A Retreat Perched on the Shore of Whitefish Lake

This family vacation home has eye-popping mountain views
Arch Open Heidi

The side of the home that faces Whitefish Lake was designed to capture the views while still providing protection from the alpine environment. Photo by Heidi A. Long

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

Arch Ext Stone Stair

A stone-step pathway follows natural topography down to the lake. Photo by Rick Keating

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.”

Arch Ext Stair

The outdoor breezeway leads from the driveway to the front door. Photo by Rick Keating

Arch Entry Heidi

Screen elements control the view of the neighboring parcel. Photo by Heidi A. Long

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.

Arch Large Living Heidi

Tall vertical windows in the living room frame views of the lake and the distant mountain range. Photo by Heidi A. Long

“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.

Arch Ext Front

On the lakeside “the high glass ‘pushes’ the eaves into the air,” says architect Matthew Collins. A trellis roof provides sun protection for the outdoor deck and living room. Photo by Rick Keating

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.

Arch Int Stair

Cascading shelves show off the owners’ sculptural artworks. The wreath on the wall is made from naturally shed antlers. Photo by Rick Keating

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.

Arch Small Living

“The living room opens to an ‘infinity patio’ that terraces down to the lake,” says architect Matthew Collins. Photo by Rick Keating

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.

Arch Garage

The garage provides a minimalist façade from the street. The color palette is informed by the surrounding trees. “The bark, wood, foliage … that’s what we used as reference,” he says. Photo by Rick Keating

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.

Arch Bed

Two varieties of clear cedar—each board on the walls and ceiling was hand-selected—speak to the homeowners’ love of natural wood’s texture and warmth. The bedroom’s simple and minimal design allows for thoughtful ornamentation, with lamps and fixtures made by local craftspeople. A rustic-inspired barn door separates bedroom from bathroom. Photo by Rick Keating

“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.”

Categories: Contemporary Homes