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Unexpected Style in An Idaho Timber Home

An Idaho timber home features unexpected style and a sense of super strength in a smaller footprint.

Written by Stacy Durr Albert
Photography by Karl Neumann


When you hear about a timber home that’s so well built that a “semi could bounce right off of it,” and so well insulated that you could “heat the place with a match,” it’s only natural that your interest is piqued. According to Mike Sandau, owner of Sandau Construction in Coolin, an Idaho home that his company built a few years ago truly is that tough.

“The house is built like Fort Knox,” shares Sandau. “It has huge concrete footings up to 14 inches thick, zinc-plated end caps, massive amounts of steel, thick insulation and the ability to handle a 100-pound snow load.”

The home’s super strength isn’t the only thing that sets it apart — a dramatic parallelogram-shaped roof and myriad angles lend distinction to the design, as do its massive glulam beams.

“Our home is unusual for north Idaho,” shares homeowner Curt Wickre. “The jaunty complex pitched-roof architecture is very different, and the heavy-beam construction imparts timber home character with a contemporary twist.” 

Set on a steep lot overlooking picturesque Priest Lake, the 2,800-square-foot home makes the most of available space with an unusual modified rectangle design. “The angled design needed to be taller to engage the site on multiple levels,” explains architect Eric Owens of Sayler Owens Kerr Design Studio of Sandpoint, who worked on the project with now-retired architect Jon Sayler.

The inspiration for a timber home was the narrow site itself, which Curt and his wife Nancy had owned for 25 years. After forging many family memories in a small summer cabin on the property, they wanted to transition to a four-season getaway.

“The unique character of the lot definitely drove the design,” says Curt. “It’s a fairly steep sloping lot with a very sandy, pristine beach, offering sweeping southwest views and exposure.”

Though the steep site posed some challenges, the Wickres knew it was exactly where they wanted to be. The constraints of the lot’s shape and size didn’t phase them at all — they didn’t need an overly large home since it would be a second home primarily for just the two of them, and they were also drawn to the idea of modern, clean lines.

“We wanted the home to have a contemporary, uncluttered feel, yet retain a rustic element with natural wood elements and beams,” shares Curt.

To begin the design process, the couple and their architect sat down — literally — on a pile of snow on the deck of the original cabin to determine how to best site the home. The architects had previously worked with the couple on a design for their Spokane home, so they had a great understanding of the couple’s wishes.

“It was very important to them that they maintain a close connectivity to the sand and lake,” recalls Owens. “They envisioned a lake home that was modern in its expression, yet captured the beauty and rugged nature of a Pacific Northwest cabin.”

A blended timber-frame home seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Before construction began, B.C. Machinery of Coolin did substantial excavation work to remove an extensive granite shelf on the slope side of the cabin. Once the site was ready to go, Sandau Builders took charge. Led by foremen Von Sandau and Dan Griesemer, the 6-man-crew handled the project with ease, in spite of the complexity of the design. “They made it look easy, but I know that the roof and house joinery was a challenge,” shares Curt.

The resulting home is one that makes many a head turn. The roofline is especially striking. “The roof was designed with a compound angle, constructed with large glulam beams that vary in length for a very dramatic overhang,” explains Owens.

Inside, the timber frame is equally inspiring. The exposed roof rafters extend from the front of the house to the back, resting on 24-inch glulam headers. Much of the joinery has internal metal components and fasteners, and there is also some external steel plate fixation. The roof structure and front window wall are structural; a ceiling height of 22 feet adds great volume to the space.

“Although it’s vaulted, it still feels cozy,” says Curt. “The change in ceiling line keeps it from feeling too ‘gaping,’ and the spirit is more of a clean, light but informal ambiance rather than a log cabin-esque ambiance.”


See also A North Carolina Timber Home is Worth The Wait


The layout of the home makes the most of its smaller footprint, with the bedrooms located upstairs and the living areas on the main level. An enclosed garage under the carport provides ample storage for lake toys and a workshop. A large deck facing the lake visually enlarges the space. “We wanted an infinity pool feel so that you felt like you were literally on the lake, whether you’re in the house or on the deck,” explains Curt.

To tackle storage issues, the couple opted for many built-ins throughout the house, as well as a garage storage system. In addition, a small crawlspace under the house stows infrequently used items, even a sailboat. “Everything has its place,” says Owens. “What you don’t see is a work of art in itself.”

Indeed the aesthetics of the home are just as impressive as its functionality. Designed by interior designer Tammie Ladd of Spokane, the house has a contemporary flair and a non-cluttered feeling that emphasizes the outdoors.

“There is a simplicity in palette and configuration so as not to conflict with the lake views,” says Ladd. “There are many angles in the home, so we worked to ensure that the spaces still felt calm, meditative and balanced. The use of natural stone and wood mimics the forest surround at the lake, creating a simple organic space.”

“The house certainly has a large ‘wow’ factor,” says Curt.

With its striking presence, inviting ambiance and super strength, it’s easy to see why the cabin beckons — and mesmerizes — all who pass by.


Home Details

Square footage: 2,800

Architect: Sayler Owens Kerr Design Studio, 208-265-9160

Builder: Sandau Builders, 208-443-3324

Interior Designer: Tammie Ladd,  509-230-7495


See also You'll Love This Rustic-Meets-Comtempory California Timber Home

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