Soothe the Soul: A Private Wellness Spa in Montana

A health-conscious couple builds a private wellness spa under the Montana sky.

Big Sky country. Just mentioning Montana can relax even the most frenzied urbanite. With mountains and lakes almost too vast to fit into a photograph, Montana seemed the perfect place for Paul Milhous to build his private spa.

Front exterior

Drawn to Swan Lake by his wife, Mary Ann, who grew up nearby, Paul bought his first home away from home 15 years ago. Since then, the Boca Raton-based builder has created yet another on the 15-mile-long lake near Bigfoot, Montana. "It always feels like coming home,” Paul says of his lake lodge, where he spends four to six months each year. The Milhous clan gathers here during Christmas, New Year’s Eve and reunions. Perhaps that’s why Paul built what he calls the Milhous Rejuvenation Center, a place where he can truly get away from it all. “What I really wanted to do was build a health facility,” Paul said. “And I wanted a library, where I could have privacy from the main lodge.”

Patio of the home

The end result is a 4,000-square-foot timber house that includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a Pilates room, yoga room, weight room, juice bar, men’s lounge, massage room and the library. To create the house, Paul called on local builder Orlan Sorensen, owner of 30-year-old Lincoln Log Homes based in Kalispell, Montana. Paul designed the interior and asked Orlan, who he had known for several years, to design the exterior. Paul wanted a handcrafted timber-framed structure that stood out from the log guesthouses of the Milhous compound. “He wanted something a little different,” said Orlan, whose crew regularly cuts and fits the timber on site and handles everything from design to landscaping.

Close up of the timber framing

During the yearlong project, Paul collaborated with Orlan, who he’d partnered with on previous projects. “I got to know Orlan very well and had a lot of confidence in him,” says Paul. “I had faith that he would do whatever was requested.” Part of the center’s power lies in its details. Even the walls are pampered: San Francisco-based interior-design firm Warren Sheets Design clothed the great room in velvet. Ornate metal brackets hug the trusses. Channeling Carnegie and turn-of-the-century elegance, Paul chose copper for the ceiling of the men’s lounge. For the floors, he milled felled cherry wood that a friend in North Carolina gave him. “His father chopped down a cherry tree, cut it into boards and stored the lumber in their barn. It laid there for 50 years,” Paul says. “It was very neat stuff.”

Rear entrance to the home

Perhaps the best details in the house are the ones that you can’t see. Paul’s favorite getaway is the library, where bookshelves hide two queen-size Murphy beds and marble-topped nightstands. Like a room from a fairy tale, faux books double as the beds’ legs, and the television is hidden in the fireplace. “It’s just a good place to get away from the main lodge and have time to myself,” Paul says. “We’re very satisfied.” In the rejuvenation center, Paul and Orlan have designed something completely unique. Orlan says, “You can’t put a label on it. It’s intended to rejuvenate your soul, and it does.”