Custom from the ground up, a Whitefish, Montana, log home blends Adirondack and Native American motifs with solid western red cedar construction.
Story by Chris Wood | Photography by Heidi Long
Like many log home aficionados, the owners of the Standing Bear cabin in Whitefish, Montana, value the seclusion and privacy of their location. They’re perched on a ridge in the Salish mountains, with 360-degree views of the Rockies, the Black Tail ski area, and — in spring and summer —the vibrant yellow canola fields in the Flathead Valley below.
So forgive Wayne and Early for not sharing their last name. If anything, it’s likely just Wayne’s attempt to keep any Colorado folk from catching up with him.
“For some reason, people from Colorado don’t seem to like us Texans,” Wayne says with a chuckle. “When we were looking for the cabin, we drove right through Colorado and up to Wyoming. I didn’t even stop for gas.”
Finding Wyoming too windy for their taste, Wayne and Early chose to settle in Montana. A statewide search ended in Whitefish, where the couple drove onto a piece of property, witnessed a bear standing in front of the mouth of a cave in the distance and knew they had arrived.
Construction of the 6,000-square-foot home began in 2004, using western red cedar logs hand-selected and harvested from a friend’s property by Wayne and a team led by Steve Burgmeier at Montana Cabin Fever/Far West Builders. Wayne and Early had largely designed the house themselves, but Steve noticed one small oversight as soon as building began.
“We had originally intended for the house to be two stories,” Wayne recalls. “Steve called me down at our home in Marshall, Texas, and said there wasn’t any space allocated for the water heater and other mechanicals. He wanted to finish off a small 10-by-10 or 10-by-12 basement utility room.”
Fearing they’d need to blast into the bedrock with dynamite, Wayne nevertheless gave his builder the go-ahead and told him to call back when he knew how much space they could clear below grade.
“He called at the end of the day and said ‘Congratulations, you’ve got yourself a 2,000-square-foot basement,’” Wayne says with a hearty laugh.
Wayne and Early had no problem finding use for the extra space, adding two additional large bedrooms, a smaller bedroom, storage and utility rooms and maybe the best bonus feature: a sauna that incorporates a high-tack clay barrier, allowing a portion of the bedrock to jut through the foundation and into the room.
Although western red cedar was used extensively in the construction of the house (whole logs were left with the bark on to emulate the lodges at Glacier National Park), Wayne and Early didn’t shy away from incorporating other wood species into the structural and finishing components of the house.
A 3-inch-thick front door with a speakeasy window is made from Oregon myrtlewood; an intricate bannister of gnarled local juniper leads from the great room to the second floor; birch posts are used to frame a shower enclosure; and blue-pine planks were stained a deep red and used for the ceilings and trim.
“We took some risks mixing a lot of design motifs and wood species, but it seems like it worked out,” says Wayne of the range of building materials and the couple’s desire to incorporate Adirondack, Native American and Western styles into the finished home.
An original 5-foot-tall Paul Surber painting entitled “Blood Warriors” caps it off. Early also designed a tipi-inspired dining room, featuring a conical vaulted ceiling and a canvas entry with designs embroidered by members of the local Salish tribe.
Hearths and chimneys are built from local fieldstone while auburn-hued flagstone is used for the flooring in the grand foyer and in the bathrooms and kitchens, which also boast granite countertops.
Outside, the property features a three-car garage with a living roof and a barn-cum-man-cave where Wayne retreats to a finished, heated loft to inventory his hunting gear and work on personal projects.
No mere vacation log home, the Standing Bear sees the family splitting half of the year between Montana and Texas and has the look and feel of solid, built-to-last construction throughout.
“When we first saw the bark on red cedar at Glacier National Park and found out those logs were over 100 years old, we figured OK, how can we do that?” recalls Wayne. “And now this is the place that is home to us every time we come here again. Some people are beach people and some people are mountain people. We are definitely mountain people.”
Square Footage: 6,000 Bedrooms: 5 Bathrooms: 4 full, 1 half Builder: Montana Cabin Fever/ Far West Builders