A passion for the West with its varied and verdant terrain lured a Florida man and his father to the wide-open spaces of Montana. The father-son duo took a couple of summer road trips to explore Big Sky Country. It was a ranch outside the living ghost town of Virginia City that instantly captured their hearts.
They initially constructed a small cabin on the ranch. But, as the son’s family grew over the next 30 years—he has a wife and three children—they knew they wanted to build something to accommodate multi-generational gatherings for years to come.
Forgoing the luxury log-style home typical of the area, the couple opted instead for something unique—an 11,325-square foot Montana moss rock-and-stucco home with an Old World Italian country flair, inspired by a trip to Tuscany. The construction of the one-of-a-kind home—and the hand-selected details peppered throughout the interior—gives the impression that it has been there for centuries, even though it was just completed in 2015.
Knowing how challenging it would be to build a home of this scale and intricacy while living 2,500 miles away, the couple needed a competent team of locals to keep the project moving. Joel Riendeau of Locati Architects led the charge, while Benedict Builders, LLC managed the construction and Blanchford Landscape Group handled the outdoor spaces.
The four-story home sits at the back of the 4,500-acre property at the base of the Tobacco Root Mountains, overlooking the Ennis Valley bordering national forest land. Each room is oriented to capture the panoramic vistas surrounding the house. The home is constructed with durable materials—16-inch thick insulated concrete forms, steel, timber, and rock—so that it gracefully weathers the Montana climate.
The main floor houses the great room, kitchen, dining room, wine bar, and master suite. A massive double-sided fireplace (tall enough to walk through!) is the focal point of the living and dining rooms. On the living-room side, the fireplace features a stone hearth and surround made of Montana moss rock. In the dining room, the precast concrete fireplace surround is created in a centuries-old fashion. Even the underside of the hearth is painted to look as if it has been charred by years of use. Both sides feature customized iron and glass fireplace doors with handles in the shape of the ranch brand.
The spacious, yet warm and inviting kitchen, is a main gathering area for the family. There are two distinct vent hoods, one made of hammered copper for the built-in wood-fired pizza oven and another made of precast concrete for the range. The kitchen also features a large custom-shaped island with a copper sink.
On the upper floor are three bedroom suites, the entertainment room, a sitting room and the library, which overlooks the great room. The bar in the entertainment area is constructed from a solid three-inch slab of walnut that was harvested from the family vineyard in California. The library, which sits atop an exposed purlin flooring system that highlights the timber beams below, harbors the family’s collection of old and original books relating to art, architecture, and the natural history of the local area.
The fourth-floor campanile—a structural focal point—boasts 360-degree views and three balconies for indoor-outdoor living. Created with the ever-changing needs of family and entertaining in mind, the furniture in the campanile is custom-designed to offer a combination of fixed and mobile seating that can be made into various configurations. Arranged one way, it offers seating for family games around a table. It can also be configured into three separate beds or one king-sized sleeping space.
The house provides the perfect respite and is a hub for family memory-making and spending time together. The husband says he loves to get his hands dirty working on property improvements, including seeding the pasture, trimming the scrub, and other tasks required for property upkeep. One of the most recent improvements is a skeet-shooting and sports area, complete with a pickleball court.
Builder, Benedict Builders, LLC; 406.843.5330.
Outdoor Spaces, Blanchford Landscape Group; blanchfordlandscape.com.
Architect, Joel Riendeau, Locati Architects; locatiarchitects.com.
Photography by Roger Wade.