Dr. Doug and Vera Nielson built this French hunting lodge in Heber Valley after Doug retired as a neurosurgeon in Provo. The home was designed to showcase the animals Doug has hunted during his travels around the globe. Euclid Timber Frames designed and installed the beams used in this great room and throughout the home.
By Jeanette W. Bennett
Dr. Doug and Vera Nielson spent more than a decade in a Victorian home in the Provo riverbottoms. Doug’s hunting trophies from his storied travels around the globe were crowded into a tiny bedroom.
“We had to make a choice,” he says. “If we were going to keep the animals, we had an improbable arrangement. It felt like a forest in that small room with all the animals.”
The couple chose to build a showcase home for their animals, furniture and memories. After searching for the ideal location throughout Utah Valley, they found themselves looking in their hometown of Heber Valley.
“Two of my favorite things up here are that at night it is quiet and dark,” Doug says. “We’ve seen Mars as red as it could be without the city lights.”
Although the Nielsons knew they wanted a post-and-beam look, they did not want a cabin atmosphere. This was difficult to convey to architects and builders until Doug referred to his future home as a French hunting lodge.
“That flipped the right switch for them,” Doug says.
The home was complicated to build because it has so few right angles — and very few standard 45 degree angles.
“The construction guys were wonderful to work with and took pride in this project,” Doug says. “Many of them brought their families to see the home when it was in the Park City Showcase of Homes.”
Midway Construction, under the direction of Jeff Hill, completed the home, which is the first home the Nielsons have had built for them. Euclid Timber Frames provided the post and beam design and construction.
The year-long building process was completed two years ago, and the couple moved into their Heber City dream home just after it was part of the Park City Showcase of Homes.
“We only had three days to move in furniture for the Showcase,” Vera says of the exhausting home stretch. “Building this house was a full-time job.”
Doug and Vera enjoyed the educational aspects of building their home. Doug can still rattle off specific details; for example, the structural beams took three days to place and his home site was six inches from bedrock.
“It’s amazing the amount of time we spent making decisions about the home and being onsite,” he says.
Doug and Vera decided to build this home after he retired as a neurosurgeon in Provo.
“The question I ask myself now is, ‘How did I ever have time to go to work?’” Doug says. “Now that I’m retired, my life is very full and I realize I neglected a lot of things during my working years. We are in such a good place in our lives now.”
“After a big snow storm, the view from our windows looks like a Christmas postcard,” Doug says. “The view of Timpanogos is what brought us up here.” The Nielsons wrestled with the architects on the size of the windows. “We wanted to utilize windows to frame the natural art outside, but technically big windows can be a real problem.”
Three deer literally live in the Nielsons’ backyard. “They run and kick their heels up, and we enjoy watching them,” Doug says. As many as 30 elk pass through the 11-acre estate regularly. Doug grows several cactus plants on his balcony, pulling them inside during the winter. The Nielsons planted fescue grass, which is drought resistant. They use wildflowers as part of their landscape, which provides a “rage of color” throughout the year.
The couple’s master bedroom continues the post and beam theme of the Heber Valley home.
“Children love little places as long as they are lit,” Doug says. This “Indiana Jones” styled playroom is enjoyed by the Nielsons’ 10 grandchildren, who live in Midway, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas
The couple’s loft library includes books from their worldwide travels as well as photo albums, medical journals and history books. Doug describes himself as having “intense curiosity” about many things.
The red sandstone used in the landscaping was mined in a quarry a mile from the Nielsons’ Heber Valley home. “We wanted to utilize the stones to make it look like we nestled into something that was already here,” Vera says.
Euclid Timber Frames worked with the Nielsons and Midway Construction to prepare and install wooden beams on both the exterior and interior of this Heber Valley home.
The Nielsons enjoy such movies as “Black Hawk Down” in their home theater. Doug says he enjoys all types of films, “except for chick flicks.”
The Nielsons were onsite nearly every day of the year-long construction process. The couple was heavily involved in seeing each stage completed to their satisfaction. The day the beams were installed it was 25 degrees below zero. “The Euclid Timber workers were so cold,” Vera says. The Nielsons have four binders of photographs detailing their home in progress.
Metal scrub oak leaves, patterned after the native vegetation on the property, wind around the banister that overlooks the main floor.
Doug and Vera Nielson were both raised in Heber Valley but moved out of Utah for 22 years. In 1989, they returned to Provo where they lived for 13 years. In 2002, the retired couple built their French hunting lodge in Heber Valley.
Doug had this tile mosaic of the patron saint of hunting commissioned to be made with tile from Paris. The mosaic is part of the great room floor.
The wooden front door doubles as an art canvas that sets the stage for the museum-style home that awaits. “In Vera’s universe, she believes the cougar on our front door is admiring the beauty of the deer. In my view, the cougar is ready to leap on the deer,” Doug says.