When a building goes from drawing board to ribbon-cutting, sometimes the stars and moon line up just right, and the people, concepts, materials and products that go into producing a timeless masterpiece find each other in the right place at just the right time.
It could easily be argued that this happened after the Limelight Hotel Ketchum opened its doors for the 2016/2017 ski season at Sun Valley’s River Run base area – a mere 18 months after architect Sarah Broughton and her colleagues at Rowland & Broughton laid out their interior design vision for the 99-room, 14-residence resort destination.
The five-story, steel, stone, and expansive glass structure takes up a prominent city block on Ketchum’s Main Street. Located on the site of the historically significant former Bald Mountain Hot Springs Resort, it sits in the shadow of nearby Bald Mountain, Sun Valley’s busiest slope.
The principals involved in designing the hotel envisioned the ground floor lobby, lounge, and performance spaces as a “civic living room,” where guests and the surrounding community could mingle, whether they had just finished an invigorating day of skiing, or simply wanted to come in off the street and sit by the lobby fireplace with a drink.
Given the stunning landscape that surrounds the hotel, Broughton and her team were drawn to earth-tone colors and a wide range of natural materials, including white oak, reclaimed barn boards, blackened steel, stone, and even hemp fiber. The intent of the design, she said, was to “play out the contrast of shade and shadow, as if walking through a grove of aspens.”
While every detail matters to design professionals like Broughton, she was particularly focused on planning and sourcing fireplaces, which, after all, are a very important functional and design element in a cold weather environment. Especially in a ski town, where visitors are as drawn to a fireplace as bears are to honey.
When it was time to decide on gas fireplaces for the 14 residences on the top floors of the hotel, she settled on installing the distinctive three-sided glass Lucius 140, which is manufactured by the Dutch company, Element4, and imported and supported in the United States by Massachusetts-based, European Home.
“The fireplace was a big consideration,” Broughton said. “What drove us to use this particular fireplace was our three design needs. We wanted a manufacturer that could build a fireplace in the wall with a three-sided configuration. We needed a fireplace that could fit in our space. And we needed something that was proportional.”
Element4 has been considered one of the most innovative fireplace manufacturers in the market since its inception in 2006. Known for their sleek, minimalist design, incredibly realistic flame pattern, and logs, and eco-conscious high-efficiency engineering, the company’s products have become sought after by high-end architects and designers around the globe.
In addition to being the main focal point in the residential unit’s living space, Broughton said she used the 60” wide, three-sided Lucius 140 as a room divider, which allowed for the open space and harmonious flow that are staples of her design concept.
“I love where we put the fireplace in these units. Typically, you would have the fireplace on one wall, then you would have the living room, then the dining room, then the kitchen,” she pointed out. “We used the fireplace as a see-through divider because we liked turning the whole idea and notion of hearth around and having the fireplace not be so one-dimensional.”
Speaking of not being one-dimensional, five years after it’s opening, the Limelight is thriving, and has definitely achieved the goal of becoming Ketchum’s “communal living room.” It’s managed to accomplish this despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought to communal spaces like hotels.
In addition to becoming the mountain town’s favorite gathering spot, it’s raised over $150,000 for area nonprofits through its Limelight Ketchum Community Fund, which is funded by hotel employees, guests and the Aspen Skiing Co., the hotel’s owners.
What are the most popular spots in the hotel? Why, right next to the fireplaces, of course!
Story by: Robert Conlin
Robert Conlin is a freelance writer living in Wiscasset, Maine. A former certified chimney sweep and retail stove shop owner, he has returned to his roots as a journalist/writer in producing enterprise reporting and online content for a variety of publications and companies.