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A two-bedroom, bespoke Bozeman cabin delivers haute homestead living in less than 2,000 square feet.

By Deborah Donohue

Photography by Roger Wade

(Above: The cabin sports a weathered steel and cedar shake roof. The stone chimney is frontier style stack, but with a flush mortar set (the mortar joints are more visible than in dry stack.) This helps to soften the look of the stone. The stonework throughout the structure is a combination of Montana Moss limestone and Homestead Fieldstone. Homesteaders and early settlers would have gathered these from the surface of the prairie for their dwelling materials. Dirt was mixed in with the mortar to give the stonework the look of aged masonry. The back porch and outdoor living area of the home is as large as the indoor square footage.  The home’s reflection on the surface of the spring-fed pond enhances the feel of its natural and unobtrusive setting in the landscape.)

The lure of fly-fishing in the crystalline lakes and rivers of Montana, and the promise of long lazy afternoons on a generous back porch, listening to crickets and the wind through the cottonwoods, captured the hearts and imaginations of a Floridian couple. Eager to trade in their flip-flops for cowboy boots and summers out west they embarked on a hunt for the perfect site.

Numerous visits to friends’ homes and lodges in the area around Bozeman convinced them they were in the right spot. The couple chose 38 acres ten minutes from town, a convenient location yet one with the feel of a secluded retreat. Their swath of private prairie came replete with trails, aspen groves, ponds, both a vegetation and wildlife corridor, and a water source- the lifeblood of the property, Sourdough Creek.

(Above: All of the wood in the home is reclaimed. Beams of Douglas fir were not processed, but rather power washed to retain their natural patina, character and color. The breezeway area near the front entry has a flagstone floor and a cantilevered stone bench. The owner discovered a plank of wood in the nearby fields and was inspired to re-purpose it as a coat rack, using iron hooks that were locally sourced. The handsome front door, also of reclaimed fir, was stained a dark espresso. Pendant lighting in the foyer is from Troy Lighting. The kitchen bar top is a length of old oak; cabinets are knotty alder. Barstools with whip-stitched leather on iron frames were found at Montana Expressions in Bozeman. The stove hood is bronzed copper patined steel. The whimsical bird’s nest light fixture in the kitchen was created by removing the silk from an old drum lampshade and replacing it with willow-like branches.) 

(Above: The stonework both inside and out is the core structure of the home, showcased in the dining room. The old stones impart a feeling of strength and presence that is timeless and unpretentious, a sensibility that informs the rest of the home’s design principles. Floors in the home are planed-faced reclaimed oak, chosen for patina and hardness. Windows are framed and trimmed with knotty alder, rustic with an air of refinement. The bronze sculpture was discovered at the annual Buffalo Bill Art Auction in Cody, Wyoming. The cowhide, pony print chairs are from Montana Expressions. The centerpiece bowl is Mariposa Mexican pewter.)

Architect Reid Smith, honored in 2009 as one of the Top 20 Architects Under 40 for The Future of High Country Design stepped in to helm the venture. Smith’s approach often includes camping out on the land to observe wildlife patterns, corridor views and wildflowers.

Smith also finds brainstorming on-site provides the opportunity to find inspiration from the particulars of the land and elements of nature herself, whether it be towering trees or rock outcroppings. These elements, unique to each property,  are then reflected in the lines of the design and materials incorporated in the project. Smith and the couple walked the property with the intention of siting a small guesthouse (under 2,000 sq. feet), a main house and a barn.

The guesthouse was to be built first. The decision was made to nestle it close to a spring-fed pond that was surrounded by natural grasses and native vegetation. In summer the sounds of the creek would refract off of the foliage and nearby aspen groves. The general aesthetic would be casual western with a multitude of natural stone, reclaimed wood, aged metals and a soothing palette, all encouraging relaxation and a kick-your-shoes-off ambiance.  A compact design for a single story structure was drawn up, one that was understated, but one that would allow for bigger living with its easily accessed outdoor spaces.

  (Above: Aged deck boards in the outdoor living space beyond the Great Room are reminiscent of an old boardwalk. The covered porch is the perfect place to catch sight of deer or a bobcat, or for watching the afternoon light glittering through the cottonwoods.)

Views would include the Bridger Mountains, stands of cottonwoods, golden wheat fields and an array of spectacular wildlife that meander n a daily basis.

(Above: Dramatic slabs of frontier sandstone quarried in central Montana serve as the hearthstone and mantel/lintel for the grand outdoor fireplace. The curved Kiva hearth and sensual leather armchair and sofa soften the stronger surfaces and shapes, lending an intimate touch. The armoire was custom made of reclaimed oak by Integrity Builders. The chandelier was sourced through Ambience Lighting.)

As fate would have it, the little guesthouse now referred to by the owners as “The Jewel Box” has been adopted as the main residence.  With its modest footprint, confident mix of rough and refined elements, and the welcoming charm of an old friend, we can see why.

(Above: The Master Bedroom is one of two bedrooms in the home. Wool plaid drapes (made by the owner) and paned windows frame the covered porch with a view towards the pond and stands of aspens. The room was designed to be light and fresh with textural, hand trowelled walls rather than paneling. A barn door allows for privacy in the en suite powder room. An antique rug and wide wicker armchair add extra coziness. A white matelassé coverlet and shams keep things airy. The painting of the herd of colorful horses is by local artist Marcia Wendel.)