The beauty of a luxury Montana log home is revealed after a major renovation.
Story by Stacy Durr Albert
Photography courtesy of Peak Photography, Big Sky
It’s often said that first impressions are everything, but maybe Franz Kafka knew better. The famous writer firmly believed that first impressions are “always unreliable.” The owners of this majestic log home would probably agree, for when they first toured the house on a 10-minute walk-through, they left with an impression that was far from favorable.“I was just appalled at what I saw,” recalls homeowner Kelli. “The logs hadn’t ever been maintained, the house felt dark and heavy and it was filled with red, yellow and peach tones that gave it a dated, almost tacky look. It was definitely not our taste.”
In spite of this initial impression, Kelli and her husband John decided to forge ahead with the purchase. “John had his eye on this place for quite some time,” explains Kelly. “We had a duplex up the road, and we wanted something bigger. After seeing the inside, John was surprisingly happy — he thought the bones of the house were great. He clearly saw something that I didn’t.”Set on a wooded lot in the prestigious Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky, Montana, the 6,000-square-foot home affords spectacular mountain views, and is a welcome respite from the couple’s hectic life in California. Though it needed a major facelift, its layout offered a great flow of space that instantly appealed to Kelli and John. “We love it,” shares Kelli. “We wouldn’t change a thing about it.” Unlike the wide-open floor plan the couple has in their California home, the layout in this house offers some degree of separation, creating very intimate spaces.
“We appreciate the fact that we can hear each other, and step around spaces to see each other, but we’re not on top of each other,” explains Kelli. “Connections are still there yet there are distinct separations, and the house feels incredibly cozy and comfortable. It truly has the best flow.”
The floor plan was about the only thing in the house that didn’t need to be updated. The couple spent nearly nine months renovating everything from beams to knobs.
The walls had to be re-chinked; logs had to be re-stained; the exterior had to be re-sided (rustic barnwood was used); every light fixture had to be replaced; the kitchen and baths were gutted and redone; walls and floors were re-painted or re-stained; and the property had to be totally re-landscaped.
The main floors were stripped to remove dark red tones, and the owners were thrilled to discover the beautiful natural wood grain that was hiding beneath.
“We weren’t thinking it would be a major renovation when we started, but it had a snowball effect,” says Kelli. “It was like an onion, and once we started peeling back one layer, it led to another layer, and another.”
When they first bought the home, Kelli and John knew they wanted to transform it into a place that was lighter, brighter and filled with texture. They also wanted to ensure that it was inviting.“We like to live a casual lifestyle,” says John. “We enjoy curling up on the couch with the kids and watching a movie, so we didn’t want a formal setting. Instead, we craved a place that we wouldn’t want to leave; a place where you could touch things and not feel uncomfortable.” To get the renovation underway, the couple turned to two talented teams from Bozeman: Pearson Design Group, and Chris Lohss Construction.
The Lohss crew served as general contractor, and handled some of the heavier renovation work — installing the new kitchen and baths, squaring off some arches in the home and restoring the interior and exterior logs.
Designer Rain Houser of Pearson Design Group oversaw the entire design process.
“Rain really understood our vision,” says Kelli. “We collaborated on everything, and she was just wonderful to work with. She also suggested some great things that I never would have dreamed about.”
One of the more arduous tasks during renovation was getting the logs back into shape. They had not been maintained properly, so they had a peachy tone to them that simply wasn’t appealing.
Instead of stripping the logs, which could have damaged the delicate wood, the couple opted for a special glaze on top of the existing hue.
“It basically canceled out the peach,” shares Kelli.
They used the same stain for the exterior logs to create a more streamlined look. “The original house had no consistency,” explains Kelli. “You’d walk down the hall and one room would be completely different from the next. We wanted it to be more of a congruent flow, so we made sure the same tones used outside would carry over to the inside.”
In addition to matching the exterior stain to the interior, the owners decided to replace the original siding (a stained red cedar) with beautiful reclaimed barnwood. They also added reclaimed wood to the garage doors.The kitchen is another area that underwent extensive renovation. One of the most challenging areas was the concrete flooring — the owners hated its acid-green hue, so they painstakingly converted it to an earthy shade of beige. For cabinetry, they opted to remove the upper cabinets, replacing them with open shelving. They added beautiful reclaimed white oak cabinets below. Honed black granite counters, a Moroccan hand-glazed tile backsplash and an upscale La Cornue range add notes of luxury.
“We have the expectation that we’ll be in this home for the rest of our lives, so we splurged a bit in some areas,” Kelli admits.Though the renovation entailed a lot more than the homeowners ever imagined, they are thrilled with the results. “The emotional component is so different from the original house,” shares Kelli. “It is lighter, more comfortable, organic and inviting. The home is a mountain-rustic-modern design, and we’re thrilled that we were able to go in and make it what we wanted.”
Every time they visit the house, Kelli and John feel the stress of their busy California lives lift away.
“Everything slows down in Montana,” says Kelli. “It’s such a different pace of life, and we love it! It truly is an all-season playground for the outdoor enthusiast, and John’s soul just longs to be here.”
As the couple unwinds in their welcoming retreat, Kelli can’t help but concede that her first impression of the home was completely wrong — and she reluctantly admits something that most wives won’t dare to: Her husband was 100 percent right.
Square Footage: 6,000
Construction: Chris Lohss Construction
Interior Design: Rain Houser, Pearson Design Group
About Spanish Peaks
Spanish Peaks Mountain Club is a 5,700-acre ski and golf community in Big Sky, Montana. The Spanish Peaks Mountain Club offers direct access to Big Sky Resort, the Biggest Skiing in America®; an 18-hole Tom Weiskopf Championship golf course; and over four miles of private access on tributaries of the trout-rich Gallatin River.
The Clubhouse provides dramatic views of the Spanish Peaks mountain range and offers dining, golf and ski operations, pool, fitness, spa treatments and youth programs. Real estate offerings include homes, home sites and cabins. Learn more at www.spanishpeaksmountainclub.com.