A Montana Family’s Forever Home in Missoula
After years of setbacks, the a house on a hill became their dream property
If there are any doubts that good things come to those who wait, this dreamy property in Missoula, Montana, should put them to rest. From start to finish, the project took almost four years to complete, and the odyssey included team changes, a major pivot in design and logistical challenges that often come with wide-open spaces.
“Construction only lasted 12 months, so the majority of the delays happened before that,” says Mark Edgell, president of Edgell Builders, who remained on the project from start to finish. “The land isn’t off the grid, but there were infrastructure issues, and, of course, dealing with the city takes time. Water flow was also very, very low, and that impacted site conditions.”
While frustrating, sometimes setbacks can be fortuitous. In this case, they allowed time for the right architect— Angie Lipski of Missoula-based MMW Architects—to come onboard and bring a fresh perspective. “I had to regain the trust my clients had lost previously through this long process, which was fine. It’s kind of my specialty,” Lipski says. She asked the couple to start over and share photos of structures that excited them.
“I never saw the previous renderings, so I have no idea what that looked like. I wanted to dial in on their aesthetic, and that ended up being everything from midcentury to flat roofs and very modern,” the architect explains.
Taking all that into consideration, Lipski presented the couple with three different full-on design schemes, one with a wood exterior, another in stucco, and the third in metal—the ultimate winner, in part because the wife, a fire ecologist, wanted her home as fire resistant as possible. “The property is on an open hillside. Most people have to thin trees out around their houses, but here, we had to worry about grass fires,” says James Hogue, the Edgell Builders project manager. “But they were also super concerned about everything blending into the hillside in the summer months when the grass goes from green to dormant, so we picked a metal siding by holding it out next to the brush.”
In addition to the 5,111-square-foot home, both spouses wanted a large garage and a 925-square-foot mother-in-law suite, which could double as a spot for the husband to get away and sleep due to his demanding job, but neither were interested in building a sprawling estate.
“They wanted everything to look understated and low to the ground, so we did these three separate forms to create lower rooflines that blend more into the ridgeline,” says Lipski. “The glass elements are a great way to connect forms, and they provide a break to the choreography—whether you pull into the garage, walk through the front door or come in through the mother-in-law suite, you enter, pause and then reconnect to the site. There’s always a beautiful sequence that leads to the terminus: the incredible mountain and valley views.”