The city of Boise has been shaped over history by those who established and developed a settlement one day to be filled with a diversity of architectural styles representing our hopes and dreams. Such a man who contributed to this development was Art Troutner, the master-mind of many of Idaho’s renowned architectural sites. His glory days began in his establishment of the Truss Joist International in 1958.
However, the road to his statewide fame wasn’t awarded in just a year following the construction of the Phillips House in 1957. It was rather a longer stretch over the course of a decade, with his name marked by the building of the Robert and Lois Cummins’ Home on the Bench. Unlike most architects, Trounter humbly built the magnificent L-shaped home with his bare hands in 1948 – a year before he even received his degree in architecture from the University of Idaho.
After the home was purchased more recently by another local architect Dwaine Carver, some of the stories were also transferred to his possession. For example, the Cummins children vividly remember being told the tale of how their parents would occasionally find Mr. Troutner asleep at the construction site in the morning after having worked a good portion of the night. This dedication to magnificence of the home becomes evident today when viewing the building in its custom mint condition – with only minor changes being made to kitchen appliances and the addition of the indoor swim/spa pool.
What characterized Art Troutner’s work was his mastery in the application of wood. Employing certain aspects inspired from Frank Lloyd Wright, Troutner created phenomenal designs with the perfect coexistence with surrounding environment. For any passerby, the exterior design of the home seems simple in a box-like fashion, but in observing the rear of the house, the viewer finds depth and complexity. The entrance to the home adapts a small door leading to a larger-scaled hallway creating an architectural illusion of a higher ceiling. This is further catalyzed by the slab of concrete on the immediate right of the entrance which seems to initially follow an arch-like pattern but fades to a fattened rooftop. During the original construction, Owyhee Street was actually a tree farm ranging in biodiversity from large pine oak, chestnut, maple, and elm trees all centered in the backyard of the home.
Representing an area of 1900 square-feet, this Troutner home presents a low, understated, rectangular, composition to the street, punctuated by a massive split face concrete brick chimney to accompany the wooded neighborhood. The light green brick, steel casement and awnings, redwood timber, cedar walls, plate glass, and Beechwood floors are the primary materials for the house. The living, dining, den, and pool rooms all face onto the private tree-filled courtyard and large deck. This home on the “oasis” of the Bench finds a natural coexistence with the surrounding vegetation. The house itself was built under the guidelines of a passive solar energy design, with the majority of the windows facing south to capture the maximum sunlight potential. Some of these windows are on an incline, by which rays of the sun hit the bottom of the room on the summer solstice. The house also includes many windows inserted for the sole purpose of the entrance of sunlight in contrast to their purpose for most houses: to provide a view.
The interior design of the home also is of significance. Standing in the living room, one feels as though the windows are completely invisible – as though one can step through them and fall harmoniously into the backyard. The mantle place over the chimney finds an old picture of the graduating class of Boise High from decades ago. Another unique feature one finds is the tiling on the bathroom, made entirely by Mrs. Lois Cummins, with a peculiar design alternating from tints of blue to red somehow creating the desire to walk toward the bathtub. Cleverly inserted windows direct lighting toward the beds in both of the bedrooms. When the door of the private bathroom is opened in the master bedroom, a further presence of light is added by another smaller window. This particular bathroom lacks elaborate tile-work, but the tint of pink added to this shower-exclusive room finds a contrast with the bedroom itself. Beyond the two bedrooms lies an office room which is directly connected to the pool/spa, completely constructed on top of wood flooring.
It is evident that such a home could not have been built by a man who hadn’t held vast amounts of dexterity and diligence. It was built by a man who looked at nature as a resource, not as a future clearing. The visionary qualities of Troutner in this early model benchmarked his reputation in the local area, permitting him to continue creating many beautiful houses in the area. With the hint of many illusions and future wood artwork later to be used in his own house, this house is notably Troutner’s “project” establishing not only his public name, but also his private architectural touch.
Source: Dwaine Carver