Like it or not, you really do only get one chance to make a first impression. This truism holds a lot of sway in the design world, and it definitely influences the work of Tom and Cara Fox, principals of The Fox Group in Salt Lake City.
This couple designs and builds some of most beautiful residences in Utah, their new family home among them. Located in tiny Holladay, the grand house and gardens inspire awe from the get-go. And that’s exactly what the Foxes intended. “It’s so important to get the first impression right,” Tom says.
Peer down rows of soldier-like hornbeam trees and sculpted boxwood, past formal flower beds and around a circle drive centered by a tiered stone fountain, and you’ll catch your first glimpse of the Fox’s stately, shingle-sided residence. The immediate impression of permanence and European elegance makes you suspect the owners have a thing for traditional style and gracious design. You’d be right. “We love creating beautiful, timeless homes,” Cara says.
If the formal gardens and classic exterior details don’t convince you how important first impressions are to the Foxes, the home’s entry should do the trick. “We’re big on entrances,” says Tom, who based the home’s design around a circular foyer. “It’s not the best use of space or money, but it was very important to us, and we wanted it to be the best part of the home.”
To that end, the couple designed the floor with European white oak planks that encircle a rose compass motif at its center. An antique newel post anchors a graceful staircase that follows a curved, paneled wall and leads to a second-level landing. This is the home’s only stairwell, which is unusual for houses of similar size and style typically equipped with a secondary, back-of-the-house staircase. “We love this foyer so much and want to use and enjoy it every time we go up and down the stairs,” Cara says. This reflects one of the couple’s key design philosophies. “A lot of people’s most beautiful spaces are those they use less frequently, but we think those used most often should be the most special,” Tom explains.
Truth is, all of the home’s spaces are exceptional, just not as dressy as those up front. Take a few steps beyond the marbled entry and stately foyer, and your posture eases ever so slightly. Herringbone-patterned oak floors—left unsanded and unfilled to create the time-worn charm of an old Parisian flat—lead to a casual, moderately sized family room, where deep-seated sofas and lounge chairs face a beautiful, tile-faced fireplace.
“I didn’t want a two-story family room that feels empty and big,” Cara says. This is where the Fox clan gathers and lives. She and Tom ruled out a formal living room, and instead, garbed the family room with goodies—traditional paneling, finely crafted built-ins and beloved art—that make the space not only special for the family, but guest-worthy, as well.
The adjacent, European-influenced kitchen is arguably the most striking of the home’s rooms—proof that in the hands of a pro, a function-forward space can be as spectacular as any other. Equipped with butcher-block baking centers at each end, the white, marble-topped island spans 18 feet. Behind it, a large Lacanche French range is crowned by an enormous hood adorned with vintage oil paintings. “I wanted the style and scale of an old chateau’s walk-in fireplace,” Cara explains. Brass-and-glass bistro shelves offer easy access to everyday white dishes, and a brick pizza oven serves authentic style as well as pizzas here and to nearby patio. “Every kitchen should have timeless appeal and modern functionality,” Cara says.
A brilliant blue tea room, charming dining room, home office, kids’ study hall, theater and game room round out the remainder of the main floor. Notably, there is no basement. “We like having the kids close by and this is a great plan for entertaining,” Tom explains. All of the bedrooms, including a luxurious master suite—a much treasured retreat for Tom and Cara—reside upstairs.
In the dining room, Cara Fox painted the raised-panel wainscoting with Benjamin Moore’s Boothbay Gray. Floral-patterned roman shades dress large windows overlooking tailored gardens in front of the house.
Light and dark gray granite delivers a checkered pattern and classic style to the back patio. Shingled walls and copper lanterns made in New Orleans add immeasurable charm.
Located near the kitchen, the kids’ study hall features built-in desks crafted by Christopher Scott.
Brass eight-point star hardware dresses the master bathroom’s cabinets. It’s a recurring motif that helps unify the rooms throughout the house. Calacatta Gold marble elevates the room’s style and is featured in large slabs as well as tiles laid in a timeless herringbone pattern on the floors.
Daisy and Duke, the family’s golden retrievers, sit at attention in front of a hanging daybed on the back porch.
Emily Brooks Wayment layered trimmed boxwood with flourishing hydrangea bushes in one of the landscape’s many spectacular gardens.
Tom Fox centered the large pool on the back door of the house. Checkered granite squares clad the pool deck, a stylish design element repeated on the home’s porches. Furnishings are from Horchow, umbrellas are from Serena & Lily.
Room to room, windows are paramount to the home’s appeal, drawing in dazzling natural light and framing views of the estate’s picturesque gardens, pool and patios. “The architecture takes the front seat with views in mind,” Tom says. From the outside, the house and its landscape are decidedly formal, and indoors, it’s comfortable and inviting. “It lives as our family does,” says Tom. For themselves, as well those for whom Tom and Cara design and build homes, that’s how the couple measures their success.
Design, Architecture and Contractor: Tom and Cara Fox, The Fox Group, SLC
Landscape Design: Emily Brooks Wayment, SLC
Cabinetry: Christopher Scott Cabinetry, SLC
Photos by Scot Zimmerman