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A Dream Timber Home in Montana

Despite a major setback, one Montana couple gets the opportunity to build their dream timber home — again.

By Stacy Durr Albert  |  Photos by Karl Neumann

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When tragedy struck and a fire destroyed Pamela and Mark Templeton’s dream home in Montana two-thirds of the way through construction, the heartbroken couple didn’t hesitate in making an important decision: they would build the same exact home over again, in the same exact location. 20150608_templeton_int_0399.1“We loved the house design so much that we knew instantly we wanted to build it again,” recalls Pamela. “The home was exactly what we wanted.”

After months of inspections, certifications and re-prepping the site, the Templetons were once again ready to begin building their custom home. The Iowa couple had purchased the land a few years earlier when they’d vacationed in Montana. Located near the city of Red Lodge, the 40-acre setting offers spectacular views of the Beartooth Mountains, rolling grassland, Crazy Peak and the Pryor Mountains.

See also Easy Elegance: A Classic Timber Home In Montana


“We just knew we had to act on buying the land as soon as we found it,” shares Pamela. “Our philosophy is that if you don’t act on something when you have the chance, it might go away.” As soon as the land was re-approved for construction, the couple forged ahead, putting the memory of the fire behind them.

The only change they made was to incorporate a crawlspace instead of a slab. The rest of the plan, designed by CTA Architects Engineers of Bozeman, remained exactly the same, featuring two separate wings connected by an open great room-meets-kitchen area in the center. 20150608_templeton_int_0285 “We wanted to have one wing for us, and a private wing for guests,” says Pamela. “Our priority was an open, welcoming, cozy feel, and a floor plan where everyone has their own space.” 20150608_templeton_door_0003The Templetons were thrilled to be able to use the same construction company that they used the first time around, Yellowstone Traditions of Bozeman. The company specializes in traditional craftsmanship and “outside-the-box” applications of reclaimed wood and recycled materials.

“I can’t praise them enough,” says Pamela. “The site supervisor, Charles Bunney, was just a meticulous builder. They also made all of our custom cabinetry and many other furnishings.” In spite of dealing with some heavy snow and high winds, Bunney and his crew navigated smoothly through a number of terrain challenges posed by the site.

“About halfway down the guest wing, there is a seven-degree bend in the wall line to accommodate the natural terrain and to maximize the views,” he explains. “In addition, the master wing is rotated 15 degrees away from the great room, again for view and terrain.”

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The result of all of the careful planning and attention to detail is a sprawling timber home that stops visitors in their tracks. Offering 6,200 square feet of living space, the Templetons’ home artfully blends form and function. One of its defining features is its use of heritage wood. 20140925_templeton_exts_0170 “A greenery on my husband’s farm in Iowa was dismantled, and we were fortunate to be able to use the wood in our home for walls, cabinetry and shelving,” explains Pamela. “We also used old bridge planking from the same area. Thankfully, we didn’t lose any of this wood during the construction fire because it was still in storage.” 20150608_templeton_int_0145Additional wood consists of fir timbers finished with a darker stain to create an aged look; some are structural and some are applied.

“The truss work in the great room is structural, along with the porch work for the upper bedroom, and the trellis work,” shares Bunney. “A lot of the applied timbers are covering structural steel moment frames. These timbers present interesting challenges, in that the goal is to make them appear both natural and structural even though they sometimes tend to be thin and multi-piece.”

Overall, the project was a genuine blend of labor and love. While others might have been tempted to abandon the project, the Templetons never wavered in their mission to recreate their dream home. Their irresistible retreat is proof that beauty really can rise from the ashes.

Style Study: Tuscan Western

The artful timberwork in the home is combined with textured plaster walls, arched elements and a warm color palette to create the Tuscan look that Pamela craved. “I just love Tuscan-style architecture,” she says. “I bought many books and showed our designers at CTA the look we liked. I wanted lots of color in the house with Western accents — I like to call the style Tuscan Western.”

See also Buying a Pristine Timber Home in Montana

One room that exemplifies this look is the kitchen. Plaster walls in a rich terra-cotta hue offset aged timbers and bright tile work. A custom-made plaster hood created by the builder captures the vintage look that the owners wanted. The backsplash is an artful combination of cheerful tiles and hammered copper inset pieces. The island makes its own style statement with its distinctive Ubatuba granite in a leather texture with a broken-edge profile.

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