DOWN A DIRT ROAD in the southern Bitterroot Valley, Ponderosas stand tall, horses graze and wild turkeys wander among them. Here, beneath the Como Peaks, hides an architectural study in contrast and balance: modern lines paired with design elements invoking Montana’s rustic traditions. Country retreat melds with spa-inspired luxury, the result at once sophisticated and unpretentious.
The space embraces visitors before even reaching the house. Architect Jeff Crouch formerly of Kibo Group in Missoula says the owners “were very keyed-in to the entry sequence and the spatial procession leading the visitor from the main road, through their land, over a creek and finally to the buildings.” Guests emerge from a shaded grove into a clearing, feeling they have stumbled upon a very special — and richly designed — secret.
The great room serves as a gathering space for family, or a quiet retreat in the winter, warmed by both a palette of rich reds and ambers, and a Montana stone fireplace.
A main house, guest house and barn nestle closely on the 20-acre parcel, flanked by creeks, pines and a wildflower-laden meadow. The design takes its cue from this bucolic setting; peaks of the roof reflect mountain silhouettes, native plantings lend a touch of wildness and the palette gestures towards the property’s natural colors. “In Montana we are lucky enough to be provided with a remarkably pristine environment,” says Crouch, “and we feel it is important to balance the mass, materials and function of the built environment with the natural surroundings, rather than imposing on them.”
Thus inspired, Crouch, the husband-and-wife owners, and general contractor Doug Banks included local materials in their design. Native woods appear throughout the house, especially V.G. fir, a favorite of builders and designers. The main house entryway is a two-story tower of smooth ledge stone, found just north of the Bitterroot. The stone’s subtle shades of cream, slate and amber imbue the space with warmth, echoed by the reclaimed wood flooring, omnipresent in the house. “It added great character, especially since we wanted a lot of open floor space,” comments the owner. As two young grandsons careen past, the benefits of open space become apparent.
The kitchen is crowned by a hand-patinaed copper hood and ample windows overlook the patio yard and creek beyond.
The home’s purpose becomes apparent as well. “We wanted a retreat, and a space to gather our family,” says the wife. “We wanted it to be comfortable, but also luxurious.” At 4,200 square feet, the main building is “an example of a house that’s not too big. Spacious, but not overwhelming. It feels cozy.”
The open design of the first floor invites relaxation and conversation. Rich, warm wood tones reflect the subdued reds and golds of the upholstery and accents. Windows abound. A reclaimed chestnut dining table evokes visions of intimate dinner parties and family gatherings. Crowned by a patinaed copper exhaust hood, the kitchen is sleek and simple, with stone counters and cabinetry painted light sage, a color found throughout the home.
The dining space boasts a reclaimed chestnut table made by a local builder, and lights designed by artists Will Wilkins.
Details delight the eye everywhere. A shower of pale stone laced with dendrites, suggestive of delicate plant fossils; metal-and-glass lighting by artist Will Wilkins; sophisticated rugs and furnishings from designers in San Francisco and Missoula. A stone oven dominates a corner of the patio, a small tepee perches on an island in the creek, and a meandering channel wends through the backyard.
The master suite is cloistered away, “kind of like its own little house, in a way.” Wanting a quieter, spa-like space, the owners selected simple, elegant furnishings and soothing colors; cream, white, and thyme highlight dark wood accents. Bathroom tiles echo the soft green at the bottom of the creek, babbling beyond the window.
While the colors reflect Montana, the décor eschews classic Western style. Says Crouch, “We wanted to evoke the traditions of the Rocky Mountain built vernacular but not copy them.” The design nods towards the traditional — a metal tableau of a bison hunt, sliding barn doors on the “Bunk Room” — but maintains distinctly modern character. As evidenced by rusted metal roofing and weathered siding, the design “used the same materials as a ‘rustic’ project, but applied in cleaner lines and different proportions.”
The guest house evokes a similar charm as the main house, utilizing the same, rich tones, and merging modern lines with an ethos that is part Southwest, part homestead.
Touches, however, evoke history. In the guest house, coverlets suggest a homestead. “I wanted it to look like you had come from the east in a wagon, but brought your quilts and dishcloths and finery,” says the wife. A wheat-colored hutch graces one of the bedrooms, styled like a pie safe. Yet it offers a perfect example of this home’s ethos; displaying Southwestern art rather than “western” items, it intentionally steps away from tradition, towards a mélange of culture. Just as African sculpture in the main house complements rustic elements, it is in these unique pairings that sophistication shines.
For the owners, it’s a haven. “We weren’t even looking for land. We just saw the For Sale sign one day and fell in love.” Tucked against the Bitterroots, where neighbors are scarce and “we’re more likely to hear cows than people,” this family found the perfect retreat for all seasons. With the help of Kibo Group, Doug Banks and a cadre of designers, they created the perfect home as well. Says the owner, “I’ve had more fun with this house than with any other place we’ve ever had. It has been lovely.”