Story by Jamey Bradbury • Photography by Jake Elko, DMD Real Estate Photography

“A hidden gem.” That’s how Brian Kraft describes the land his Girdwood ski home sits on. The little lot with stunning views of the Crow Creek Mine area nearly went overlooked — until Brian happened to notice a sign that had fallen over.

For months, Brian and his wife Serena had been looking for a weekend getaway that would accommodate their family of six without breaking the bank. But the homes Brian was finding in Girdwood were either too pricey or needed a lot of work.

Then he stumbled across a blown-over “For Sale By Owner” sign on a pie slice-shaped lot.
“It didn’t face Alyeska,” Brian recalls — but he had an inkling that there were views to be had. So he brought out a scaffold and a ladder, then climbed up to check his future home’s sight lines. “That’s when I knew the view would be spectacular, if we could just pull it off.”

Capturing the View

Pulling it off was going to be tough, though. Serena, who designed the 5,200-square-foot house herself with some assistance from a local architect, created a rustic-modern home that would take advantage of the view Brian had scoped out with huge windows set in the structure’s 18-foot front wall. But the small lot and steep grade of the land made it difficult for builders to erect the wall and windows.

So Lee Nieman of Hardy Construction, who served as the project’s general contractor, built his own hoist to swing four 500-pound windows into place.
“It was quite the challenge,” he says.

Those same windows posed a potential problem for the great room: Serena worried that all the natural light they let in would fade the furniture and flooring. Lee couldn’t get triple pane windows of that size, so he ordered up double pane windows, then worked with Spenard Builders Supply to use a combination of glazes to reduce the amount of damaging UV rays the windows would let into the house.

Creative Solutions

Lee’s problem-solving savvy came into play throughout the interior of the house, too. Serena achieved a design that Brian characterizes as “Zen-like” by mixing clean lines and metallic accents with natural wood elements throughout — including a dramatic fireplace that deceives the eye.

“It’s cement!” Brian reveals.

The Krafts had a specific fireplace in mind for their great room: one with a mantle of old, weathered logs that would infuse their home with character. But fire codes made a wood fireplace a big no-no.

Lee solved the issue by bringing in JJ Thompson of Thompson’s Concrete to pour custom vertical concrete pillars and create textures in the concrete that exactly mimic the cracks and knots you would see in real logs.

“The work JJ does is unbelievable,” Lee says. “You could go right up to that fireplace and take a close look, but you’d never know it wasn’t wood unless you touched it.”

Cohesive Details

The natural wood theme carries into the kitchen, which features a sitting area/countertop made from a 24-foot-long piece of parota wood from Mexico. To keep such a large piece of wood from warping over time, Lee cut it in half, then milled it back together.

The final element that pulls the kitchen and great room together to create a single space for socializing is the 32-foot-long cedar beams along the ceiling. Serena wanted a dark, rustic look, so Lee used chemicals and took a steel brush to the beams to scar them and make them look like they’d been sourced from an old barn.

Wood barn-style doors are used throughout the house to provide a contrast to the metal elements, like the steel interior staircase that leads to the second floor. Upstairs, the Krafts enjoy their master bedroom and deck access. “We could wake up and walk right out to view of the Crow Creek Mine area and sit for hours,” says Brian. “It’s very soothing.”

Outside In

With two additional bedrooms, including a kids’ room with double bunkbeds to host friends, a rec room, a storage area dedicated to sporting equipment, and a downstairs living room with surround sound that can serve as a movie theater, the Krafts’ house is spacious, yet cozy. “It’s a very open design, but it never feels cavernous,” says Brian.
The same can be said of the above-garage guest house where relatives and friends come to stay throughout the year. A studio-type apartment with a Murphy bed and the same modern-rustic style found in the main house, the guest house also features a dramatic wall mural: a photo taken by Serena of the view from Alyeska’s Chair Six lift.

“It really echoes the views you have from the windows,” says Brian, adding that this is the element of the house that has most enhanced the family’s life: Instant access to the outdoors. The house is the perfect weekend ski getaway. But even indoors, Brian says, “The open great room and kitchen is such a nice area to be in. You can be working at your computer, or socializing, and always, out of the corner of your eye, you feel like you’re outside.”


Key Contributors

General Contractor: Hardy Construction
Structural Design: Morse Design/Build
Lighting: Restoration Hardware (RH)
Windows: Jeld-Wen, Spenard
Builders Supply
Doors, Framing & Trim: Spenard Builders Supply
Cabinets: Kitchens by Design
Electrical: Raven Electric
Stairs & Railings: Greatland Welding
Fireplace Replica: Thompson Concrete
All Appliances: Allen & Petersen
Metal Siding: ASC Building Products
Flooring & Tile: Interior Surfaces
Parota Wood Finishing: Alaska Woodworkers
Hemlock Steps: Northland Wood
Painting: Thomas Burton
Window Treatments: Blind King
Garage Door: Pioneer Door
Excavation: Andy Hehnlin