and Bill Berrard (fine paint and stain finishes)
Jeffers Architectural Consulting
The relationship that Jeremy and Lynn Jeffers have created together in their architectural consulting company — after decades in their own professions — is what they call their “encore career.” He does the architectural part, and she does all the rest of it. About two-thirds of what he does is property condition assessments, essentially analyzing not what your property costs, but what your property is going to cost you. The rest of the business is loan observation work and some architectural forensics.
Jeremy also spends a significant amount of his time now volunteering professionally. It’s his chance to give back, and he’s loving it. He is president-elect of AIA Idaho chapter. And in addition to his work with AIA Idaho and the Idaho Forest Products Commission (IFPC), for instance, he was a judge last year for the inaugural FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Regional Robotics Competition for high school students. He has also judged for student events for the IFPC.
Jeremy serves on an advisory board for West Ada School District for pre-architectural and pre-engineering students at Renaissance High School in Meridian. Last year’s architectural renovation team finished 12th in the nation for its proposal of a renovation of a circa 1921 Sears & Roebuck home in upstate New York. Several hundred teams participated, and the Renaissance High School team survived the state and regional competitions to achieve that honor.
Jeremy has also participated in seminars and roundtable discussions with University of Idaho students through an architectural graduate program called Professional Practice.
“It’s wonderful to see the young minds at work,” Jeremy said. “It’s invigorating. I cannot come away from those experiences either at Renaissance or U of I without coming away recharged. I’m getting quite a bit back out of it.”