Modern Rustic Haven

Story by Anna Mason • Photography by DMD Real Estate Photography

Nestled in the mountainous beauty of Eagle River is a large custom-designed timberframe house, with windows facing every direction and a horse barn down the hill. This home is a labor of love, and the family that built it are the Drurys: horse loving, hardworking and Alaskan outdoorsy.

Tucker and Carrie Drury were brought to Alaska in 2009 by the military, and they loved it so much that they kept requesting extensions so they didn’t have to move. Once they decided to stay forever, the search for their dream home began – but there was a hitch. Carrie was planning to start an equine-assisted therapy program on the property and that land needed a home, a barn and to be horse friendly.

Finding just the right property that checked all the “must have” boxes proved futile, so the Drurys began their hunt for the perfect piece of land to build on. “In late 2013 we started looking for a lot, and then in 2014 we came across this lot, and to find this property in Eagle River where we had been living was perfect,” says Carrie. “We needed a flat piece of land for the horses and that was hard to find.”

Before they started work on the home, the Drurys needed to decide what kind of home they wanted. This decision took some time, as they started with some contrasting ideas: “When we started to design it, we went to Pinterest and Houzz, and looked at Alaska Home magazines, and we found this concept called modern rustic,” says Carrie. “I wanted something modern but not contemporary, and Tucker wanted a log cabin. It was a large spread of ideas, so modern rustic was a great compromise. It’s a focus on the build and on the materials rather than on the decorations or furnishings. We wanted to use locally sourced materials as much as we could, and we ended up with a timber hybrid. The beams are Sitka spruce, and there’s a lot of birch; the table and the barn door on the mudroom are birch. Local artists came in for the spiral staircase, the vent hood, and the raised library. I found a couple pictures that I just knew I wanted to incorporate and Wirtanen (our contractor) was amazing about making those happen
for me!”

Steven Wirtanen, of Wirtanen, Inc. Custom Homes, weighs in: “The whole project is definitely a team effort, and it's always going to be a blend and compromise. There’s house selection, house needs, and budget. Every product that gets put into a custom home has to be balanced against those other factors. We talked early on to make sure that those special features (Carrie wanted) fit into the plan.”

‘The art of hiding dirt’

Carrie spoke about certain challenges the design presented, and her favorite features: “Because of the amount of time that we spend at the barn and outside as a family, the flow of the transitions from outside to inside, through many doors, became the art of hiding dirt. The transition areas were a huge part of the inspiration, because we knew we wanted the outdoors to be a part of our daily life. We love our mudroom, everyone has their own locker, and the amount of gear that goes in there makes it so worth it. We even use the heated floor to dry gloves and boots, and it’s so quick and easy.”

A horse-loving family

“We always wanted to have horses, but it’s a very expensive hobby up here in Alaska, so if we were going to do it we wanted to find a way to turn it into a bigger project, not necessarily something that paid, but something bigger than us,” says Carrie. “So I started looking into equine-assisted therapy for kids with special needs, and saw the effects that it had on them and it was so special. I went through two to three years of training and work and earning hours for my certifications (through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship).”

In 2019, Birch Grove Therapeutic Riding Center was born. “We were ready to ramp up for 2020, and then COVID happened. We’re hoping to grow this summer now that COVID is winding down, and there’s a lot of outreach ideas that I have, reaching out to school counselors, working with troubled youth, field trips, working with veterans, those kinds of things.”

Tucker and Carrie’s three children are very involved in the therapy work and help care for the horses as well. Their two high-school aged sons are side-walkers, who lead the horses during therapy sessions, and their 11-year-old daughter loves helping with the sessions and making friends with the patients.

“Tucker and I wanted our kids to have something special to grow up with and understand the importance of working with people with special needs, and to have a sense of giving back to the community,” says Carrie.

At the end, everyone was more than satisfied with this project. “I think it’s just super rewarding to see such a complex project all come together to a show piece. It’s very gratifying to see everything come together, all the parts and pieces of the puzzle, to a beautiful end product,” says Steven Wirtanen. The Drurys love their home, and Carrie says, “Realizing the dream of staying in Alaska, and having horses, and making it all happen, and having the kids and husband involved in a program that I started, and living in the house that we all helped design and build, it's just a lot of dreams coming true."

Key Contributors

General Contractor: Wirtanen, Inc.
Interior Designer: Sarah Staten, Shine Consulting
Lighting: Restoration Hardware
Flooring: Armstrong & Shaw LVP/Carpet, Cozy Interiors
Concrete Floors: 3D Concrete
Fireplace: North Country Stoves
Windows: Spenard Builders Supply (SBS)
Doors: SBS; Anchorage Millwork
Countertops: Granite City Alaska
Cabinets: Kitchen Cabinets & Design
Appliances: Allen & Petersen
Tile & Backsplash: Cozy Interiors
Island: Granite City; Scott Dana & Cody Howard
Metalworks: Old South Wood & Metal Works
Hardware: Stone Hill Forge; Tribes Iron Hardware
Radiant Heat: JGH Plumbing & Heating
Carpentry & Specialty Woodworks: BY Construction
Staircase & Railings: Greatland Welding & Machine
Plumbing: Keller Supply; JGH Plumbing & Heating
Shower Enclosure: Kohler Wrap Shower, Keller Supply
Exterior Siding: LP Smartside
Exterior Paint: Rodda Paint Co., Pistro Painting
Exterior Stonework: Eldorado
Exterior Concrete: AXYS Construct
Garage Door: Door Tech
Deck: TimberTech, BCI
Landscaping: Land-Tech Peters Creek