11 Apr Sense of Place
A couple’s love for Montana shines in a home that’s both regional and contemporary
According to Rod Fraser, when people visit and sit on the patio at his family’s 3D Ranch in Bozeman, Montana, they easily become transfixed. “Everyone who visits has been universally impacted; I think people tend to get very reflective very quickly,” he says. “There’s a beautiful mountain landscape that’s almost in your face, and we have water, terrific sunrises and sunsets. It’s all there.”
It was Fraser who was transfixed the first time he visited Montana on a fly-fishing trip with friends. This fascination ultimately is what drove him and his wife, Denica, to buy land and eventually make it their official home base. “I call Montana the land of spirit and grace,” Fraser says. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.”
Although capturing that beauty was of the utmost importance, the couple also desired a vibrant community. They decided on 40 acres in the Bridger Mountains, on the outskirts of town. “I felt that the parcel we acquired gave us the proximity to downtown and the essence of why we love Montana,” Fraser says.
Architect Jerry Locati sold them the parcel, and it wasn’t long before the two men became fast friends. “We started talking about Montana, the property, and what they wanted,” Locati recalls. “They really wanted to create a family retreat.”
Locati project architect Kevin Bute and Schlauch Bottcher Construction (SBC) collaborated to design and build a guest home and garage, which served as the Frasers’ hunting and fishing retreat. But after the couple spent time there, they decided to build a permanent main house. “We spent more and more time doing the outdoor things we love and met some great people,” Fraser says. “And we thought our kids and grandchildren would really enjoy Montana.”
The Frasers used the same team to create a main home that focuses on the landscape and views that initially drew the couple to the region in the first place. “It was all about the landscaping,” Locati says. “There were no trees on it, and today there are over a thousand, along with indigenous plants. There’s spruce, willows along the creek beds, aspens tucked into valleys and wet areas. We created a lot of privacy but made it look like it’s always been part of the environment.” They also added a pond and other water features.
When it came to the architecture, the Frasers’ only request was that it have an air of elegance, but also casual simplicity, and to have native materials used as much as possible.
“There were different materials used on different phases,” says Chad Bottcher, co-owner of SBC. “Once the initial materials were selected, we worked hard to dial in exactly what the design team and owner envisioned. The main house has a mix of the standard materials one thinks of when they think of Montana, with reclaimed timber and other wood elements, along with natural stone elements and some slightly more contemporary steel, tile, and crisp line cabinet elements. On the final structure the owner was heavily involved in the interior material selection to create a slightly more industrial look. It was fun to see the mix of all these different materials on one site.”
Knowing how important the land and views were to the family, Locati centered the 3,200-square-foot home around the outdoor living area and set it into the hillside, allowing it to blend with the natural environment. The overall style is contemporary, with an open floor plan through the living room, dining room, and kitchen. There are walls of glass and clean lines, yet the use of regional materials, as Bottcher says, adds a traditional sense of place.
“I wanted to make it look like an old barn structure where the bones of the building are exposed,” Locati says. “It has a foot in both traditional and contemporary — a fun, free mix.”
The exterior combines native stone and reclaimed timbers, some stacked horizontally and vertically to resemble the siding on a grain elevator.
Inside, Locati positioned expansive windows behind a long, steel beam and created a rectangular space for the main living areas, with the kitchen on one end and the fireplace and great room on the other. The open floor plan, with the master suite just off the main room, allows for an intimate space when the couple is on their own. And Locati designed a custom pivoting door, so the master wing can be closed off when the whole family gathers.
“We love the fact that not only our craftsmen, but all the other sub-contractors and suppliers can create different spaces depending on the owners’ personalities,” Bottcher says. “We have a very talented group of artists working in this region, and we take pride in the fact that our combined team of craftsmen can pull off any style desired at different budgets.”
Tracy Schlauch, a lead designer with Locati Interiors, planned the home’s interiors, allowing the views to take center stage by keeping the other elements simple. “The fabrics are more monochromatic, and we added textures which we tried to layer,” she says. “Looking out the windows, you don’t need a lot of fuss and color in the furniture. The cabinets and wood are soft, so as not to detract from the scenery.”
The Frasers brought a significant art collection with them, and Schlauch used that for pops of color, sprinkling in some new and custom items throughout.
In the end, it’s the simple elegance and functionality of the home and the essence of Montana that comes through in the landscape design that makes the 3D Ranch the perfect setting for the Frasers. “Jerry’s design, along with SBC’s skills — it’s the highest quality. And it was an experience with the most integrity,” Fraser says. “It was designed with all of the view corridors in place; the window placement they used — I can’t say enough. Jerry designed the house around how he perceived our lifestyle, and he hit the nail on the head.”
“I always say that architecture doesn’t stop or start at the back door,” Locati adds. “It’s not about the building but placing it in the environment, the placement of trees, the mountains, the berms are all a part of it.”
Architecture: Locati Architects
Construction: Schlauch Bottcher Construction
Interior Design: Locati Interiors