Against the backdrop of Montana’s Swan Valley, where clouds brush the mountain peaks at sunrise and glacial waters sparkle against endless emerald pine forests, Bill and Patricia Cruz’s log home is much like its surroundings: stunning, but not flashy; breathtaking, but in a quiet, natural way.
This kind of effortless, bewitching beauty makes perfect sense for a home once owned by a fashion legend. Liz Claiborne and her husband purchased the house in the 1980s, and while the structure was far from an instant head-turner back then, the couple recognized its potential and took on a full and magnificent restoration.
Fast forward three decades: When Bill and Patricia Cruz decided to call the home their own, it was in good repair but, once again, in need of an update. Ultimately, what started as a relatively simple facelift of the master suite soon turned into a total makeover, as the couple’s vision clashed with the existing structure.
“The Cruzes really wanted a true Montana lodge experience,” explains Brad Reedstrom of Bigfork Builders, who spearheaded the renovation, along with Montana-based Locati Architects. “The original log home was built with very small, simple logs, so as we kept building new parts of the house, the older parts didn’t quite seem to fit. Piece by piece, area by area, we kept circling back until it was nearly brand new.”
Lead architect Darin Hoekema confirms: “As things progressed, there was a realization that the ultimate target was at a higher level of detail and aesthetic than the remaining house would allow.”
Now, in its third iteration, the lodge seems to have settled into its final form. As visitors to the home step inside from under the big Montana sky, the change is almost imperceptible. A towering entryway anchored by a 45-foot-tall stone fireplace sets the stage for the grandeur to come. Slip around the hearth, and the sheer volume — and views — of the great room, dining area and kitchen sweep you back into nature; but not without help from the jaw-dropping character logs that frame the mountain vistas and crown the space.
“I can’t tell you how many days I spent in the woods and how many miles I hiked to find all of these individual logs,” says Brad of the old growth pine trees that replaced the Douglas fir and larch logs of the original cabin. “We worked for an entire year to source the logs.” However, once the timbers were felled and prepped, the work was far from over. “We carefully selected every log from three or four others and rotated them to get the perfect side,” shares Darin. “We needed the logs to have an artisan look but remain structural all at the same time.”
Even the local stone used to accent the fireplaces, exterior and indoor pool room is spoken of with a hint of reverence: “It’s local Montana surface stone. It’s been exposed to the elements for years and has a lot of lichen and moss. They have great character, unlike ordinary stone dug out of the ground,” explains Brad.
Elevating logs and stone — sometimes considered humble materials — into pieces of art allow unmistakably refined elements to dovetail seamlessly throughout the home’s three levels, which include seven bedrooms and an abundance of gathering spaces, from a home theater to a wine tasting room. On every floor, ornately carved furnishings abound, some of them antiques, along with rich textiles balanced by delicate accents, including floral-patterned rugs, velvet-cushioned ottomans, chenille-covered sofas and crystal chandeliers.
“There is an unmatched attention to detail in this home,” says interior designer Crystal Johanson of Locati Architects, who worked alongside colleague Amanda Heys to add the finishing touches to the home. “You can tell thought went into each and every one of the spaces; everywhere you look, there are layers of detail,” she says.
Co-designer Amanda agrees, suggesting this most recent renovation is one that will never go out of style: “None of the elements are in competition. It’s elegant but cozy, refined with a lot of rustic details. As a whole, what’s most striking is how timeless and classic it feels.”
Square Footage: 16,900, including basement
Baths: 7 Full, 4 Half
Builder: Bigfork Builders; bigforkbuilders.com
Architect/Interior design: Locati Architects; locatiarchitects.com