The Journey

A new home leads to a new life.

Entry to the Johnson home at twilight

“The minute I set foot in Montana, I knew this would be my new home,” interior designer Toni Rae recalls. “It felt very familiar.” Little did Toni know at the time that she was embarking on a path that would take sharp turns. When construction of the home began, Toni intended to retire there with her husband. Actually, her journey toward a totally new life was just beginning.

Space for Color

After locating and purchasing an eight-acre parcel on a ledge overlooking Somers Bay on Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana, Toni set about planning their retirement home. She was greatly influenced in her decision by her experience as an interior designer.

The sitting area and view into the rest of the main level's intriguing floor plan.

“Color sets the stage for how an entire home will feel,” Toni says. As she began researching different options for her new Montana home, Toni was drawn to timber framing, which showcases the beauty of wood construction while still allowing for ample wall space to paint in complementary colors. Paging through magazines, Toni noticed a featured home built by Silver Wolf Homes in nearby Kalispell, Montana. She contacted owner Tim Stracener and struck a deal to construct the 8,000-square-foot, three-story, hybrid timber frame home with a rustic, elegant feel.

“The property where Toni intended to build is located near Glacier National Park,” Tim Stracener explains. The park’s lodges influenced the design of Toni’s home. Tim showed Toni a home his company had built using logs to create a substantial lodge look. “We carried that lodge sense in her home by incorporating handcrafted log trusses, posts and beams,” Tim says. “This was the first time I had ever built a home for an interior designer,” Tim adds. “Toni was so much fun to work with—she has such a great eye for details. We were very careful to maintain harmony between the textures and colors.”

Creating a Masterpiece

To perform the architectural duties, Tim recommended Mark T. Johnson to Toni. Tim had worked with Mark on several projects and felt comfortable with Mark’s skills. Mark, in turn, was impressed with the home’s site. “One of the most terrific aspects of this project is the lot,” Mark says. “The lot has all of the composition aspects of an awesome landscaping painting—the Swan and Mission Mountain ranges in the background and Flathead Lake in the foreground. We were able to use large glazed windows, balconies and patios to capture these views.”

Dining area of the home

Toni and Mark planned for a dramatic impact upon entering the home. Even while standing in the wide hallway just inside the front door, the snow-capped mountains and pristine lake are immediately visible through the two-story bay windows in the great room.

The great room offered Toni a challenge. “The room is very large, and I wanted to be able to showcase the features of the handcrafted log frame, but I didn’t want it to feel like a warehouse,” she says. By creating ceiling interest though the arrangement of the overhead logs and trusses and arranging various furniture groupings in strategic portions of the room, she was able to create several intimate spaces. This combination of cozy spaces within a large room is a perfect balance for accommodating different sizes of groups. To make entertaining even easier, Toni positioned the dining room and kitchen adjacent to the great room, creating an easy flow of energy and traffic.

“Designing the kitchen was very much central in the overall scheme of the home,” Toni says. Although she appreciates stainless-steel appliances, she knew they would look out of place in her rustic home. “My preference is toward classic appliances,” she explains. “All of the large built-in appliances are finished with the same distressed painted panels that were used for the cabinets.” A full granite slab on the kitchen island works as a buffet table or as a pastry board when Toni makes pies.

The beautiful view from the expansive windows in the home's sitting area

The master bedroom suite is located to the left of the great room and includes a private deck overlooking the lake. On the upper level, there is a private guest bedroom suite. Three sitting areas and two balconies are in Toni’s words, “nice places to hide away.”

In the walk-out lower level, she created a comfortable guest retreat with two bedroom suites, a recreation room, sauna and wine cellar. The 850 square feet over the attached three-car garage was finished into a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and full bath. Although this could function nicely as an apartment or au pair suite, Toni finds it suits her perfectly as her design studio. More about this home was featured in the magazine.