Living in Nature

8-foot-tall windows on either side create a transparent living room at architect John Carney’s Fish Creek Guest house in Wilson, Wyo.

The site’s many trees cast shadows that help to naturally cool the building, which has no air conditioning.

A separate garage, covered in the same fireproof bonderized steel panels that clad the upper portion of the guest house.

Corner windows bring views of the tranquil site into the bedrooms, making those space feel larger than they actually are.

Carney and his wife Elaine, who are living in the guest house until their main house is built, chose rift-sawn, whitewashed vertical grain oak for the interior woodwork.

Built-in cabinetry, doors, and windows all meet an 8-foot-high datum throughout the house, providing a sense of consistency and order.

The buildings’ shed roofs suit the area’s snowy winters. Boulders found on the site form an organic landscape element.

The guest house uses cross-ventilation, solar orientation, and overhangs as additional passive cooling strategies.

Guests often comment on the vertical subway tile in the kitchen, Carney says. The 12-foot-long space echoes the serene palette of the rest of the project.

John and Elaine Carney gained the idea for the whitewashed oak floor planks from a restaurant in Paris.

An existing creek just outside the home provides a constant, relaxing sound effect for the Carneys and their guests.

John Carney is currently designing a main house for the property. “An architect’s house is a place for experimenting,” he says. “At the same time, I want it to be integrated with the guest house.”

Solar panels wouldn’t have made sense for this site, which receives substantial shade. Carney and builder Kurt Wimberg focused instead on building a tight, superinsulated envelope with a high-efficiency heating system.

The colors of the cedar shingles and bonderized steel play off the landscape’s natural hues.

Much of the home’s appeal lies in its straightforward form. “It’s as simple a rectangle as you can draw,” Carney says.

The pastoral project lends itself to wildlife watching and stargazing.

The discipline of living in a 950-square-foot space has proved valuable for Carney from a design point of view. “I will never think of scale the same,” he says.

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