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This Washington Timber Home Is a Mountain Cottage Masterpiece

A West Coast couple discovers that less really is more, especially when it comes to building a comfortably sized timber frame home.

Written by Suzanna Logan
Photography by Roger Wade
Washington’s Cle Elum River Valley, due east of the Cascade Mountain Range, is known as much for its million-dollar houses as its million-dollar views. Rising up against the landscape, these monolithic structures vie for your visual attention against the majesty of nature. But at least one home — a modest mountain cottage owned by John and Monica McArthur — knows its place among the grandeur and is content to coexist rather than compete.
Interestingly, the home’s quiet presence was a happy accident. After purchasing seven acres in Colorado, the couple had begun making plans to build on the land when they rediscovered a long-forgotten love of Cle Elum, known for its towering forests and craggy terrain. “We both spent a lot of summers here as kids, but we hadn’t been back since,” says Monica. While meeting up with a local builder to discuss their project, John and Monica rediscovered their love for the resort town, sold their Colorado property and teamed up with Idaho-based PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes to design a house that would harmonize with the rugged landscape.
From the beginning, their 3,000- square-foot creation was a breath of fresh air, says lead architect, Matt Franklin, who designed their custom timber home. “John and Monica weren’t looking for a massive statement home. They wanted something different,” he says. “They wanted a home that was comfortable, buildable and stayed within budget.”
The McArthurs’ modest approach wasn’t without challenges. “It’s easy to throw square footage at a problem when you have a bigger budget, but it’s much more challenging to have constraints around the project and still build the home that the client wants,” says Matt. But staying within the parameters of a smaller footprint and budget was all part of the fun for the designer. “When you’re able to do it successfully, it’s super rewarding,” he says.
The building plans Matt created for the couple hinged on two key features: open spaces and windows — lots of them, according to Monica. “We didn’t need a big house, and we knew a smaller footprint would work, as long as we had a lot of glass,” she says. But just seeing the gorgeous views wasn’t going to cut it for this nature-loving couple. They wanted to have easy access to be in those views — and they wanted the same for their guests, too. Exit points abound on the main floor, including from two sides of the great room, the living room, and the master suite, along with each of the three guest bedrooms in the lower level. 

Throughout both floors, the interiors reflect the quiet lifestyle that the homeowners envisioned for themselves and their visitors when they began talking about building. “The dream was to get away from how busy the city was becoming,” explains Monica. “It’s like we’re on vacation every single day. Only about 10 percent of the people who live in the community are here full time, so it’s very quiet. We call it our cabin in the woods.” 
Inside and out, the four bedroom and three-and-a-half bath structure has the “feel of a mountain cottage,” says Matt. In addition to the timber frame, oak floors, tongue-and-groove ceilings made from beetle-killed pine and a stone wall in the great room add a natural ambiance. Leather furnishings, layers of cowhide, and plush pillows cozy up the common areas.
Outside, a complex roofline breaks up the scale of the house. “It’s like something that would have been built a hundred years ago, rather than five years ago,” says Matt. Other cottage-like features include the modest entryway and the exterior’s mix of materials, including the same beetle-killed pine used inside. “The stone we used to enclose the foundation anchors it to the ground,” he says.
As important as it was for the structure to maintain the right aesthetic, keeping the practicalities of mountain living in mind was just as essential. “There’s always snow that comes along with a mountain setting, so you have to be able to mentally project through all four seasons and come up with a strategy that works,” says Matt. “The biggest thing we had to keep in the forefront of our thought process was how is this thing going to work when it has four feet of snow sitting on top of it?”
Choosing architectural composition shingles for the roof was the first step. “Twenty years ago you would try to get the snow off of the roof, but now, structurally, we try to keep the snow on it, so it isn’t sitting up against the exterior walls.” The home’s other mountain-living must-haves included an attached garage, plenty of space around the home to allow for snow accumulation after plowing and a covered entry “so you don’t have snow dumping in front of the door when people come in,” says Matt.
And, with the couple’s focus on creating a welcoming mountain retreat, the entryway sees lots of action, snow or shine. “It’s so pretty and peaceful up here. People want to enjoy that, and we want to give them that opportunity,” says Monica. “We want them to be able to come in, put their feet up on the coffee table and make themselves at home.”

Home Details

Square footage: 3,100
Timber Provider: PrecisionCraft Log & Timber Homes

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