In Lehi, builder Ezra Lee and his team create another daring dwelling, and this time, it’s a Scandi-inspired design with a simplified, modern twist.
Photos by Meagan Larsen
Patience pays off. Just ask Tom and Tashina Karren. Seven years ago, the couple first saw a home created by Ezra Lee Design + Build (ELD+B) and decided that one day they would have one of their own. “It was modern and unlike anything we had seen in Utah,” Tom recalls. Every year since, the Karrens toured each of the firm’s annual entries in the Utah Valley Parade of Homes, and their desire to own an ELD+B dwelling deepened. “We actually put an Ezra Lee home on our vision board,” Tashina says.
Then on a Friday morning in early January 2019, the Karrens pulled the trigger. They met with Ezra Lee and his team to discuss building a home and learned the process would take at least 18 months. “I have busy teenagers, so that seemed like a very long time for us,” says Tashina, so she asked what else the team had in the works. Lee mentioned a Lehi spec home planned for the upcoming Parade in June.
“We showed the Karrens the renderings, and Tom immediately moved to the edge of his chair,” Lee recalls. They had found their home. “We dreamed of having a Parade home and this was exactly what we were looking for,” says Tashina. She then asked Lee, “What do we need to do to make it ours?” Excavation was to begin the following Monday, so Lee suggested the Karrens take a look at the lot. The couple evaluated the site and returned 30 minutes later ready to buy the house—with one stipulation. “We wanted to add an underground sports court and a swimming pool,” Tom says. Normally, these wouldn’t be a problem, but the project was on a tight schedule due to the June deadline. These inclusions—particularly the sports court—presented a big timing challenge. “I really had to think about it,” says Lee, who deliberated before deciding to go for it. “The Karrens signed the papers the following Monday, and we were off to the races.”
“I loved this house from the minute I saw its highly pitched roofs and black exterior,” recalls Tashina, describing the home’s surprising Scandinavian-inspired design. Typical of Ezra Lee designs, this house is provocatively unique and thoughtfully conceived. And like others, it is modern but with a twist. “They all have an underlying modern tone, but with supporting styles that have ranged from craftsman and Frank Lloyd Wright minimalist, to modern farmhouse and mid-century,” Lee explains. Scandi style was something new to embrace and provided the simplicity and bold design opportunities his team craved.
Basic shapes and strong contrast define the exterior. “We stripped down the form to the point where it is geometrical,” says Doug Staker, head of architecture for ELD+B. “It becomes a box with a triangle roof.” The gables transition directly into the exterior walls with no overhangs that interrupt the roof-to-wall connection. “This reinterpretation of the gable makes the design progressive and current,” Staker explains. The team’s use of materials does the same.
While stone, wood and steel are common to other homes in the area, the team applied them in innovative ways. Consider the profile of the standing seam metal roofing. As the steep roofline transitions to the vertical walls, the dark metal’s upright ridges become recessed channels, creating the structure’s seamless, charcoal-colored “shell.” It dramatically contrasts with light, tongue-and-groove pine siding that clads the inside of deep gables, sheltering outdoor living areas located at the ends of the home’s wings. These include the striking entry, spacious balconies and covered patios. The resulting color blocking is joined by a horizontal series of darkly framed square windows and large, eye-catching cutouts that add dimension to the home’s simple shape.
Simplicity thrives inside, as well. “Life can be complex, so people are moving toward simpler lifestyles and interiors,” says Landon Taylor, head of design. To foster this, the team created a straight forward floor plan devoid of tricky hallways or transitions. “It’s easy to understand and has a really nice flow,” Lee says. On the main level, polished concrete floors flow seamlessly from space to space and expansive windows fill the interior with views and bright, natural light.
“The great room has three walls of glass—two are sliders and the other is a folding wall opening to the pool,” Staker says. “The indoors and outdoors become one space making its entertaining aspect incredible.” On the upper level, the team devised a master suite comprised of Tom’s office, a spacious bathroom and a bedroom open to a view-laden covered deck. “You almost feel like you are sleeping outside,” Taylor says.
The interior’s palette is equally compelling and uncomplicated. Taylor painted walls and ceilings white and surprisingly did the same to the staircase and railing. “You don’t often see white on staircases these days,” he says. Taylor repeated the exterior’s pine siding on the main staircase wall and used high-contrast black to accentuate key elements including kitchen cabinets, a hanging fireplace, window frames and even the casings around the doors.
“This creates a picture frame around them,” he says. While color blocking and mixed textures drive the décor’s easy going style, Taylor added a few surprises to satisfy Tashina’s craving for a bit of glamour. The great room’s chandelier, for example, is like a tangle of brass-ended wands floating high above the space. “It’s a show stealer,” Taylor says. The entry’s wine-colored sofa and bold art similarly pop against the uncluttered backdrop. “I loved how they pushed the envelope,” Tashina says.
In the end, ELD+B completed the home in time for the Parade—and with a spectacular pool and subterranean sports court in place. And that home on the Karrens’ vision board? They now live in it. “It’s like a dream come true,” Tom says. “I have to pinch myself knowing that it is really ours.”
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