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A Bright and Modern Timber Home in Montana

With subtle Japanese influences, modern lines and strategic use of wood and stone, a new breed of timber home spirit emerges in this Montana home.

Written by Karen Marley
Photography by Heidi Long
Featured: Montana Redesign
Originally built to the specifications of someone else’s dream home along the shores of Montana’s Whitefish Lake, this three-bedroom, three-bath timber home, with a first-floor master suite, was about 80 percent complete when it was put on the market. The current owners, Andy and Heidi, were thrilled to find it.

“It’s located nine minutes to the slopes, and it’s on the lake. That tells you the reason we were drawn to it,” Heidi says with satisfaction.

With 5,900 square feet; an outdoor terraced-rock patio with a built-in rock spa adjacent to the lake; a lower level, complete with a massive mudroom and playroom that’s tailor-made for the couple’s three kids; and a guest suite, the home was a perfect fit for an active family.

When Andy and Heidi bought the house, the exterior was already complete. Heidi could tell that the timber-and-stone structure was exceptionally well-built, but stylistically, it wasn’t an ideal match. She embarked on some minor alterations. Recognizing the signature of talent and quality, Heidi wanted the original design/build team (architect Ross Anderson and contractor “Bear” Barinowski of Malmquist Construction) to help her reconfigure the interior. Collectively, they re-envisioned the mountain lodge into a space that strikes an elegant balance between Montana’s signature rustic mood and a lighter, more traditional family home.

The interior was redesigned around its fundamentals — stone, wood and heavy timbers. Box-beams and columns complement the arched trusses. King posts extending in each truss add a decorative detail and replicate the timber framing found on the exterior. The masonry fireplace is a structural component. Aesthetically, it anchors the living room, extending downward through home the theater.

The biggest challenge to the redesign was how to bring in more natural light to brighten the rooms. Interior designer Barb Cooke, of Velvet Leaf Studio, worked closely Ross and Bear to develop an interesting solution — they removed the window casings and angled the walls away from the windows. These beveled edges eliminate the dark trim and allow more light to enter for a brighter feel. Additionally, the open, central staircase contributes to its airy interior.

“The heavy timbers and stone fireplace and walls are a counterpoint to the lightness,” Ross explains. “They provide the sense of strength, making the house feel comfortable — like you’re being cared for. The barnwood texture contrasts with smooth surfaces and natural light.”

This contrast between rustic and traditional extends throughout the home, with transitional details smoothing the space between them. Coved ceiling details above the dining room and kitchen island anchor spaces with heavy beams and barnwood, while the light fixtures and furniture were distinctly selected to divert the interior design away from a “lodge” look. Quartz kitchen counters resembling white Carrera marble provide a classical, refined appearance in addition to a tough-as-nails workspace. A neutral color palette complements the native Montana rock, while establishing the kind of clean, fresh vibe associated with contemporary homes.

“I didn’t want a lodge. We are living amongst bears and moose and antlers on the outside. I don’t need them on the inside, too!” exclaims Heidi with a laugh.

One of the more unique testaments to the overall quality and design of the home are the nuanced details you would only notice if they were absent. “The home has subtle elements that you don’t pick up on at first glance,” says Bear.

Assertive, exterior trusses are supported by tapered pillars that plunge into rock bases. The graceful arc mirrors a delicate flair found in the roofline’s eves — a touch reminiscent of a Japanese temple. Interior posts are softened with 45-degree, routered edges that extend 6 inches from each end. Each cross-beam is set into the support post to show off its mortise-and-tenon joint. “These elements feel very sculptural,” Bear points out. The stunning result is crisp and stylish, representing a new breed of timber home spirit.

But don’t let the elegant details and top-notch craftsmanship fool you into thinking the home is a museum. As a full-time family home, the structure functions flawlessly. A lower-level space originally intended to be a luxurious wine room was repurposed as a playroom. The kitchen island seats all the kids plus their friends. The outdoor living area is the activity hub during long lakeside summer days. It’s a home for family, friends and life.

“It’s fun to share what we have,” says Heidi. “It allows us to enjoy it even more.”

Home Details

Square Footage: 5,900
Architect: Ross Anderson

Tour the Timber Frame with Japanese Influences

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