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Calgary, CA
August 18, 2019

Inside the Western-Meets-Norwegian Home of a Former Bull Rider

A house on a “gentleman’s ranch” takes design inspiration from the Norwegian owner’s roots as a bull rider with serious Stampede cred.

Design by Elena Del Bucchia Design. Photograph by Jared Sych.

 

Ragnar Lyndon Saether has one cowboy boot in each of two worlds: he’s a Norwegian investment banker and a former bull rider. Saether’s maternal grandfather, George Lyndon Crawford, was Stampede president from 1972 to 1973 and played host to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip when they visited for the Stampede’s 60th anniversary. “My grandfather was the stereotypical gentleman rancher and I always wanted to be a cowboy,” says Saether, “but I wanted to actually become a cowboy. There were no shortcuts. It meant being accepted into that unique and special fraternity. Once you’ve rodeoed with somebody, you’re friends forever.”

Saether rode bulls for three years and had just earned enough money for Pro eligibility when he decided to give it up and focus on more financially stable ways to make a living. “I’d proven to myself that I had what it takes,” he says, of his decision to stop bull riding. Plus, his bosses at the bank had been impressed having a real live cowboy as an employee, though less so when he took three weeks off to recover from a broken leg.

However, Saether has kept a hand in the bull-riding world as a co-owner of Wild Hoggs Bucking Bulls, one of the world’s top breeders of rodeo bulls.

Saether lives on 172 acres near Priddis that belonged to Crawford. The design of his home there, finished in 2013, is a distillation of both parts of his background. “The intent was always to have the marriage of the Norwegian and the cowboy,” says Saether of the home. “It’s 80 per cent Western and about 20 per cent Norwegian.”

The home’s designer, Elena Del Bucchia, notes that the unassuming cedar-clad exterior belies the European sophistication of the interior.

“When you drive up, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find all of this inside,” she says.

Over the three years of the design, build and decorating of the home, Saether worked very closely with Del Bucchia. “I’m grateful to have worked with Elena, she steered me right. Having her as my shepherd was invaluable,” says Saether. They also worked with architectural draughtsman Gordon Snell on the architecture
of the home.

Western elements can be seen throughout in the decor choices — the use of skulls and Western wear as decor elements, and also in the wraparound deck, the barn door to the library and the guest suite that shouts Western hospitality. In fact, Saether has many friends and colleagues from around the world who visit for even weeks at a time. “They can come here and play cowboy with me,” says Saether. “It’s a quiet, relaxing space. People love it here.”

The Norwegian elements include the cedar cladding on the exterior, the stained-wood window surrounds and the white walls. Furnishings such as the wishbone chairs in the dining room and the custom bedroom suite in the main bedroom are either Scandanavian in design or inspiration. Elements of Saether’s extensive art collection are also Norwegian, including the obligatory red Dala horse beside the fireplace in the living room.

The main floor is primarily open-concept, with a central area that incorporates the front-door entrance, kitchen, dining room and living room with a wet bar. It’s an open and welcoming space perfect for entertaining everyone from clients to friends of Saether’s two kids, aged eight and nine, who are with him about half the time.

The library shares a double-sided fireplace with the living room, and is separated from the dining room by a sliding barn door and a row of interior clerestory windows. “It’s a wide-open floor plan, but I still wanted a reading nook. The library is a cozy place,” says Saether.

With a balance between open and cozy, Western and Norwegian, old and new, the home feels layered and welcoming. And although it is a new build, it feels rooted in the past and history of the both the family and the land. “My hope is that my kids and their kids will still be on this land long after I’m gone,” says Saether.

With the timelessness of the home and the beauty of the area, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to leave.

 

Horse painting by Andre Petterson, from Wallace Galleries. Fixtures throughout (unless specifically stated) from Cartwright Lighting & Furniture. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Homeowner Ragnar Saether in the front entrance surrounded by Western wear that is both a decor element and functional in-use outerwear.

 

5 Tips for Doing Western Decor

According to designer Elena Del Bucchia, the key to a great Western-style home is to make it feel authentic rather than kitschy.

  1. Go for lifestyle not look. Think about what attracts you to the Western look and how you can meaningfully add elements that are part of your life. For example, if you attend rodeo or Stampede events, keep an eye out for items you can use to create a shadow box. “You can go buy a bunch of cowboy gear but it needs to be authentic to look good,” Del Bucchia says.
  2. Start with the finishes. Brass, leather, antique or unfinished wood and locally sourced stone can all help convey a Western feeling without being overwhelming.
  3. Think in layers. For Del Bucchia, the success of this home design is the layering of styles and elements. “Pull out stuff you’re attracted to,” she says. “Think about your own past, where you were born, what your history is.” Here, items from the original Crawford ranch home sit alongside family antiques from Norway, newer art works, Persian rugs and custom furnishings.
  4. For art’s sake. Western art doesn’t need to be the stereotypical bronze bucking horse. Images of horses or prairie landscapes in any style can create a strong sense of local connection.
  5. Make it a seasonal thing. Do you really love Western style, but only from about the middle of June to the middle of July? Don’t be afraid to add decor elements just for Stampede season. Pull them out when you start to see bales of hay on street corners and then put them away again when the “ya-hoo!” window paintings have been washed off local storefronts.

 

Dining table custom designed by Elena Del Bucchia Design, made by Domicile; Alban dining chairs by Nuevo from Manndate Group; Rug from Dasan Interiors; Chandelier from Restoration Hardware; Sliding barn door custom designed by Elena Del Bucchia Design; hardware from Banbury Lane Design Centre; Chief Body of the Blood painting by Nicholas de Grandmaison, from Loch Gallery. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Designer Elena Del Bucchia layered new and heritage pieces to create a nuanced look that melds the home-owner’s Western and Norwegian backgrounds into a welcoming and airy central space.

 

Kitchen-nook table from Restoration Hardware; Caesarstone quartz countertop in London Grey from Alberta Marble & Tile Co.; Millwork by Legacy Kitchens. Photograph by Jared Sych.

The table in the kitchen makes for a sunny spot to grab a quick bite or do a bit of work. Built-in seating with storage offers added practicality.

 

Custom living-room sofa designed by Elena Del Bucchia Design, supplied by Manndate Group; Custom burnt-orange leather chairs supplied by Manndate Group; Sheepskin throws on chairs from Costco; Coffee table from Montauk Sofa; Arco floor lamp by Flos from Kit Interior Objects; Douglas fir doors and windows from Loewen Window Centre of Calgary; Stuv two-way wood-burning fireplace from Hearth and Home; Eldorado stone on fireplace from I-XL Building Products Inc. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Plentiful windows take full advantage of the views. Designer Elena Del Bucchia chose to stain the surrounds rather than paint — a more Scandanavian style.

 

Skulls sourced through Shelley Repka-Willard from her Okotoks-area farm. Photograph by Jared Sych.

The cozy library off the dining room shares a double-sided fireplace with the living room.

 

Custom main-bedroom bed designed by Elena Del Bucchia Design, supplied by Manndate Group; Rugs from Dasan Interiors; Pillows from Kit Interior Objects; Longhorn skull from Restoration Hardware. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Much of the furniture, including the bed, side tables, bench and bureau in the main bedroom suite, was designed by Elena Del Bucchia and custom made by Manndate to echo the Danish-modern style.

 

Guest bedroom bed frame designed by Elena Del Bucchia Design, supplied by Manndate Group; Wood deer heads from Restoration Hardware; Side tables from West Elm. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Throughout the home cattle skulls are used as decor, but for the guest suite Del Bucchia selected more whimsical wooden deer mounts.

This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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