Where Modern Meets Nature
A contemporary gem in a timeless setting
Story by Mara Severin • Photography by Dave M. Davis Photography
Idyllic is the one word that comes to mind when approaching Soren Threadgill’s South Anchorage mountainside home. A twisting wooden staircase leads you down a slope to the front door and, though the journey is short, it’s enchanting. Rock walls lend a rustic order to the perennials that were still running riot when I visited in early September. Inviting little sitting areas are staged around the home’s 6,000 square feet of deck. A Zen garden with a lone bonsai tree offers a spare, serene contrast to the lushness of late summer.
Jon Wrede, Wredesign, Inc.
Spenard Builders Supply; installed by Jon Wrede
Entryway & bathroom tile
Tulikivi Soapstone; masonry by Gary Odgen, Alaska Masonry Heat
(shipped from Germany)
Allen & Petersen
Red oak stairs, loft rails & skylights
Arctic entryway & rolling shutters
Windows, flooring, decks & doors
Stainless steel door
NeoPorte Modern Door; installed by Dave Doolen, JADA Construction
Local artist, Kathy Sarns
Arctic entry framework
Cedar deck, living room window installation & cedar roof eaves
Yeltsyn Amish Construction
Tony Rus, Rus Inc.
Econo Painting Inc.
Ground Effects Landscaping & Snow Removal; Anchorage Sand & Gravel
But the most enchanting element of the setting is the stone-banked creek that rushes melodically to a pool at the base of the house. It looks like something out of a classic children’s book. You can almost picture a doe and her fawn drinking from it. Not so many fawns, says Soren. But plenty of moose, bears, coyote and occasionally something more rare. He shows me a photograph of a lynx who looks like she’s posing for a garden statue. It’s a perfect metaphor for this beautiful piece of land: tamed but unchained.
Crossing the threshold into the strikingly modern home is more than a surprise – it’s a revelation. Going from the rustic, classic mountain A-frame exterior to the sleek interior with its lustrous surfaces, bursts of jubilant color and eclectic, design-forward décor is like stepping into another world.
Eva, Soren’s late wife, was from Austria and she brought a modern European sensibility to the design. “She wanted the house to be cool, clean, unobstructed and uncluttered,” says Jon Wrede of Wredesign, Inc. who helped the couple execute their vision.
The Poggenpohl kitchen, which the couple special-ordered from Germany and took six months to arrive by barge, is the very definition of modern design – practical and chic, the functional aspects of the kitchen nearly disappear when not in use. Even the sub-Zero refrigerator is hidden behind luminous sea-green glass.
In the living room, sleek, linear, clean-silhouetted furniture from designers like Ligne Roset are comfortable works of art. In the corner is a Tulikivi soapstone fireplace from Finland – which, weighing in at 2 ½ tons, had to be shipped up in 2,000 lb. blocks – all reflect a spare simplicity that is uniquely European. “You just don’t see these things in Alaska very often,” says Jon. “They’re ahead of their time.”
Addition by subtraction
The home began its chrysalis-like transformation in 1998. At first, the changes were not in what they added, but in what they took away. Walls came down uniting the living spaces and creating an airy, open atmosphere. Sixteen windows were removed and replaced with an unbroken wall of glass that frames the unparalleled panoramic views of downtown Anchorage, Turnagain Arm, Sleeping Lady and the expanse of undeveloped parklands that surround the property. A wall of kitchen cabinets was torn out to open up a view to the creek. “There’s such an interface with the outdoors now,” says Soren. “We wanted to increase our sense of freedom and space. We wanted to be at home in nature.”
A global gallery
The couple’s eclectic collection of art pieces, accrued over years of travel, are artfully displayed – gallery-like – throughout the house, softening the angularity and sleekness of its modern aesthetic.
A cane plantation chair from Atlanta with hidden, wooden slats where a farmer could rest his dirty boots, a Ming Dynasty tile, a Japanese dowry chest, an African mask from Kilimanjaro, a feathered Maori cape all hint at stories of adventures past. “We loved to travel,” says Soren, “but when we came back we always thought, ‘Thank goodness we’re home.’ ” When you create a home together, he says, “it becomes a part of you.”
The Threadgills didn’t stop adventuring just because they were home. Because of its location, the home is like a base camp. There’s skiing, hiking, biking, bird watching and berry picking all from their front door. Trails to Flat Top, Rabbit Lake, McHugh Creek, Suicide Peak and Ptarmigan Peak are all “in the backyard,” says Soren.
‘A labor of love’
Some clients worry more about how a house is going to look, says Jon. But Eva, he says, “knew how she wanted the house to make her feel.” And the process of remodeling a house, rather than building it from scratch, allowed the couple to maintain an emotional connection with it. “Every house has a soul,” he says. “When you’re building a new house, you’re looking for it.” When you have a space that’s being lived in, he says, it’s already there. “The soul is generated by the people who live in it. That’s the magic.”
Soren credits Eva with the “magic” of the house. “She had the eye, the elegance, the aesthetics,” he says. “It was her touch. Her design. Her house.” He calls himself the organizer – the one who arranged shipping and contractors and suppliers. “It was a labor of love,” he says. It’s a love that still shapes the house and is present in every room.