At Home in a Helicopter Studio
Drawn to Montana's rustic beauty and plentiful outdoor activities, an east coast couple assembles an A-Team to build a dining pavilion and helicopter barn on their ranch outside of Bozeman
Familiar with upscale ski resorts around the world, an East Coast couple with grown children set out to create their own retreat near some of the country’s best slopes, ultimately building a traditional hand-hewn timber home on a forested 160-acre ranch just outside Bozeman, Montana. “My goals were generational,” the patriarch explains. “I wanted to create something that would have a long-lasting legacy for my family.”
Bordered by a national forest, the sprawling property includes a number of outbuildings, including a modern helicopter barn with reclaimed snow-fence siding and a series of angular rooflines covered in standing-seam metal. Protruding above the second floor, a stairway tower with a flashing strobe light serves as a beacon for incoming flights.
“We created a unique profile that would be recognizable in inclement weather,” says architect Brad Tomecek. “It’s inspired by both utilitarian agrarian structures and the contemporary influences of technology.”
Nestled into the hillside, the immaculate lower-level hangar sports gleaming white epoxy flooring and large sliding doors that conceal recreational gear. Upstairs, a one-bedroom apartment with white walls and reclaimed hardwood flooring provides a cozy home for the property’s full-time caretakers. The stairway tower, which is located between the kitchen and bedroom, floods the central core with natural daylight. “We kept the top of the kitchen cabinets low to allow the light to come through,” Tomecek says.
The team also created a new three-sided dining pavilion behind the house. Building its angular standing-seam metal shell wasn’t easy, notes builder Todd Thesing, pointing to the way the angled walls come together. “There’s a lot of geometry going on,” he says. “It has an artistic, sculptural nature.”
The modern pavilion overlooks a placid well-fed pond designed by landscape architect Jeff Zimmermann. A concealed pump sends the water up a hill to a soothing reflecting pool near the auto- court. It then flows back down into the pond, prevent- ing stagnation. The water is stocked with Western cutthroat trout that swim up the stream to spawn.
Native grasses, shrubs and perennials along with a variety of native trees enhance the natural land- scape and add seasonal color. Montana moss boulders punctuate the verdant milieu, tying in with the home’s stonewall terraces, which have dark-gray basalt stone flooring. “The basalt has a real richness,” Zimmermann says, noting that it complements the gray tones within the natural stone.
The owners are thrilled with the way the new outbuildings turned out. When the husband arrives in Montana, he flies his new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X chopper straight from the Bozeman airport to the helicopter barn—an 11-minute flight. And it takes less than an hour to fly to a fishing spot on a property he co-owns on the Smith River—a roughly four-hour car trip.
“It’s an unbelievably cool evening hang spot…”
— The Studio Owner
The owner says there’s nothing like being in a chopper, which allows you to descend, hover and take a closer look. “You’re surrounded by glass, so you get an incredible connection with the terrain and topography,” he says. “The vistas are amazing, and during the summer, there’s wildlife everywhere.”
Naturally, family and friends are a key part of the equation—the couple often host parties in the pavilion, where they enjoy watching the sunset behind Lone Mountain and the Spanish Peaks in the distance. “It’s an unbelievably cool evening hang spot,” the husband says. “We enjoy our time in Montana immensely.”
As seen in our July 2020 issue