A Contemporary Lakeside Montana Home

A mountain home and its wooded lakeside setting speak to each other and become fast friends
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One of two outdoor verandas features a pizza oven, grill, RH dining furniture, and wood burning fireplace. Tucked away nearby are a private hot tub, outdoor shower, gym and sauna. | Photography by Gibeon Photography

Although the homeowner had a list of “must-haves” when looking for land to build a second home, it was the topography and surrounding community that were most important in making the decision. “We looked at a number of lake locations, but this lake lot in northern Montana offered everything we were looking for,” she says. Those ideals included small-town living within close enough proximity to walk into town, a manageable-size lake, and a sense of community so the family felt it could plug in and contribute. “Our vision was to create a contemporary, timeless home that was designed so nature feels like it is both inside and outside,” she says. “We came in with a bird’s-eye view and let the dream team work out the details.” The dream team included Charles Cunniffe Architects, Tate Interiors and Denman Construction, all who collaborated closely throughout the entire design and building process.

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As visitors approach the home, they are greeted by a variety of rooflines that create a dynamic exterior. Once closer to the grand front entrance, the view focuses straight through the house’s wall of windows to the lake.

The land’s inherent topography and lakeside setting were the leading factors in the architectural design of the home. “It is a beautiful, oversize lot with incredible lake views,” says Charles Cunniffe, principal and owner of Charles Cunniffe Architects (CCA). “ Instead of fighting with the location of the existing mature trees between the house and the lake that blocked the view, we designed the home to utilize the trees to obtain both view corridors to the lake and privacy.”

The architects also worked to control and organize a natural spring on the land, turning it into an asset for the home. “We used rock outcroppings to transform the spring into a natural water feature. From inside the breakfast nook, the homeowner can enjoy the small stream that runs from the house to the beach,” says architect Rich Pavcek of CCA.

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A set of spacious Rene Cazares sectionals keep the great room’s soaring ceiling from dwarfing the design in this warm contemporary space.

CCA’s holistic approach connects the land and house. On the exterior, locally sourced stone, great expanses of glass, metal and cedar siding convey a warm, contemporary aesthetic. Exterior elements such as a large stone wall extend inside the home, drawing visitors, where the architecture drives interior design. “We wanted the interior to stay fairly quiet and not too opinionated,” says designer Heidi Tate of Tate Interiors. Since the lake and the land are the statements for this house, Tate kept the colors neutral, tracking a smooth flow from room to room.

Entering the great room from the main entrance, a wall of windows immediately directs visitors’ gazes through the home to the lake just a few feet behind the house. Natural materials such as local stone on the entrance wall and on the double-sided fireplace, white oak flooring and window trim, and neutral upholstered furniture keep the focus on the lake.

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The formal dining room pairs the homeowner’s chandelier brought from another home with a custom Epoch West dining table.

“When you walk in the front door, the home feels so grand with its tall ceilings and large features,” says Tate. “As you continue into the kitchen, dining room and hearth room, you get down to a more human, intimate scale. There are quaint places to sit and look at the lake in a cozy environment, which is really unique for such a big home,” she says of the 10,000-square-foot residence.

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The design team gave an abundant amount of thought to the outdoor living spaces, which add about 1,500 square feet of additional recreational space to the home with two upstairs decks and large main-floor patios. Just steps from the water, an outdoor pizza oven, fireplace, outdoor kitchen, lounge area and fire feature can be closed off by retractable integrated screening hidden within cedar columns to make it a multi-season transitional space. “We can come in off the boat and hang out on the patio, where there is a sense of privacy,” says the homeowner.

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Whether lounging inside or outside, this home is in total dialogue with the surrounding elements. “The architecture is beautiful in and of itself, but the outdoors is also a statement,” the homeowner says. “Thanks to my dream team, I can say there’s not one thing I would change about the house.”

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The main bedroom features a soothing color scheme with a custom Rene Cazares headboard accented with pleated fabric and neutral bedding that does not compete with the outside view. Clean, contemporary lines in all the bathrooms continue the serene, spa-like feeling prevalent throughout the home. The architect embraced existing mature trees to provide privacy for some rooms and views of the lake from others.


When designing a home where outdoor living and natural surroundings are the focus, interior designer Heidi Tate follows a few general rules.

FORGET ACCENT WALLS The view is your accent. This Montana house is in a region known for its abundant natural resources and materials. You can capture the indoor-outdoor feeling through material choices, such as the local natural stone and wood in this home. CHOOSE COLOR CAREFULLY Although I love color and pattern, I make sure they do not compete with the views. I try to ensure the eye doesn’t stop on a particular accessory or piece of furniture. Instead, I used layered neutrals to add excitement to the design. SELECT A FEW SPECIAL PIECES By not over-designing or including too many pieces of furniture, outdoor living can take center stage. I don’t want a visitor to say, “I love that pillow fabric.” Instead, as in this home, nothing should stop the eye from looking out to the lake. USE NATURE’S SIGNALS I take cues from the natural world, a place of order as well as great beauty. I don’t want anything to compete with the form and setting.


ARCHITECTURE Charles Cunniffe Architects INTERIOR DESIGN Tate Interiors CONSTRUCTION Denman Construction STRUCTURAL & CIVIL ENGINEERING John Thomas, A2Z Engineering, PPLC LIGHTING DESIGN 186 Lighting Design LANDSCAPE Valley Earthscapes

Categories: Outdoor Living