Alpine resort style home with gabled roofs

This design by Barry Gehl echoes old mining structures
The master bedroom wing of this mountain retreat alps, arctic, cloud, freezing, geological phenomenon, glacial landform, landscape, mount scenery, mountain, mountain range, mountainous landforms, nature, piste, sky, snow, tree, winter, blue
The master bedroom wing of this mountain retreat with the lower chimney has a self-contained feel, much like an old cottage. The house is by architect Barry Gehl and builders Rob McRae and Todd Thesing of Highline Partners

Designing a home in a mountain resort can mean conforming to guidelines on architectural styles. However, it is possible to step away from the upscale rustic cabin forms typical of such developments, particularly when there is an alternative precedent to follow.

For this house by architect Barry Gehl and builders Rob McRae and Todd Thesing of Highline Partners the owners wanted a design that would respond to resort restrictions but have a contemporary feel. The developer of this community had a new home guideline, that followed the rustic Montana look, says Gehl.

"However, mining industry structures were also once common in this landscape and we chose to reference these strong, raw forms instead to create a more edgy, modern feel."

To this end, the house was designed with a dramatic, highly visible wood structure that extends beyond the footprint of the interiors in some places, much like a wooden exoskeleton.

Rob McRae says Gehl and the structural engineer worked through several possibilities to arrive at the intricate combination of raised shed roofs, supporting trusses and beams.

"Diagonal steel tension members set into giant trusses in the great room guard against seismic activity and winds. The chimney on the fireplace is steel, clad in stone, and this also anchors the house against lateral movement."


Doors to this bathroom in a mountain house bathroom, cabinetry, ceiling, home, interior design, room, wall, wood, brown
Doors to this bathroom in a mountain house are resin embedded with twigs a whimsical touch in a home constructed mainly in wood.

The exposed structure approach carries over to the connected buildings, too.

"Of course, the other prominent material is glass, allowing the front of the home to open up to the views," says Gehl. "On the street side smaller, cutout windows help create privacy."

The exterior walls are clad in weatherboards, specially dried in a microwave kiln to prevent warping in the dry alpine environment.

"The exposed structure naturally forms part of the interior aesthetic as well, with the look of the beams and stonework extended by slate and oak floors," says the architect. "We introduced an industrial accent with the waxed metal finishes on the fir cabinets, some large door entries and the stairway."

In terms of layout, the house steps across the mountainside, with the position of each build element optimising views one way and privacy the other. Part of the brief to the architect and builder was to site the house so family and guests would be able to ski in and ski out.

The segmented house comprises the great room, a four-level circulation tower calling to mind a mine shaft tower a master bedroom, four guest suites, garaging, and ancillary spaces, such as a ski-tuning room. Enclosed walkways connect the various spaces.

Glazed pocket doors 3.65m high and 5.5m wide sky, wood, brown
Glazed pocket doors 3.65m high and 5.5m wide retract into a cavity between the indoor and outdoor fireplaces to merge the interiors of this house with the alpine environment. The house is by architect Barry Gehl and builders Rob McRae and Todd Thesing of Highline Partners.

The great room encompasses a dining area, kitchen and sitting room. Giant 3.65m-high glass doors retract into a slot between the indoor and outdoor fireplaces, opening the interiors to an outdoor living area with an in-ground spa.

"The tower accesses the garage at the first floor level, then the great room, followed by walkways to the guest suites and master bedroom and finally, a study on the top floor," says Gehl. "However, climbing the stairs isn't the only way to reach the top of this tower.

"A local specialist in competitive climbing walls was asked to create one here for the stair tower. This had to be suitable for both novices and experienced climbers and have two self-arresting rappelling stations. We also stepped the wall away from the windows this prevents any swinging accidents," says McRae.

Furniture choices further the back-country mining aesthetic and the contemporary accent. The dining table is made from a large, uneven wood slab, while the angled corner cabinet was designed by the architect along modern lines.

A year after building was completed, the house was retrofitted with a geothermal heating system, which draws on the warmth of the ambient ground temperature. In a semi-remote area served mainly by propane gas, this has resulted in savings of 75% on power bills.

Jun 28, 2014
We know the specialists