Forest house – Flat head beacon



The Flathead Valley is home to endless rivers and streams, and another tributary has emerged in the form of a constant stream of new residents and home buyers. People are arriving in pandemic proportions hoping to own a little piece of Montana that will belong to them.

After selling their business in the Denver area, the owners of Forest House knew they wanted a new start in a mountain town. With more free time, the family hit the road and engaged in the “van life” for a year. Like the pioneers before them, they were looking for a new horizon and a new beginning. After briefly visiting Whitefish, it was on their list of places to visit and explore. It only took one more visit and the owners were sold … and after several home visits and almost several, the traveling family stumbled upon unassuming woodland, which with a little imagination would eventually become their forever home.

Early in the design process, homeowners didn’t have to look far to choose an architectural firm. Brian and Meredith Dale, husband and wife, and founders of Sort Studio in Denver were right across from the owners software design company. Having grown up side by side and developed a like-minded synergy, the owners’ only concerns were the challenges of working remotely with their design team. Sort Studio was more than confident in its ability to work from Denver and in tandem with the construction crew. Denman Construction in Whitefish was chosen to take on the task, and Brian and Meredith Dale became quick friends and invaluable members of the design-build team.

Denman Construction, known for its versatile style and ability to adapt to all types of projects, lovingly invented the “A Home for the Rest of Us” home. Referring to Denman’s penchant for creating good design accessible to all of their clients and at project scale. And that’s exactly what they did.

John Muir said: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.”

Nestled just above the coveted City Beach area on Whitefish Lake, you’ll find the Forest House. The names of the houses were derived from the native trees and plants that had invaded the picturesque precarious hillside terrain where Forest House was born. A big concern was to make sure that anything that replaced the woodlot paid homage to the small patch of land that the local children had played in over the years.

Brian Dale of Sort Studio in Denver describes the house as a contemporary silhouette with clean lines with both basic and traditional gables. The hillside appearance posed significant challenges in the design. The owners even went so far as to imagine a collection of yurt-like structures rolling down the slope. This idea is the source of the inspiration for the design of the “double form,” says Dale.

The Sort Studio team wanted materials that evoke texture and natural elements. The owner was particularly interested in the connection between character and purpose, or as Dale coined it “character with benefits”. Yakimoto Forest Products’ Shou sugi ban upholstery offers both texture and function. The “deep burn” application has been used for centuries to provide a natural finish and sealant to the elements. To counterbalance the application of the dark wood, a natural, almost white cedar was chosen to complement the areas where the dark wood parted and then revealed the glass walls.

Although this is not a small house, the interior layout has been well thought out and the owners have taken great care to ensure that the space they have is not wasted. Their son’s playroom doubles as a separate, full-service office space. Pre-pandemic planning at its best. In addition, knowing that the dining room was not particularly useful on a daily basis, the kitchen island descends to the height of the table to serve as both a working space and a gathering.

Custom railings were designed both inside and out. The interior railing was created by Ryan Espenson Furniture in Whitefish. Constructed using a sheet of hot apple wood and a CNC machine, Espenson created a unique pattern and scale, atypical for the railings we commonly see in modern mountain design. The exterior steel balustrades were also custom made in collaboration with the architect and owner.

The home offers a magnificent view of Big Mountain, Glacier National Park and the railroad tracks. Walking distance to City Beach and downtown and only a short drive to the ski resort… The Forest House is a home built for the Montana lifestyle and exploring all that Whitefish has to offer.

The look of the game was very important to the owners. After all, they moved to Montana to enjoy the endless outdoor activities. It is well known that once winter sets in, it often happens that the exterior is too harsh. It was therefore crucial to make the house versatile in this regard. Climbing walls and treehouses like bridges align with the indoor outdoor vibe, so even when you’re not outside, you feel in constant touch.

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, [email protected] and www.ColtonMartini.com.


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