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Solitude House

Solitude House
Building Location 2153 E Solitude Ct
Boise, Idaho 83712
Warm Springs/East End Neighborhood
Ada County
Building Status Private
Year Built
Architectural Style Pueblo
Architect
Type
Material

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At the peak of one of the foothills in East Boise, a 4,335 sq. foot house overlooking the city has become fondly known to the residents below as the “Cheddar Cheese House”, although that is hardly the impression that its creators intended. The Shealy family, who were the original builders of the house in 2000 and remain its residents today, drew their inspiration from two seemingly opposite architectural styles. Mrs. Laura Shealy wanted a house that mirrored the style of homes she had seen in the southwestern states, with influences from Spanish settlers and Pueblo Indians. However, her husband, Mr. Alan Shealy, desired a house similar to those of his childhood in a colonial town in Connecticut, which featured mainly Dutch colonial styles. Their compromise was a house of mainly Pueblo style architecture, but included various colonial style features, many of them being actual antiques from colonial architecture. Features that perfectly blend both of these aspects are the “used” floorboards and support beams on the main level of the house. All this wood was taken from places where it was previously used and worn; in most cases barns, and without any repairs at all it was added to the house. According to Mrs. Shealy, these worn and faded pieces of wood gives the house the “lived-in” look that she wanted when it was first built. However, she regretfully admits that like most modern day adobe and pueblo style homes, the weathered beams attached to the ceiling do not actually serve a purpose, other than to add to the style of the house. Another fascinating wood feature of the house is the ceiling of the dining room, and its extension into one of the upstairs hallways. Its creation was entirely unplanned, but while on a family vacation to McCall, the Shealys noticed a small forest of pines that had been burned down to the trunks by a forest fire. After noticing the odd uniformity of the tree trunks, whose twigs and leaves had all been removed by the fire, they harvested the destroyed trees, eventually ending up with around two hundred small logs. To create the ceiling, they laid each log side by side and secured them to the roof, placing more of the recycled beams in between to add effect. The result was a highly unique structure that adds even more of the pueblo style to the house. Two doors in the house also use wood to capture the southwest style that Mrs. Shealy desired. Both doors are made of a wood called mesquite, a tree native to the southwest that has been mainly destroyed by excessive logging. As a result, the doors are made by combining the small amounts of mesquite wood available with other types of wood. The house’s only fireplace also includes one of the many interesting wood features: a decoratively carved column originally from a Pakistani marketplace. The column was cut in half and placed at each side of the fireplace and now serves as a mantle. While most of the Dutch colonial features of the house are well hidden within the pueblo style, the two doors at the main entrance of the house stand apart. Reaching nearly to the ceiling these large doors were bought by the Shealys out of someone’s garage in Connecticut. They once belonged in an old barn, and with the exception of some functional repairs, are entirely authentic antiques. Despite the fact that these doors are entirely Dutch colonial in origin, they blend perfectly with the style of the house, adding to its mysterious eclectic charm. While the Shealys enjoyed meshing their complimentary styles for features within the home, at times it was a challenge for the other aspects of the house’s construction. Mrs. Shealy wanted the house to be built as authentically as possible, using similar materials as actual adobe homes in the Southwest. These homes are built by stacking bricks of clay, known as adobe (hence the name of the house style), and filling in the spaces between them with more clay. The result is very thick walls with textured surfaces. Unfortunately, the contractor for the house was not sure what effects Boise’s seasonal weather would have on an authentic adobe home, which are built for the arid deserts of Mexico and the Southwest. As a precaution, the home was not built with the traditional clay, but with two wooden frames (typical homes have only one), which sandwiched a layer of insulation. This gave the house its characteristic thick walls while maintaining structural reliability. Built into these walls are deep-welled windows, characteristics of both pueblo and Dutch colonial homes. These windows, unlike most modern day types, are in line with the outside wall of the house, containing their sill on the inside. However these windows necessitate another outside feature of the house, wooden lintels. These lintels are no more than small boards placed above each window of the house, but they serve as an important protection for the windows. Without an overhanging roof, the windows are fully exposed to harsh elements such as wind and rain that can do considerable damage. The lintels act as a replacement for roof overhangs, and because a flat roof is a vital structure of all pueblo and adobe homes, lintels are very common among this style. Obviously one of the most noticeable characteristics of the house is its brightly colored and artfully textured walls. After learning that the house could not be built out of authentic adobe clay, the Shealys tried to remain as faithful as possible to the pueblo style of walls. They did this by covering the house with clay that would add texture, and rather than paint over the clay, they mixed the vibrant orange-yellow color in with it to remain as authentic as possible. This design feature has led to cracks in the outside clay of the house, and also the fading of the colors into the clays natural gray color, particularly at the roofline. However despite peoples’ constant laments and condolences for the house’s loss in cosmetic beauty, the Shealy’s claim that the weathering of their outer walls is exactly what they intended, and only adds more to the house’s authentic appeal. At the front door to the house, bordering the antique colonial doors, are two square wooden pillars. Atop the pillars are corbels, each carved out of large blocks of wood. Simply carved, these corbels are a prime example of the subtle ornamentation that is featured in pueblo homes. Also at the front door are two more intricately designed pieces, a matching set of two steel sconces. After seeing similar sconces in one of the many Southwestern design books that inspired her, Mrs. Shealy asked a friend who worked with steel to recreate them. The finished products now hang on opposite sides of the doors, examples of the Spanish influence on many Southwestern style homes. Leading up to the front door is an inclined walkway, made of boulders that were actually created when dynamite was used to clear the hill for construction. Although lacking in practicality, the walkway only adds to the natural and organic appearance of the house. Marking the entrance to the backyard is another feature common in southwestern style, a vibrantly blue gate, which contrasts vividly with the earthy tones of the rest of the property. Splashes of color like these are extremely favored in Southwestern design, often in doors or gates like the one in this home. When the Shealys began construction on their hilltop lot in 2000, they were only the second house built on the hill, which is now almost completely filled with houses. As a result of the largely uncultivated land that was often used for recreation, many people protested the building houses there, particularly the Shealys. The protests quickly escalated to eco-terrorism, when people began filling gas tanks with sand, overturning the on site porta-potty’s, and at one point even planting a small bomb on the property. Thankfully the bomb was remotely detonated and no one was hurt, although the Shealy’s seriously began to consider halting the construction of their new home. However they chose to continue the project, believing that since the land would be built on regardless of its owners, they might as well work towards making it as unimposing to the area as possible. The end result was their Pueblo style home, built gracefully into the hillside, even matching the silhouette of the hill’s slope. Eventually the Shealys were rewarded for their efforts when visitors began to admire their house’s natural style and how complimentary it is to its surrounding landscape. However many of the houses that have arisen in the neighborhood since the construction of the Shealy’s home are less fitting of their surroundings, ranging from dramatic contemporaries to Italianate styles. Therefore 2153 E Solitude Ct remains one of the most original houses in the neighborhood, containing both authentic style and features befitting its natural surroundings.

Building submitted by Annie Peterson and Ciera Bransom

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