Living Simplicity

A MIDST THE TREES OUTSIDE WHITEFISH, MONTANA, is a welcoming home that is unassuming and integrated with its surroundings. It’s an example of a dwelling that had just the right mix of talents to achieve a balance of ecology, wisdom and creative vision.

The front door, built by Samuelson Cabinets of Kalispell, offers the first hint of the sense of balance within. The oversized door is clad in copper, attached with decorative clavos nails. The handle is of custom stainless steel and a small window in the door offers just a peek toward the breath-giving view revealed as the massive door opens on a pivot hinge.

“It’s always a very good challenge to work with a talented group. You can never have a successful project unless the owners are totally committed and steady in their vision — which was certainly the case,” says Nick Fullerton of Fullerton Architects in Bigfork, Montana.

The homeowners worked closely with Fullerton Architects, Clodagh Design of New York and skilled local artisans. For this home, they sought a refined, contemporary feel imbued with warmth and natural elements. 

“The entire team was amazing,” recall the owners. “Nick’s initial design of the round chimney was ingenious and became a central design element for the project. When Clodagh joined us to help pull the visual space together, the project became truly incredible.”

Fullerton designed the round chimney with two fireplaces — one opening to the office adjacent to the kitchen and the other outdoors to the deck — as well as with a bake oven within the kitchen. To achieve the contemporary look, while maintaining rustic warmth, the owners chose to block the chimney completely in natural sandstone from the southwest.

Once the chimney anchored the space, the challenge was to connect the entire space visually. Inspired by one of Clodagh’s books, “Total Design,” the owners contacted her for assistance in interior architecture and design.

“It took us three months to get in with her,” they share. “Once we were in, she took a great deal of time to get to know us personally and made sure we got exactly what we wanted. She was totally accessible — creatively brilliant.”

They valued the designer’s “zen” sensibilities — including the four key elements she outlines in her book, “Total Design” — contemplate, cleanse, clarify and create. She is known for integrating the elements of earth, water, wood, metal and fire in material choices and for creating environments that are, as her website states, “geared towards feeding the spirit and soul, are truly timeless, luxurious, sensual and low maintenance.”

“The clients wanted a rustic house in keeping with the rustic Montana surroundings but they absolutely did not want a typical Montana-style house with the usual Western kitsch,” recalls the Clodagh team. “They loved the contemporary rusticity of Clodagh’s concrete, plaster and timber finishes, and spare design.”

Complementing the architect’s plans with Clodagh’s design principles brought the complete vision to life, including exterior elements, such as dry stacked stone and rustic cedar siding.

Walking through the home, the team’s success is evident, as one discovers intentional and purposeful harmony. “We always want to move people through a house, step by step,” says Fullerton. “I’m not a fan of giving away all that you want to enjoy after only a few steps into a home.”

The main kitchen is open, with minimal lines and unified casework. Kitchen appliances are faced in mahogany and counters are solid limestone and Southeast Asian hardwood. The central showpiece in the kitchen is the luxurious La Cornue range from France, a working piece of art and elegant sensuality in the heart of the home. The couple loves to entertain and often hosts large parties. Additional commercial-quality kitchen space is around the corner, with stainless steel surfaces and plenty of pantry storage. A wall herb garden is accessible between the kitchen, catering kitchen and just inside the door from the main deck living area.

The great room looks out on an open meadow and timber for miles, straight on to the Salish Mountains. Creating an uninterrupted view, with nearly imperceptible mullions, took some engineering. The result is a stunning 300-square-foot vista that speaks to the connectivity of the dwelling and its inhabitants.

Adjacent to the front door is a copper guardrail framing the top of the stairway to the lower level. Horizontal ribs in the railing have mitered corners and intersect double vertical posts, adding a touch of Art Deco glamour. The home’s lower level boasts a full personal gym, complete with custom-made equipment. Glass walls can be removed and replaced with walls of wood and a fireplace brought in to connect to the designed insert, should the room’s purpose change. An office, guest rooms and additional storage complete the lower level. Two sliding barn-style doors add a unique and warm touch in the guest rooms.

As private as this home is, there is a feeling that when welcomed within, you are indeed welcome. There is a sense of ease, grace and even playfulness that pervades, offering the enjoyment of the finest simple pleasures in life. 

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