Butterfly Revisited

A thoughtful remodel helps a Turnagain home take flight

Story by Jamey Bradbury • Photography by GA Panorams

Looking at before and after pictures of Elizabeth Morgan’s Turnagain home in Anchorage, it’s hard to believe the project was a remodel, and not a custom-build. “Because I didn’t want to enlarge the footprint of the home, the only thing we really added was the entryway and the deck,” Elizabeth explains. The structure of the home – including its elegant “butterfly” roof – remains the essentially same.

Mark Ivy, Ivy & Co. Architects
General contractor:
Jeff Wood, Woodwork Homes
Interior designer:
Cathy Kerr, Spiral Design
Wildwood Floors
Artemide; Boyd Lighting; Delta Light; Linear Lighting (kitchen) and Alkco Lighting (bathroom), Alaska Architectural Lighting Inc.
Moore Heating & Air Conditioning; General Mechanical, Inc.
Capitol Glass/Northerm Windows
Custom entry door:
Floyd Sena
Kitchen countertops:
Chroma quartz, Rino's Tile & Stone
Kitchen & bath cabinets:
Henry Built
Kitchen island counter:
Installed by Capitol Glass/Northerm Windows
Bathroom countertops & tile:
Athens Silver Cream, Ann Sacks Tile and Stone
Bathroom flooring:
Suede Limestone, Ann Sacks Tile and Stone
Bathroom fittings:
Robern, Ann Sacks Tile and Stone
Shower enclosure:
Capitol Glass/Northerm Windows
Garage door:
Ram Services Overhead Doors
Russell Koontz, 3D Concrete, Inc.
Concrete Cowboys
Staircase & Railings:
General Mechanical, Inc.; Floyd Sena; Capitol Glass/Northerm Windows
Audio/visual installations:
Jeff Graham, Alaska ADT
Nathan Turnbull, "The English Gardener"

That roof is what inspired Elizabeth and her architect, Mark Ivy. The shape resembles a butterfly’s outstretched wings, and the symbolism wasn’t lost on Elizabeth. The house was originally built in 1966, not long after the earthquake of 1964 sent much of the neighborhood tumbling into Cook Inlet.

“That’s what struck me – this history of being one of the first houses created out of all the mess and destruction, like a butterfly coming from a cocoon,” says Elizabeth. “I loved the structure, and I wanted to retain that sense of freedom and flight.”

Light matters

To preserve the roof and keep the footprint, Mark focused on celebrating the building’s bones while giving Elizabeth the openness and access to light that she wanted. Mark’s design opened up the compartmentalized floor plan and added so many windows that Elizabeth’s family has an almost 360-degree view from the home’s second floor.

All that glass proved vexing for Mark’s engineers. “Our engineer of record did the design and had some challenges with the municipality because when you have that many windows, you don’t have a lot of lateral load resistance,” he says, referring to pressure from wind and seismic activity that normally affects the walls of a structure. “When you have a lot of windows, it’s a challenge. So we brought in another engineer who was formerly a planner for the city, and between the two of them they figured out how to make it work.”

The result is a house that’s filled with light. “Everything changes depending on the time of day and the season, depending on the angle of the light and where it’s coming from,” Elizabeth describes.

Minimal issues

Exposed beams create a strong sense of structure and lend the home a minimalist feel, something Mark emphasized by using what was already there. “Some of the joists and beams originally went through walls or sheet rock, or were stained brown or painted green. I wanted to enhance the structure instead of just tacking things onto it.”

But, he continues, “Any time you do minimalist design, an open plan, there’s no walls, so how are you going to weave pipes and vents to where they need to go?” Mark’s plumbers got creative when routing pipes; meanwhile, Mark used overlays and beam wraps to retain the beauty of the cottonwood ceiling beams while creating enough space to install lighting and other systems.

With the home’s existing wood, along with the walnut, fir and cottonwood Mark and builder Jeff Wood brought in, it became necessary to find a way to maintain humidity in the house. So Mark came up with a solution that would also keep Elizabeth’s kids safe.

The staircase that leads to the second floor, though beautiful, had sharp corners that concerned Elizabeth – she feared her son or daughter might walk under the low landing and hit their heads. “We draped the glass side panels down to get rid of the sharp stair corners,” Mark explains. “Then we added the water feature under the stairs to block that path.”

“A lot of the house was built that way – thinking about how to solve this or that,” says Elizabeth. “It was really an organic process.”

The resulting water feature is reminiscent of a babbling brook, sending the sound of trickling water throughout the home – one more way the house brings a sense of the outdoors inside.


“I wanted to make the most of the beauty that surrounds us because that’s what Alaska’s about,” Elizabeth says. To blur the distinction between the inside and out, she and designer Cathy Kerr chose a muted palette for the interiors – grays, blues, browns and whites that reflect Anchorage’s winter colors and allow the summertime greens of surrounding trees to transform the rooms.

Cathy also suggested using glass for the floor of a bridge that leads to the master bedroom. “Again, light’s able to come up through it and ricochet off all the beams,” Elizabeth points out.

From her kitchen and sitting area, Elizabeth can step onto a deck that takes her directly into the natural surroundings she wanted her house to highlight. Meanwhile, Mark used repetitive beams in the entryway that act like a louver to allow for maximum light while also giving the family some privacy from neighbors or passersby.

Next steps

The house is still a work in progress. The closet in the master bedroom was only recently installed, and Elizabeth is taking her time to carefully select artwork for her walls. A painting by local artist Duke Russell hangs on the second floor and depicts the Fireside Lounge, a 1970s Anchorage locale. Elizabeth likes the idea of honoring history – the city’s history, and her home’s – as her house continues to evolve.

And she’s in no hurry to finish. “To me, the beauty of architecture is it’s dynamic, like a canvas that’s constantly moving,” she says. “I think of this house as my life-long canvas.”