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Timber Windows: A View With a Room in Montana

Indoors and out fuse effortlessly through the creative use of timber windows in this Western home.



Imagine experiencing the most beautiful, relaxing wilderness of the west — a pristine cobalt-blue lake framed by stately trees and snow-capped peaks that give way to an endless azure sky. Though a bone-chilling wind occasionally blows outside, you’re warm and content next to a roaring fire enjoying the scene. You’ve just described a typical December day at Lazy Bay, a 4,800-square-foot timber home built by High Country Builders in northwest Montana. Named for the serene area of Whitefish Lake where it’s located, Lazy Bay is a hybrid — a construction method combining conventional stick framing with the majesty of timber framing.

The structural beams are larch finished with a dark stain to provide a warm feel. The vertical posts in the great room are the entire trunks of mature cedar trees. “We left the base on the trees,” says Walt Landi, owner of High Country Builders. “The trusses are so massive, they would have made standard posts look inconsequential.”

Serving as the designer and builder, the multitalented Landi planned the house so that every room had views of the lake and mountains. “I went out to the lot and put stakes in the ground to orient the house toward the views, and drew the floor plan that way,” he explains. He designed the fireplace to sit off to one side so as not to interfere with the views.

Once the plans were finalized in a computer program, a 270-degree panorama was revealed. The construction schedule was aggressive, taking only seven months to build, because High Country Builders erected it without a buyer in mind. With everything pre-selected, they were able to stay on their very tight timetable. However, there were doubters. “I thought there was no way it would be done on time,” confesses Hunter Dominic, owner of Hunter & Co., an interior design firm in Whitefish, Montana. Her firm made the selections and coordinated all structural decor inside Lazy Bay, including the hardwood and tile floors, light fixtures, cabinets, stonework and furniture.

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Success by Design

If pressed to single out one thing that makes this home so spectacular, Landi says it would have to be the great room's timber windows. The huge expanses of fixed clear glass tucked between the naturally tapered cedar posts give the illusion of being outdoors. “It was the first time we had ever done windows like that,” Landi says. “People ask how we did it, but I won’t tell!” The timber windows bring the outdoors in by their sheer size alone. At a massive size of  14 by 14 feet and separated by a mullion bar, a lot of engineering went into the project.

Though he’s tight-lipped about most of the details, Landi will share a few secrets. “The mullion bar had to have a curvature built into it so that when we added all 700 pounds of glass on top, it would flatten out and keep the right amount of spacing between the two panes. You can’t just throw it up there and say ‘that looks nice.’ It takes planning.”

Pane-staking Process

Setting the glass was every bit as complicated as its design. Two cranes were required, and eight men on a scaffold slid it into place. “It was quite a challenge,” Landi recalls. The glass must withstand 100 mph winds and keep the house warm when the mercury dips below zero during typical Montana winters. The glass is an inch thick and is insulated with high-density foam, silicone and chinking, but it’s set so deeply within the log frame that the sealant is hidden. “There is no visible framework, so it gives the illusion that there are no windows,” Landi says. “All you see is the logs, the stone and then the amazing lake view.”

Practicality Meets Panache

Lazy Bay uses both radiant heating beneath floors, as well as forced-air heat. “When you have that much glass, you need to blow warm air against it,” Landi says. “You won’t feel a chill in this house.” Once a constant temperature is reached, the furnace doesn’t have to work very hard to maintain it. One reason is that the logs and stonework absorb the sun’s heat and radiate it back into the home, making energy efficient as well as gorgeous. The home’s stone serves another purpose.

Large amounts of glass usually lend a contemporary feel, so the team used a variety of stone to make it feel grounded and homey. The hearth is a blend of different local stone. “The huge rock above the fireplace must weigh a ton,” Landi says. “It had to be craned into place.” There’s a fireplace in the lower level, and the chimney is 45 feet high, free standing within the house. No expense was spared in Lazy Bay.

The alder wood cabinets were distressed and had a crackle finish applied. The countertops and sink are granite, and the kitchen boasts a Wolf range with and a Sub-Zero refrigerator; items that are not only stylish but are among the best, most durable choices on the market.

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Contemporarily Rustic

Landi and his company designed and built Lazy Bay, but Dominic accentuated its natural beauty — with Landi’s help, of course — through its decor. “We presented him with options,” recalls Dominic, “and he went with most of the decor we suggested.” It is clear that Dominic’s firm used only the best and most beautiful materials. The bathrooms’ tile floors are a combination of marble and slate in varying shades of gray. The wood floors — western larch and fir — were circle sawn and left rough, stained black, sanded, and then stained brown.

“They have an antique look, but the best part is that you don’t have to take off your shoes for fear of getting it dirty,” Landi explains. “I wanted people to enjoy the house and the lake, not worry about messing up the floor.” When it came to making the final decorating choices for the home, Dominic had another “silent” partner: the windows. “Those windows and the view just outside them had some say in the decorating process,” according to Dominic. “It is a major focal point, and it had a lot of impact on what we did,”

The combination of slate and tumbled glass accents give the house a contemporary edge, even though it maintains rustic feel. Lazy Bay was built as a vacation home for someone looking for an escape from the ordinary. “I wanted them to know they were in the Montana mountains on a lake,” Landi says. “I set up the views and designed character into the house so anyone who comes here would know they’re  someplace special.” Did he succeed? One look through the majestic windows will tell you everything you need to know.

TIMBER HOME DETAILS:
SQUARE FOOTAGE: 4,800
BUILDER: High Country Builders
TIMBER PRODUCER : Edgewood Log Structures

Tour the Montana Home with Timber Windows