Efficient Comfort

Story by Anna Mason • Photography by Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography

  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
  • Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography Dave Davis, DMD Real Estate Photography
     

With gorgeous views of nature just outside your home, why wall it all up? That was the inspiration behind the design of Martin Burzynski and Bethany Smithers’ home. Those wall-to-wall windows lining the entire side of house provide unbeatable, panoramic mountain views – and with views like that, who needs to decorate? “Styles and fads come and go, but those views are forever,” says Martin. “We wanted to honor them with a design that’s timeless, efficient, and all about the view.”

KEY CONTRIBUTORS

General Contractor:
Remote Alaska Solutions
Designers:
Martin Burzynski &
Bethany Smithers
Engineer:
Seth Andersen Engineering Services, Arete, LLC
Siding/Roofing:
Doug Amos, AM Services
Custom Cabinetry:
Mike Kurtzweil,
Precision Woodworking
Plumbing/Mechanical:
Jose Pacheco,
Tuxedo Plumber
Interior Design:
Martha Hafner,
Hafner Design & Fine Carpentry

If you enjoy entertaining, you've probably noticed that charcuterie boards are everywhere these days. You've seen them in magazines, on Instagram, and at your best friend's last party. And it's easy to see why: Charcuterie boards are a win for everyone involved.

Years before designing their dream home in Alaska, Martin and Bethany were living in Florida when they knew it was time for a change but they couldn’t decide where they wanted to live. Rather than pick a place at random and find a house, they decided to purchase an overland adventure truck to live in as they explored and traveled. “We lived nomadically for almost four years,” says Bethany. “That allowed us to make some decisions about what we wanted. We knew what we needed; we knew how to make the perfect layout of a home for us in the smallest space possible.”

Part of the reason they spent so long exploring was so that they could “find home and a sense of community,” says Martin. “We found that in Palmer.” After deciding where they wanted to live, the next step was finding a piece of property. He and Bethany wanted unobstructed wilderness views, but still wanted to be close to town so that they could be part of the community they love in Palmer. They found it in a secluded lot overlooking the Matanuska River, with views of Pioneer Peak and surrounding glaciers. There’s even a connected bike path: Martin runs the trails often and both he and Bethany enjoy walking to town.

The couple started their design knowing exactly what they wanted from their home. “Two things were incredibly important to us: The first was a really welcoming entryway,” says Bethany. “We put the (8-foot long concrete) fire table and heated benches in the entranceway to act as an outdoor entertaining area for us, and it allows us to sit outside and welcome our guests. We designed the entire house around it! The second key thing was a big kitchen. I love to cook, and having lived in a tiny truck, I really wanted a professional kitchen.” In a house that totals only around 1,400 square feet, a big kitchen was a bit of a challenge. By opening the floor plan, they made the kitchen a natural gathering place. “I made sure the sink faced the windows,” says Bethany. “I told Martin that whoever is doing the dishes should get to enjoy the view!"

Another unique aspect of the home is just how energy efficient it is. The couple enjoys “extremely low heating bills,” and it's usually so warm in the house that there’s no need to use the wood stove. This is thanks to the home’s Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) construction, a specialty of Remote Alaska Solutions, the general contractor. ICFs are cast-in-place concrete walls that are sandwiched between two layers of insulation material to help create more structurally strong and energy-efficient homes. Additionally, the timeline for this type of build is significantly faster than other builds – from this home’s ground breaking to its completion took around 18 weeks.

Quick construction doesn’t mean Martin and Bethany sacrificed style. “We spent around 1,000 hours designing this house,” says Martin. “We blended modern design and ease of use and comfort. We wanted a home that expresses us.” They focused on designing a space that is completely user-friendly while being home-y and familiar. Custom alder wood doors and the farmhouse-style stools in the kitchen are just a few of those comfy, down-home touches.

However, no custom home build is without its challenges, After purchasing the property, the couple hired an excavator to dig some test holes, and the soil tested “rocky and perfect,” says Martin. But once they decided where to situate the home, they found the dirt below it to be all glacial silt. “So we wound up moving 3,500 yards of gravel from the front yard to where the house sits,” says Martin. “In order for that to happen, we had to build a 200-yard driveway so the trucks wouldn’t sink. That became the roadway that allowed equipment to come in for the rest of the build.”

As if that massive undertaking were not challenge enough, Seth Kroenke of Remote Alaska Solutions says that the water table on the property also presented some issues: “We experienced some trouble getting a good well, and at one point we actually hit salt water. Luckily we were able to cap that off and use the same well site.”

Now that the couple has settled comfortably into their new home, they couldn’t be happier. “I wake up every day so thankful that we took the time to really think through all of these aspects,” says Bethany. “It’s one thing to get a new home and love the new home smell, and it’s another thing to wake up every morning and go, ‘dang, we did this right.’ ”