When Scott and Susan started compiling ideas for their vacation log home, they intended building it in northern Minnesota. Six years later, after filling a large binder with their clippings, they wound up using them for a home in Montana. Same dream, but a different happy ending.
“This all began a number of years ago, when my husband sat me down one evening and asked me if I minded if he quit his job to do something else,” Susan recalls. With that conversation, major life changes came to the couple and their three children. Scott chose to take early retirement from his job as president of a large national company.
“Really, we could move anywhere we wanted,” Susan says. “Our family discussed the many possibilities. For years, we have owned a townhouse in Big Sky, and all of us enjoyed our vacations there. We loved the mountains, the forest and its wildlife, the Western lifestyle. So Big Sky was the place on which we all agreed.”
After buying their Montana property, the family pored over the clippings file and came to the conclusion that the designs they liked best were Western lodges. Susan and Scott soon got in touch with Alpine Log Homes, the company that would design and handcraft the new home. “At first, we considered using an outside architect to design the lodge. But after talking with Alpine’s design staff and having very detailed ideas of what we wanted, we recognized there was no need,” recalls Susan.
“Susan’s book of ideas was invaluable when we sat down to do the concept drawings,” Chris Bishop, Alpine’s manager of client services, says. “Those photos let us see her vision immediately.”
The pictures were just the start of the design process. “Scott and I have been married over 30 years, and we have lived in many different homes,” Susan notes. “We reminisced about those houses, talking about the things we liked and didn’t like about each one of them, and we used that to help make choices for this house.”
Susan met with the design team at Alpine and with Doug Bing, the general contractor, to work out the specific details of the home’s floor plan and overall design. Susan had sketched her ideas on graph paper, which the designers used as a springboard.
They looked at the plan from a design point of view and made their comments and suggestions. Bing studied it with a builder’s eye and gave his input. “The house you see today came together after only three revisions,” Susan adds. “It is perfect. We wouldn’t change a thing.”
While Alpine was drawing the blueprints, Blue Ribbon Builders was working on the building site. The spot where the lodge would be built was chosen for it views of Lone Mountain and for the lush forests that surround it. But along with the vistas came a steeply sloped lot, which presented a challenge due to mountain water run-off. Lemons turned to lemonade, however, when the builder turned the potential water problem into one of the property’s premier features: a large pond. “A win-win situation,” Doug says.
The home’s stair-stepped design also makes the most of the lot’s slope. There are effectively four levels in the floor plan. The main level includes the entry hall, great room, dining room, kitchen, a powder room and the parking garage. When guests enter, they are greeted with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the view of the famous peak and the surrounding landscape.
The second level, which is entered through an open balcony, houses a loft and the children’s bedrooms and baths. The space over the garage and a half-floor above the main level is the location of Scott and Susan’s master bedroom. “It is in a very quiet and private part of the house,” Susan says.
“They have a double-decker garage,” Doug points out. “The upper one is for cars, and the lower one is for tractors, snowmobiles and Scott’s motorcycles. We had to specially engineer it and add heavy reinforcements in order for cars to drive on the top level.”
The third member of the project’s dream team was interior designer Stephanie Vujovich of Ranchy Girls Designs in Ennis, Montana. Stephanie had worked with the family four years earlier on the interiors of their townhouse. “Because I had worked with them before, I knew their likes and dislikes, and that made the long-distance process go more smoothly,” Stephanie says. “I know, for example, that Susan loves red, and because I believe log homes need an injection of color, we incorporated red throughout the décor.”
Assembling the team gave Scott and Susan peace of mind. “Since we were not going to move to Montana until the house was completed and ready to move into, it was essential that we have the teams in place in which we could completely place our trust with those all-important decisions that arise during construction,” Susan says. “During the 16 months of building, we knew we were in good hands with Alpine, Doug Bing and Stephanie.”
Today, following a lifelong passion, Scott and Susan own Rocky Mountain Choppers custom motorcycle shop. And not long after moving into their new log home, their family grew by one when they adopted a 6-year old boy who had been their foster child. “It has been so thrilling,” Susan notes. “We are in a new place, have a new home, a new business, new schools, a new lifestyle and now a wonderful new son.”