Drawing inspiration from unlikely sources like the Quonset hut while using cutting-edge building and design concepts, this stunning home was a challenge well worth the effort

Story by Colton Martini | Photography by Gibeon Photography

Large, vacuous, load-bearing and easy to build — not exactly the markers you tend to look for in significant architecture and design. Since the mid-1900s, however, a building style has been popular within commercial and agricultural circles for just these reasons.

The rounded steel structure of the Quonset hut has time and again stood up to harsh climates and industrial use. Known as the workhorse of its time, we still use these buildings today. And to the discerning observer, there is another undeniable quality of the Quonset hut’s architecture that endures: style.

Style is defined as a distinctive appearance, typically derived from the nature of how something is designed, as well as the manner in which something is done. The design-build team for this home was chosen carefully to make sure that both appearance and function were painstakingly combined to set, rather than follow, trends.

Architect Rich Graves, of Altius Design Group in Whitefish, was challenged by the homeowners to create a house that would weather the storm of time, both functionally and stylistically. Graves was also given the task of combining a desire for a home that is rustic at its core, yet has a sleek and stylish surface.

The arched rooflines, like those of the Quonset hut, structurally maximized the interior space, as well as the view, all while softening the division between interior and exterior finishes.

“Natural stone laid in a toothy pattern, paired with reclaimed barn-wood siding, on parts of the building provided the rustic palette,” Graves explains, “while sleek, trim-free windows and sharp mitered-siding corners were included as nods to the contemporary.”

This is a far cry from the humble beginnings of the Quonset hut, when outside walls were clad in dull corrugated-steel sheets, and windows were found only on each end, normally set in a plywood wall.

The Quonset hut always had a flexible interior, due to its clever arched-roof design, and interior walls were not needed structurally. Interior finishes were nothing but utilitarian. Normally minimally insulated, the walls were lined with pressed wood panels, and floors, if they were upgraded from a natural dirt look, would sometimes have wood planking or concrete.

Inside this home, Cooke Interiors Studio took rustic to a modern level. Textures and layers are found throughout the interior, and materials were thoughtfully selected to appease his desire for a lodge-like feel and her preference for the minimal and modern. Rather than walls built with log or the weight of heavy posts and beams, bark sheeting tastefully lines the walls, giving the impression of cozying up inside a tree.

Built for entertaining, Barb Cooke, and the homeowners, worked together to create a kitchen that is nothing short of sublime. As the heart of the house, the kitchen is surrounded in heavily textured but clean concept wood cabinetry. The marble countertops, though modern in selection, are reminiscent of a stream or river current, while a waterfall detail added to the island completes the concept of rushing water.

Lighting in the interior played an exponential role in giving the home an airy and uplifting feel. Lori Robinson, of Elements Lighting, craftily lit the barrel-vault ceilings, highlighting the architecturally significant roofline from the inside. The homeowners wanted a stairwell that was a key focal point in the space. Floating lighted treads suspended within a two-story wall of windows act as the perfect backdrop to this functional sculpture. Robinson carefully implemented mood lighting to extend the aura into the bar area. Backlit shelves on the perimeter walls, for example, provide a warm touch on a cold winter night.

The site was particularly challenging at almost a complete 45-degree angle. Malmquist Construction, of Whitefish, was challenged to take this home over the edge, literally, to both maximize the views as well as integrate a substantial outdoor living area. Graves describes the house as having “ample views of Whitefish Lake, Whitefish Mountain Resort, Glacier National Park, the Swan and Mission Mountains, and Flathead Lake.”

Tyler Frank, of Malmquist Construction, worked closely with Graves to implement an outdoor space that floats above it all. Massive 10-foot-tall windows and doors frame the vistas, and bifold technology allows the confines of traditional walls to fall away, opening up the home to the endless recreation and beauty just steps away.

Strong purposeful, long-lasting and unique: In a world of throwaway ideals, these words resonate. Humble beginnings and hard work build a foundation for longevity. Montana, and Whitefish in particular, embodies both of these notions, historically and still today. When deriving inspiration for architecture, design, construction or whatever the medium, Whitefish doesn’t forget its roots, finding inspiration and beauty in all things, whether it’s a fire lookout, a grand lodge in Glacier National Park, or even a Quonset hut.

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, coltmartini@mac.com and www.ColtonMartini.com.