Lake Houses

The lake is no longer just for the summer months and days spent on the water

By Colton Martini
All images by Gibeon Photography.

Builder: Mindful Designs

Architectural Design: Workaday Design 

Interiors: Barb Cooke

Landscape Design: Forestoration

When thinking of a lake front home, nestled on a crystal-clear mountain lake, one harkens back to the cabins and cottages of our past. These were often built to take advantage of the short, albeit amazing, season on the water. But when that season ended, they were ultimately closed up and forgotten about until next year. Now, however, lake-house living isn’t just for the summer months, and days spent on the water. More prevalent than ever are homes built for full-time living with all the modern conveniences.

One of the key components to successful lake front architecture is how the space transitions to the waterfront. A focus on the connection with nature has been a mainstay of lake houses from their inception, although a need for an overall greater connection to the water has given way to new trends in lake front architecture. Massive windows and homogenous materials inside and out are still quintessential for good design, but much like the trend in mountain architecture, equal, if not greater, emphasis is placed on the physical connection to nature over the visual connection. 

Because the season on the water is short, a connection to the waterfront with outdoor living spaces is a must on the lake. Covered areas can provide a longer usable season and often allow for a fully immersive outdoor experience. Outdoor kitchens often rival those of the interior, fitted with ice makers, dishwashers and even wine storage. Living spaces are often adorned with upholstered furniture, pillows and rugs. Heaters and ceiling fans make the spaces that much more luxurious and expand the season of outdoor living. Dock spaces have become another center of attention. More thought has been given to these functional structures, accounting for living space, yoga and workout areas and better overall access to expanded lake recreation. Another staple that seems to be ever more popular is the outdoor shower.  Anything to help draw out those precious few months of lake enjoyment.

And, when the weather is no longer welcoming, glass is still a lake home’s best friend and the material with the most emphasis in the design process overall. Windows for days! A lake home is almost always designed to maximize not only the visual aspect of the great outdoors but to take advantage and absorb as much natural light as can be captured. Positioning and focusing on the view to capture the natural light means even the grayest winters of Northwest Montana can feel less confined, helping to reduce the inevitable seasonal “sads.”

Unfortunately, cooler and darker days are prominent in Montana. But fortunately lake homes designed for full-time living are now just as functional and enjoyable in the winter as they are in the summer. Warmer tones inside are critical, with thoughtful decorative lighting placement. Warm lighting casts light away from the shadows and provides visual interest. Lighting ultimately highlights material selections within the interior to bring together an even more calming, and most importantly functional, retreat. Lighting is also another profound way to achieve an indoor-outdoor connection in the both the warmer and cooler months.

Material selections during the construction or remodel process are always important. It was thought, and put into practice for years, that materials should be of a more local and “found nearby” variety. While it is critical to not ignore the location and its flora and fauna, material selection has taken a more contemporary and slick turn in recent years. The indoor-outdoor focus of architecture and the intense focus on glass allows for a lighter feeling inside and a more creative use of materials. 

More and more people are calling the lakes of Montana home and with good reason. Ultimately life on the lake is about centering and relaxing. The effect of the water and the beauty of nature has a calming effect that is unmatched. The lake is a place for family, friends and fun and to take a moment to reflect, recharge and repeat.