SEVERAL YEARS AGO, A HOUSE IN THE MOUNTAINS sounded like the ideal rereat from city-living for one San Francisco Bay-area couple.
Narrowing down their interests to lake lifestyle, golf and skiing eventually led them to Whitefish, Montana, and Iron Horse Golf Club. Their search also opened a relationship with Jerry Locati, principal of Bozeman’s Locati Architects, as they sought out the perfect representation of what they imagined mountain living could be.
“For me, it was about creating warmth and the feeling of home,” recalled the wife. “Jerry has a knack for cultivating cozy, approachable spaces with his design.”
The dream began with a cabin in the woods, but as the couple acknowledged what their wants and needs would be within this mountain home, they moved beyond the cabin and integrated more of a contemporary mountain style to the design.
“Jerry spent quite a bit of time sitting on the lot, walking the property,” noted the husband. “We didn’t want the house on the hill looking like it cropped up out of nowhere.”
The great room has two separate focal points, one around the stone hearth and the other to the views of wilderness and wildlife through the large windows.
That meant a combination of materials to scale down the size of what became an 11,300-square-foot home tucked into the steep hillside. Working with Schlauch Bottcher Construction, Locati’s project architect, Darin Hoekema integrated, stately stone, elements of hand-adzed log siding, antique timbers and immense cedar columns to attain an original rustic elegance.
Today, high above Whitefish Lake, their home achieves connection with the community at the Iron Horse Golf Club, as well as treasured privacy in the dense old growth forest. From the winding road up to the mountain, switchbacks give glimpses of the house and lake alternately, before pulling into a driveway that draws in the visitor with a courtyard effect.
“I feel good design should create anticipation and suspense as it leads through an unfolding story and fills your senses with warmth and comfort,” said Locati.
The principles of the home’s layout hinged on a connection to the landscape inside and out, along with a feeling of openness for the interior spaces.
The feeling of connection is created by extended eaves that reach out to the natural setting. Specifically, Hoekema drew on bringing organic materials inside — wood and stone. Applied on the exterior of the home, the natural elements segue to the interior, beginning with an a double-front doorway, surrounded by windows and leading into a foyer that unfolds to views in the distance without seeming overwhelming. A sculptural staircase with a gracefully curved railing and hand wrought ironwork leads to the “rec room” on the lower level. But the main area upstairs is engaging and comfortable with its warmth.
The couple brought in the expertise of Michelle Varda of Varda Interiors to draw out a feeling of rustic elegance. First, the couple presented a pair of aboriginal works of art from Australia to the interior designer as inspiration for the color scheme. Defined by jewel tones, the effect drew out a rich amber hue throughout the home. To attain the lush, calming style, Varda and the lady of the house traveled to shop at the Denver Design Center. They selected the furnishings, rugs, lighting, drapes and linens together and commissioned custom designs for many items in order to achieve an individualized style.
“This house leans to the elegant side of rustic,” said Varda, “because we combined antiques with custom pieces, it just really reflects the clients’ personality. That’s our motto, to create a partnership between architecture and interiors in a way that showcases the client’s comfort level and style.”
The master bedroom feels inviting with warm colors and luxurious bed covers that were custom-made for the owners.
In particular, the great room shows Varda’s and Locati’s ability to craft a single gathering place with two separate focal points — one within the intimate setting of the living room around a stone hearth and the other outward to the views of wilderness and wildlife through large windows that draw in the light throughout the day. Varda commissioned a double-sided leather sofa to allow guests to sit in a conversational spot on one side, while the other side looks out the window and over the lake, with a spotting scope at the ready.
Likewise, the kitchen doubles as a place to entertain, but also to linger over a private cup of coffee and the morning paper, with views that alight toward the woods. An outdoor room draws guests to an outdoor fireplace, framed by massive cedar pillars. The materials, in combination, marry the balance of elegant formality to the ingrained organic elements of living out West.