A Retreat Perched on the Shore of Whitefish Lake
This family vacation home has eye-popping mountain views
This maintenance-free vacation home welcomes family and friends from near and far with its soaring spaces, organically inspired use of natural materials and proximity to both summer and winter sports.
Location: Whitefish, Montana
Size: Home is 4,469 sq. ft. | garage is 655 sq. ft | 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths
Architecture: Matthew Collins, AIA Principal Architect, Uptic Studios | Spokane, Washington
It was the perfect building site—right at the edge of Whitefish Lake, with standout views of Whitefish Mountain and, in the distance, the Columbia Mountains and Continental Divide. But a big challenge lurked under the surface: an underground stream ran down the east side of the property.
“We thought of doing a modern version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, but that is not allowed under current codes,” says architect Matthew Collins, grinning widely, so we know he is joking. To solve the problem, the stream had to be re-routed. Even so, its very existence “informed our site plan and, indeed, the overall home,” which was designed to “celebrate the natural environment.”
Collins is principal architect at Spokane, Washington-based Uptic Studios. He worked with the homeowners on a previous project, knew the family well and helped them realize their vision for a vacation home to host family and friends in winter and summer.
“I wanted the clients to experience the best that their site has to offer … every day and in all seasons,” says Collins. Huge windows throughout the house frame remarkable panoramas of both mountains and lake.
Large eaves—reminiscent of a jauntily perched baseball cap—create a protective overhang but also tilt upward to capture the vistas.
The master bedroom was positioned on the second floor and, again, Collins made certain that it had unobstructed views.
High-performance materials make the home practically maintenance free, and the roof was specially designed to handle Montana’s heavy snow loads (historically about six feet each winter). “We don’t want to fight with Mother Nature,” says Collins.
Trained as a forester and now CEO of one of the largest wood product manufacturing company in North America, the homeowner quite naturally wanted to use “a lot of wood” in the home.
Outside: shiplap cedar, stucco and steel panels make up the siding, complemented by Bitterroot dry-stack ledgestone and custom-stained knotted-cedar soffits.
Inside: massive Douglas fir interior beams, rough-sawn white oak cabinets, French oak plank floors and custom-stained clear cedar for the home’s exquisite high ceilings.
Other unique features: The sky-high great room is anchored by a monumental (25 feet tall) fireplace that’s faultlessly balanced by two tiers of oversized windows on the other walls.
An open kitchen, one of the homeowners’ favorite spots, has a long breakfast bar with windows that open six feet wide in the summer.
And the elevator (a late addition to the home’s plans) “turned out to be a great thing,” says the homeowner, who notes that it is possible to drive into the garage and, in 21 steps, be inside the house.
There are two very distinct ways to access the home. From the driveway, a narrow entry opens to a tall great room, creating an extraordinary and delightful “sense of arrival.”
The boat entrance to the home reflects the same idea—a view of the home’s outdoor spaces and naturally landscaped site before catching a glimpse of the futuristically contemporary home.
“All of our family was raised in Whitefish,” says the homeowner. “The kids started snow skiing when they were two years old … water skiing as well.” Besides Montana’s legendary skiing, the family enjoys hiking in Glacier National Park, hunting and fishing. “Our kids now live all across the globe,” he continues, “but they always look forward to coming home to Whitefish.”