A new build in historic Old Town Park City proves that modern aesthetics and historic preservation can not only coexist, but can also complement one another beautifully .

Braden Bell performed as his own contractor as he purchased a vacant lot on upper Main Street and assembled a team to create this modern-yet-rustic residence.

“Treatise” is an apt descriptor for the pages of building and design guidelines governing Old Town Park City, one of the state’s most historic districts. Many Parkites believe, however, that these lengthy rules are completely justified. The homes and commercial buildings that make up Park City proper—many more than a century old—play an outsized role in this charming burg’s yesteryear character. That said, Park City has come a long way since the silver-mining era.  Balancing the town’s world-class-resort-destination ethos against Old Town’s relatively austere, turn-of-the-century aesthetics and scale can be difficult. That challenge, however, is not insurmountable, as demonstrated by Braden Bell and the design and building team he assembled to create this modern-yet-entirely-congruous little marvel on upper Main Street. 

“When I first started looking to buy in [the area,] people tried to steer me to out-of-town neighborhoods like Park Meadows and Promontory,” says Bell, a New Jersey native who came to Park City by way of Colorado and New York City. To appeal to potential homebuyers and part-time residents, he chose instead to focus on Old Town Park City because of its centralized location and charm.

A living roof softens the dwelling’s modern, almost industrial vibe, while the top-level deck and lower-level patio are packed with year-round amenities including gas fire pits and an in-ground hot tub. Landscaping blurs the lot’s rear boundary, which backs up to Poison Creek and a park beyond. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

With that in mind, Bell purchased a rare, vacant lot in Old Town on upper Main Street. To call its .04-acres small is an understatement. With its required setbacks, outdoor living spaces and driveway, the home would need to encompass a footprint just 25 feet deep by 75 feet wide, or the size of the average Starbucks. “To actually build a home on such a tiny footprint comes down to an understanding of space,” Bell says. “Every inch of the place had to have a purpose.  If you screw up on one room, then it messes up the rest of them.”

Bell custom designed the firewall for the upper-level deck, where a linear fire feature and mountain views draw visitors outside from the cozy great room. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
Patio doors open to the primary bedroom, where an upholstered bed and a pair of armless, low-slung chairs establish an air of subtle resplendence. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

Prior to moving to Utah, Bell was schooled in both small-footprint construction and navigating building code and entitlements when, in 2001, he purchased and remodeled the Sullivan Street Playhouse—the former Greenwich Village home to the musical, The Fantasticks. “Though the playhouse was not historic, it was located across the street from an historic district and was situated between two townhomes,” Bell says. 

The Sullivan Street project also taught Bell the value of local knowledge and relationships, which is why he hired architect Jonathan DeGray for his Park City project. “I don’t like to pigeonhole myself as a historic district specialist, but I have certainly done a lot of work in Old Town over the last 30 years,” DeGray says. “That area is a constant source of projects.”

Instead of marble, Bell chose durable ceramic for the kitchen’s huge waterfall island and bar/coffee station. “Marble can be problematic if not cleaned correctly, and I really wanted the furnishings to be durable and last over the long term.”
Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

Bell tasked DeGray with designing a modern farmhouse-style home with ample private and communal spaces. “To make the four-story plan that Braden wanted to see work, the home’s first floor is completely underground,” DeGray explains. Other physical and visual space efficiencies incorporated into the home’s architectural design include built-in closets and cabinetry, floating bathroom vanities and a straight-run, floating tread staircase. The home also features radiant heat and mini-split air conditioning versus space-gobbling ducts required for traditional HVAC systems. 

Photos by Scot Zimmerman.

The dwelling’s indirectly modern exterior not only maintains Old Town’s modest scale but provides interesting and respectful contrast to the mostly Victorian-inspired, mining-era homes surrounding it. Reclaimed barnwood and charcoal-black zinc siding nod to Park City’s preserved mining structures, while a live roof garden softens the home’s view for neighbors on the hillside above. The garage is pushed back from the sidewalk to lessen its impact on passersby. In the rear, boulders and grasses blur the boundary between the back patio and Poison Creek as seen from Old Town Neighborhood Park located across the creek from the home.  “Jonathan balked a bit at the reclaimed barnwood siding, but then I drove around and took pictures of examples of the same look in Old Town Park City,” Bell says. “He agreed and the City ultimately approved that and the zinc siding.” 

Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

The large primary bath oozes luxury with stylish hand-cut mosaic wall tiles and opposite-facing cantilevered and underlie vanities. Radiant flooring, here and throughout the home, maintains comfort regardless of how deeply temperatures plummet outdoors. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

The interior design of the resulting four-floor, 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bath home is all about quiet and simple sophistication. Low-slung furnishings, a monochromatic color palette and loads of soft texture not only make each space feel larger than it is but also highlight the impressive views of the surrounding mountainsides and Main Street. “I don’t do a lot of monochromatic spaces,” says Ray Langhammer, the home’s Newport Beach, California-based interior designer, “but for this house, I thought a mostly gray palette would be chic, elegant and expansive, and it would allow the views outside to provide pops of color. Where we did add a little more color was with the art, which I think adds just the right touch of feminine pizzazz.” 

Bell and Langhammer hung pieces by Utah-based artist DeVon Stanfield (represented in Park City by Prospect Gallery) throughout the home to provide thought-provoking and modern pops of color against the home’s muted color palette. A pair of Stanfield’s pieces with Western motifs create a sense of arrival on the home’s next-to-lowest level, occupied exclusively by the primary suite. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.
Clever kitchen details include a mirror-concealed television above the cooktop. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

Bell, who lives in a condo on Lower Main Street, put this new home on the market soon after it was completed, and it sold quickly thereafter. While Bell and his team acknowledge that they pushed the boundaries of what’s allowable within Park City’s Historic District Guidelines, at least one neighbor appreciates the end result. “Good architecture is good architecture,” says Doug Stevens, who resides near the project and also sits on the city’s historic preservation board. “We shouldn’t be trying to replace what’s not there. Good architecture interspersed between old houses is how it’s supposed to work.” 

Glass sliders open the upper-level great room to the outdoors. Windows throughout the home are super-energy efficient, triple pane versions designed in the USA and custom-made in Europe by Zola. Photo by Scot Zimmerman.

See more from the Utah Style & Design Fall 2023 issue here.

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