Loose Reins Ranch employs open floor plans, walls of windows and outdoor rooms to create fluid inter-exterior connections

“Get out of the house,” says that little voice. It echoes in the head of every bold frontiersman who decides to make Montana home. This same voice also has more influence on current construction trends than architects, builders and designers do.

Historically, to give buildings a feeling of spaciousness and light, an atrium or atria would be used. This consisted of an open-air pavilion in the center of a structure to allow airflow while still maintaining a connection with the outside environment. Additional rooms were located directly off the atrium. Many designers believe this atrium concept evolved into what is now referred to as the great room.

A style more commonly reserved for fair weather climates, the utility and allure of open-air living can be traced back centuries. The challenge for four-season designers today is to push back against the idea that snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures are synonymous with bunker-style dwellings.

Leaders in the modernist architecture movement wanted to get away from the traditional, neoclassical style of architecture, which places emphasis on the wall and the separate individual use of space. Walls of glass and outdoor rooms became the trend, and houses went from shielding you from the exterior to opening up completely.

As a trend, more clients want their home to serve as a base for recreation and entertainment, while forming an interior-exterior connection. Cue Kevin Richardson of Timber Forge Design. Richardson was tasked with the challenge of creating a home that would allow the owners to feel completely connected to their home’s surrounding outdoor spaces and be able to take full advantage of them.

When the owners of Loose Reins Ranch were searching for their ideal spot to call home, they didn’t have to look far. Reminiscent of a gentleman’s ranch of the past, the acreage they found has two natural ponds and a stunning expanse of trees and rolling hills. The ranch is close to downtown Whitefish, so entertainment and amenities are never far away. The owners wanted to build a home that would reflect their unwavering love of the outdoors and their penchant for entertaining.

In the style of modernist architecture, or “California Modern,” Richardson designed the entire back of the house to be open. Four walls of bi-fold glass doors were integrated to allow a completely seamless flow and create a fluid inside-outside connection.

The kitchen window is a wall of moveable glass that brings the counter space from the exterior bar indoors. Designed to host dinner parties, guests can sit at the large kitchen island inside the home, or they can sit outside and still carry on a conversation. The dining room and great room are similarly open to the elements, joining with the outdoor living and dining spaces.

At the homeowner’s request, a custom-designed dining chandelier was built with help from the team at Sage Interior Design. It complements the modern lines of the interior with the organic nature of the exterior. The light fixture sways gently in the breeze when the house is completely exposed, creating a serene vibe.

The master bedroom gives the owners a resort-rivaling escape, with an open-floor plan and expanse of windows. A floor-to-ceiling reclaimed wood wall adds a classically rugged Montana feel. An outdoor shower provides the ideal setting to unwind at the end of a long day, or to jumpstart your morning with a brisk bout with Mother Nature. The integrated spa makes for a tranquil retreat, as the outdoor lounge furniture offers a perfect evening of star gazing, or alternatively, taking in the early morning sun.

Mountain River Construction owner Mike Galey worked closely with the homeowners and Sage Interior Design to choose materials and finishes that reflected the property’s surroundings. Mike’s idea was to introduce colors and materials that coordinated with those just outside the door. Custom-stained fir floors run through the entire first floor, while the locally sourced stone fireplace guides the eye up to reveal grand scale beams adorning the soaring ceilings.

Finally, the mudroom is the perfect perch to prepare for the events of the day or to clean up after a long day’s outing. A custom dog shower was thoughtfully added, in an otherwise unusable space, so the homeowners’ dogs could be washed after coming in from a swim in the pond. Fortunately, when the house is all buttoned up for the evening and it’s time for bed, the dogs won’t have to be told, “Get outside.”

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University and is a principal designer with Sage Interior Design. He can be reached at 406-480-2375, 105A Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish, 101 S. Higgins, Missoula, and www.sage-id.com.