Home on the Range

Nature and nurture collide at this colossal mountain retreat

At first glance, one might mistake the sprawling Provo Canyon estate for an outcrop of the majestic mountains behind it. Spread across 29.5 acres in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, USA, the property looks as if it sprouted organically from the arid landscape.

To make this possible, the masterminds behind the project had to literally move mountains. The Wasatch Mountains may be nice to look at, but it was no small feat to build a habitable abode with modern amenities in their midst.

Magleby Construction had to cut through a road just to bring water and utilities to the property. As the “No 1 custom home builder in America”, according to the National Association of Home Builders, Magleby pushed the envelope to bring architect Michael Upwall’s vision to fruition.

Influenced by the American Craftsman movement of the late 19th century, Upwall’s core philosophy is not to build a home, but to “grow” one. He contends that homes should be a natural extension of the landscape they inhabit, and it’s this belief that gave shape to the Provo Canyon project.

ArcSitio, the landscape architects for this project, were equally emphatic about using the property’s own ecological system to create a landscape which is beautiful, climate-conscious and, above all, fully sustainable. The firm capitalised on the property’s natural springs, which were tapped to create beautiful ponds. Homeowners and guests can feel one with nature while taking a dip in these chemical-free pools, which are purified with aquatic plants, beneficial bacteria and microbes.

The home is a perfect picture of tranquility, but getting to this point was a long and arduous process for all parties concerned. The total planning and development took four years and was done in two phases. The net result was a home of epic proportions – 22,500sq ft of living space with seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a two-storey foyer with a floating staircase, a formal dining room, a two-storey library and a home theatre.

Ideal for those who like to work hard and play hard, it also comes with indoor game courts, a gym, sauna, steam room, HD golf simulator, main garage, sports car garage and even an 18-metretall indoor rock climbing tower.


If that’s not enough, the outdoor areas are beautifully appointed, complete with a porte- cochere (coach gate), decks, patios, a large outdoor pool and hot tub, artificial creeks, rivers with cascading waterfalls and a natural swimming hole with a vantage point for cliff jumping. The estate also has direct access to the surrounding national forest, which offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and back-country skiing.

As a mountain retreat, Provo Canyon estate ticks all the correct boxes. Designed by Roxbury Studios, the interior blends 30 different genres, with influences from medieval, classical Italian, Art Nouveau and even Hawaiian architecture. According to Roxanne Hepworth of Roxbury Studios, it easily could have gone wrong and ended up being an odd hodgepodge, but the right balance was struck by using each genre as a reference point rather than borrowing heavily from any one area.


Considering the massive scale of the property, the lighting also had to be carefully planned and executed so that the fixtures wouldn’t clash with the ample natural light that filters into the home. One particular challenge that designers faced was illuminating the high ceilings, which are 7.6m tall. Landscape lights, decorative lights, pathway lights, recess lights, bathroom lights and ambient lights all had to be thoughtfully positioned.

Though artificial lights are indispensable in any home, natural light also goes a long way in making a home a cheerful, happy place. Provo Canyon Estate is blessed in that department, and the over-sized circular windows ensure that there’s a steady stream of sunbeams entering the home. The windows come equipped with motorised shades, allowing residents to control the amount of light they want to let in at any point.
Better yet, the windows offer breathtaking views of the boulders beyond, and being able to admire the arid mountains from one’s bed in the morning is quite the luxury. Indeed, the true beauty of Provo Canyon Estate is that it offers the best of both worlds – the wildness of nature and the comforts of home.

Text: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay

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