With the help of a design dream team, one couple builds a Montana home that's as easy on the environment as it is on the spirit.
For Claudia Brooke, building a log home was a dream a long time in the making—she and her husband, Lee, just needed to find the perfect spot for it. "Our daughter went to school in Bozeman, so we always gravitated toward Montana for that reason," Lee explains. After reading an article about Stock Farm, an enclave of 90 log homes and 35 stick-built abodes surrounded by mountains and trout streams in Hamilton, the Brookes knew they'd found the ideal setting for their new home.The next order of business: Assembling the perfect team to translate their dreams into reality, which included Jim Schueler, president of Rocky Mountain Log Homes and a partner in Stock Farm; architect Bob Arrigoni, who designed George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch; and Wyatt Perkins of General One, a contractor who has worked on nearly all of the log homes in the development. The first thing the team did was survey the 3-acre parcel of land the Brookes had chosen. It was dotted with massive boulders and tall, old-growth trees, both of which could have been the biggest challenges to build around. Instead, they became integral to the design. "Bob designed this house to fit inside the lot's rock outcroppings," explains Wyatt. "They almost become part of the home." He also made sure the home rested snugly between 300-year-old ponderosa pines, taking care not to destroy the other trees in the process. "If you drive up to the house, it looks like it was built 100 years ago," Jim says of the thoughtful placement. "It's really a marvel to see how it was designed to be friendly to the environment." Lee and Claudia, whose full-time residence is in the Seattle area, worked with Rocky Mountain to select 10-inch Swedish cope Western whitewood logs with chinking for their home. The project started out as a 2,500-square-foot cabin, but after six months spent refining the design, it nearly tripled in size. Claudia and Lee's list of must-haves included a series of wings leading to different sections of the home, a loft overlooking the living room, built-in bookshelves and cabinets, and an enclosed office with window views and French doors. Above all, the spaces needed to be comfortable. "We wanted a house that reflected the way we live—somewhere we could put our feet up and throw our clothes around. We're just not that formal," Lee says. The home, which took 14 months to complete, exceeded the Brookes' goals. A massive dry-stacked fireplace made of Montana ledge stone punctuates the living room, where the vaulted ceiling rises 25 feet to offer expansive views. Extra-smooth fir flooring throughout much of the main level complements knotty alder cabinets in the kitchen. Two guest bedrooms with full bathrooms, along with an above-garage guesthouse, make friends and family feel welcome. Ceilings with different heights and angles lend a sense of comfort and depth. Claudia oversaw the entire interior design, combining the couple's cozy furnishings with antique-store finds. In every sense, the house fulfilled Claudia's desire to live in a log home that extols the beauty of nature and the virtues of casual living. "We tend to stay in instead of going out," says Lee. "We really make the most of this home."