This Modern Cliff House Seamlessly Knits Into a Rocky Idaho Lakefront

Walls of glass, horizontal roof planes, and a natural material palette enable this expansive home to feel like an extension of a dramatic boulder-strewn landscape.
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"Constant ingenuity" was essential in the construction of the Cliff House, a contemporary, three-story residence that spanned seven years from design concept to completion due to a challenging waterfront location.

Located in Western Idaho, the Cliff House faces views of Payette Lake toward the south and west, while vast granite and dense forest flank the property to the north and east.

"The project site forced creativity from the start," says McCall Design and Planning, a local architecture practice with intimate knowledge of the property, having designed several buildings on the south end of the site over 20 years ago. 

This time, the new property owners sought a contemporary residence on a northern parcel next to Payette Lake that, despite its seven-acre size, is largely unbuildable because of steep slopes and rock.

Surrounded by rugged beauty, the home was designed with a faceted exterior optimized for wraparound views unique in each room.

To meet the clients’ desire for easier lake access, the architects chose a low site and only began site work two years after a careful design process that saw multiple mock-ups, design options, and the acquisition of an easement from the State of Idaho for driveway access. A complicated foundation contributed to the lengthy four-year construction timeline.

The board-formed concrete, steel, and teak over a rainscreen system blend the building into the site.

A boulder integrated into the entrance foyer and large, triple-glazed windows immediately set the scene for indoor/outdoor living. The curved stairs lead up to the bedrooms.

"This design was all about capturing the beauty of the rocky site and the experience of Payette Lake," explain the architects. "How to incorporate the rock into the design, how to re-create the same peaceful feeling in a finished modern home that one felt on site pre-development was the big question."

The open-plan living areas feature rift sawn white-oak floors, teak ceilings, and plaster walls that provide a soft contrast to the hard steel-beams and lines.

The Great Room is anchored by a large granite fireplace crafted by James Hamblin, using locally quarried granite veneer.

A natural material palette comprising plaster walls, local rock, and timber surfaces throughout tie the 6,800-square-foot home into the landscape and imbue the interiors with a sense of warmth.

Flanked by walls of glass, the dining room features a Mimi London table and Holly Hunt dining chairs. The light fixture is by Lianne Gold for Ralph Pucci.

A view from the upper floor down the circular staircase to the game room below. The flaring, circular staircase was built using I-beams bent in Seattle.

A large piece of natural granite bedrock forms the backdrop to the game room, which is furnished with Round Iron Gear Table by Jerome Abel Segun and a Thayer Coggin 'Baxter' sofa. "This large element in the game room features a small bar area which is also the transition zone from the sophisticated finishes of the majority of the house to a mine shaft theme, as one travels back into the mechanical area along rough-cut bedrock walls," adds the firm.

The architects add: "We decided early on that defining the shape with large horizontal planes was necessary to give the home a sense of 'groundedness,' and this concept came back over and over as we made decision about which direction to run wood grain, how to layout out cabinetry pieces, fixture selections etc.—always going back to that long, linear concept." 

"Landscaping was strategically planned to cope the home seamlessly into the rock, with access paths from the house to the lake barely visible in some places," adds the firm.

The massive, thermally broken steel windows were installed by crane.

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The Great Room is stylishly fitted out with a Holly Hunt coffee table, Stefan Heiliger "De Sede" chairs, Thayer Coggin Lloyd sofas, a Robert James Nantucket Occasional Table, and sconces by Lianne Gold for Ralph Pucci.

The light-filled kitchen is fitted out with glass fiber-reinforced concrete counters, quartern-sawn eucalyptus cabinets, as well as Sub-Zero, Wolf and Miele appliances.

The master bedroom was crafted with a low wooden ceiling to create a sense of intimacy, balancing out the expansive walls of glass on two sides.

This lavish guest bath features concrete counters with integrated sinks designed by the architect and design team.

A giant piece of petrified wood is hung lengthwise, visually connecting the main floor with the upper floor. The bunk loft, created for the owner's grandchildren, can be seen straight ahead.

Since the bunk bathroom has no exterior windows, the owners wanted to bring the outside in through artistic means. The whimsical bathroom includes a sculptural concrete tub handcrafted by a local artist and a 21'x9' custom tile mosaic (Lunada Bay Tile) by architectural designer Courtney Snyder of McCall Design & Planning. The floor is Island Stone King Pebble.

Cliff House lower-level floor plan

Cliff House main-level floor plan

Cliff House upper-level floor plan

Cliff House site plan

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: McCall Design & Planning

Builder/ General Contractor: Steve Lacey Construction

Structural Engineer:  Riverstone Structural Concepts

Civil Engineer: Crestline Engineering

Landscape Design Company: Laidlaw Landscape Co.

Interior Design: Brown Design Group

A/V: Barry Daoust

Cabinetry Design/ Installation:  Jaymark Cabinets

Other: Viewpoint Windows


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