Seeking Balance

Honoring the old while innovating the new on the shores of Whitefish Lake

By Colton Martini
All images by Gibeon Photography

With the world mired in such uncertain times, it can be difficult to find a simple balance in daily life — to remember to reflect, unwind, be present and live in the moment.

 Vacation homes are ideal places for discovering that inner balance. Though most function like a regular home, they seem to be bought or built on the assumption that when you walk through the front door or pull into the driveway, your worries and cares can wash away, and the noise from everyday life gets a bit quieter for a while.

Montana itself seems to quiet the worries of the world, and most full-time residents will tell you that living here can feel like being on vacation every day. But the state also graciously lends its respite to visitors and part-time residents alike.

These homeowners found their perfect piece of Montana to build a vacation home, a property nestled on the shores of Whitefish Lake with a small cabin. They intended to build new, but they wanted to “pay homage to the original little whitewashed cabin that originally sat on the property,” said builder Travis Denman with Denman Construction. When striking up a conversation with architects Larry Pearson and Joshua Barr of Pearson Design Group in Bozeman, the design was focused on a balance between the old and new.

What resulted was a mountain modern tribute to the great Adirondack camps of the East Coast. With a simple elegant design, the house leans into simplicity and clean lines with just the right amount of weighted drama to set the tone.

The steeply sloped property led to some brain-bending solutions that allowed this not-so-traditional Montana home to come to fruition. Denman said the project “embraces the Whitefish Lake landscape, maximizing the interaction between the stream and the waterfront.” Denman and his team carefully routed the stream around the build site to take full advantage of the available landscape. The goal was also to keep as much of the original old-growth trees as possible, and to limit augmentation of the original site: balancing the natural elements with manmade. Rerouting the stream allowed for a constant flow through the property, so bubbling water can be heard year round.

To even better maximize the topography, two bridges were integrated into the structural design to allow for easy access to the home as well as a feeling of floating above the ground. A glass bridge connects the living space to the sleeping areas, bold yet almost disappearing into the background.

A board-form-concrete foundation holds up the house, giving an industrial flourish that is softened by the wood grain patterns left by the casts that held the forms to dry. Clear wire-brushed cedar shiplap wraps the home’s exterior, juxtaposed softly under a bonderized metal standing seam roof.

Interior designer Thom Filicia, who became famous through his work with the Style Network and HGTV, consulted on the project, working closely with the builders and architects.

Three exposed sides of the fireplace bring just as many different rooms together. Stone and cold-rolled steel, a signature look for Pearson Design Group, provide a pointed contrast to the whitewashed shiplap walls and wide plank oak flooring.

Steel is tastefully referenced again in key areas, including the kitchen. A custom range hood and steel-framed appliance wall play with the lines of the fireplace beautifully while creating just the right amount of contrast in the monochromatic kitchen. Quartzite counters waterfall into the oak floors.

Balance is the most important element in the design process. The distribution of materials and finishes is a visual interpretation of weight and scale. Most importantly, balance is the idea that when you walk into a room, everything has its place — visually, it’s what makes a space feel calm. This house set out to create all of that and more: providing a calming balance both in its architectural form and its relation to the landscape, as well as its interior and the respite it offers visitors.

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, coltmartini@mac.com and www.ColtonMartini.com. 

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