Story by: Suzanna Logan
Photos by: Heidi Long
Deep overhangs protect the home’s interiors from sun exposure and create amply-sized covered porches. “We never have to worry about fighting heat gain,” the homeowner says. “You can sit out and enjoy the mountains and be in the shade.”
Walking half a mile each morning to retrieve the morning paper might seem like an inconvenience to some, but to Brian Bachman, it’s a privilege. “It’s a great way to start the day,” he says. “I love watching the sun light up the tops of the mountains then gradually move down until the entire mountain is illuminated.”
For Brian, being surrounded by breathtaking views at every turn is a long-time dream come true. “I first fell in love with the West at the age of 14 when I went to the National Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico,” Brian explains. “I spent the rest of my life looking for a place in the high mountain valley.”
Fast forward fifty years. Brian had lived on both coasts and developed a deep love for the water, too. So when he came across an idyllic riverfront site in Bitterroot Valley, Montana, he was sold. “We wanted a place with the sights and sounds of the water,” he says. “We have rapids and riffles, an island and deep pools, so there is always a lot of action in the river.”
An original house and barn already occupied the old farm homestead, but Brian had something a bit larger in mind. Over the next year, he added a nearly 8,000-square-foot timber frame beauty to the 70-acre property, staying heavily involved in the design and construction process every step of the way. “I made it a point to be at the site every day,” he says.
To ensure the design and building process would go as smoothly as possible, Brian met with general contractor Doug Banks at Vintage Construction in Darby, Montana, and Jeremy Oury, AIA, of Kibo Group Architecture in Missoula for brainstorming sessions throughout construction. “We had all day jam sessions where we made suggestions and revisions,” Banks says. “It worked out really well.”
What the team came up with was a highly functional home that would provide room to both entertain and relax, showcase spectacular views, and make strong use of natural materials, giving the home a quiet presence on the land. “We didn’t want the house to appear to be a house from the road,” Brian says. “We varied the roofline and used a number of different finishes to help it blend in.” Board and batten siding, stucco and stacked stone walls (from rocks hand-picked from the property) give the impression that the home has been added to over time. “With all of the variation, we were hoping to create the feeling that it was built in pieces,” he says.
Inside, faux finishing on the walls, rock accents and wood elements all encourage an authentic feel, but without a doubt, it is the oversized beam work that does the most to set the warm, lodge-like tone of the interiors. The home combines structural timber elements in the main living areas with conventional stick framing with timber accents elsewhere. In the great room, hand-drawn Douglas Fir timbers span overhead, drawing all eyes upward, at least for a moment, until the prow windows — or rather the views they frame — steal the show. “The entire back of the house is a wall of windows to the river,” Brian says. “The moment people walk into the home, they are attracted to the views.”
The master bathroom features radiant heat floors, a granite-tiled shower with a rainfall shower head and a sunken bathtub, but the best offering may be the views.
While the front entry with the exposed timber frame and expansive windows are meant to draw visitors in to the home, everything else is “designed to provide smaller-feeling spaces,” Brian says. To create cozy rooms within the open-concept layout, Brian varied ceiling heights, textures and finishes and paid careful attention to furniture placement. “People in a big undivided space tend to get lost and migrate to smaller well-defined areas,” he says.
Knowing human nature craves solitude as much as meaningful interaction, Brian worked hard to strike the right balance between the home’s public and private spaces. In the main living area, the grand entry gives way to the great room, kitchen and dining areas, all which invite guests to linger comfortably over good food and good conversation. In the home’s private quarters, a spa-like master suite provides a welcome respite.
And, on the screened-in porch, Brian and his visitors can have it all. “Whether you're sitting quietly by the fire, listening to the water and reading a book or finishing up that last glass of wine with friends after a dinner party, it’s a pretty cool experience,” he says. But is it his favorite room in the house? “That’s like asking me which child I love the most,” Brian says. “I don’t know if I can answer that one.”