Refuge in the Wilderness

A retirement home in Montana mirrors the landscape

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View of the surrounding acreage of the Sangmeister home.

The log home way of life is in the Sangmeisters’ blood. Charles grew up in Philadelphia with fond memories of vacationing in a log home and never forgot the warm feeling it created. Lana grew up in Montana and says log homes, along with the great outdoors, are part of her heritage — her grandparents started their family in a log home they built. In 2000, the New Jersey couple took their first steps toward making their lifelong dream a reality when they began to plan for their new “working retirement” home — a log home in Lana’s home state. “We both knew we wanted a log home, but how to go about purchasing one was daunting,” says Lana. “We had gone to a log home show and picked up some ideas, but were still unsure until we met with Emilie Mahloch of Expedition Log Homes.”

Emilie took a personal interest in guiding the Sangmeisters through the planning process. “She took away our apprehension about log-home building,” recalls Lana. “We were intent on having a home to withstand the rugged Montana temperatures while being energy efficient and incorporating green building principles.” Their concerns were alleviated when they learned about Expedition’s insulated log wall construction. “Our insulated wall system uses kiln-dried, heart-centered half logs that attach to either side of an insulated wall,” says Emilie. “The Sangmeisters loved the look of logs that were individually handcrafted with a drawknife and the full round corners, which maintains the natural look of a log. Lana especially liked the fact that she could choose where she wanted log on the interior.”

Sitting area and view of the kitchen.

This log wall system had a further benefit when it came time to adjust their plans along the way. “We learned that we wouldn’t be able to situate the fireplace in the corner of the great room as planned,” says Lana, “so we moved it to the center of the room and it’s perfect. If we had been building a full-log home, we never would have been able to make such changes during construction.” What was most important to the couple was providing unrestricted views of Montana’s Beartooth Mountains — no obstructed views with posts or even a stairway.

“I tried several different arrangements in the great room, but Charles and Lana wanted as much open space as possible,” Emilie says. “They wanted their guests to walk in the house and immediately be wowed with a view of the mountains. We thought of bumping the stairs toward the front of the two-story structure, and the turret was conceived.” The eye-catching turret, covered with architectural stone rather than log, provides functional as well as visual interest: It will serve as an elevator to the second floor in the future — a nice amenity in a retirement home.

The modernized bedroom inside the home.

Every side of the home has a feature that mirrors the Beartooth’s landscape, from a covered open gable porch, to a loft balcony, and triangular windows found at every gable. Another small change was made with the size of certain rooms. “All rooms seemed perfect in size, except for the master bath design that the Sangmeisters had their hearts set on,” says Emilie. “I wanted to accommodate them without adding a lot of additional square footage, so we bumped out the bath area a couple of feet. To their amazement, this minimal change created additional space in the first floor laundry and office, which they really appreciated.”

Much more about this home, including a floor plan, appeared in the Country's Best Log Homes 2009 Annual Buyer's Guide.