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Summertime brings to mind one of our most intriguing projects: Kootenai Estates in Bigfork, Montana. Situated on 42 pristine acres on the majestic Swan Lake, this is an idyllic summer getaway in the heart of the Flathead Valley surrounded by a national forest.

A refurbished 10-foot-deep covered porch with sweeping lakefront views surrounds The Lodge.

A refurbished 10-foot-deep covered porch with sweeping lakefront views surrounds The Lodge.

This project, now underway, marks the transformation of a once turn-of-the-century retreat for wealthy mining barons into a collection of custom, multi-million dollar homes, and currently consists of the renovated historic lodge, three restored and expanded log cabins, three new homes and an expansive swimming pool and Jacuzzi area, complete with a pool house and open decks. When complete, the property will encompass 42 custom luxury homes (25 of which will be located on Swan Lake, Swan River or Johnson Creek), a fitness center, a small museum and more. Ten of the homes will be masterfully refurbished and enlarged original log cabins; 32 will be brand new.

The story of Kootenai began in 1906 when a pair of Anaconda Copper Company executives – Lewis Orvis Evans and Cornelius “Con” Kelley – acquired 2,700 acres of wilderness in northwestern Montana. Between 1914 and 1928, they created a sprawling vacation resort for friends and family, business associates and company executives.

The Kootenai Lodge was designed by Kirtland Cutter in the iconic Adirondack camp style of the early 20th century.

The Kootenai Lodge was designed by Kirtland Cutter in the iconic Adirondack camp style of the early 20th century.

We embarked upon this project in 2005 with the initial task of restoring the main lodge, built by the Anaconda Copper Company as a hunting lodge. Originally designed by architectural pioneer Kirtland Cutter in the iconic Adirondack camp style of the early 20th century, the storied 14,000-square-foot log lodge had welcomed such venerable guests as Will Rogers, John D. Rockefeller and Charles Lindbergh over the years. Famous Western artist Charles Russell etched playful images into the concrete of the lodge’s ample courtyard.

When we undertook the lodge restoration, each original log had to be restored and stained. The charming original waved glass windows were removed, then carefully repaired and painted. Since some of the building’s original river rock foundation was deteriorating, it had to be carefully rebuilt on the same footprint, using Cutter’s original blueprints to ensure accuracy. In addition, we reconstructed the main staircase, re purposed the original rock maple flooring, converted the massive central fireplace into the best pellet stove and installed all new lighting fixtures. The lodge is a gathering spot for residents, and also used for special events and parties, so the interiors had to be comfortable yet appealing. With this in mind, we carefully furnished the lodge with custom window treatment, area rugs, plush furnishings and fine accessories – all carefully selected to reflect the era and style of the lodge.

The Lodge interior at Kootenai Estates is characterized by exposed cedar logs.

The Lodge interior at Kootenai Estates is characterized by exposed cedar logs.

Now an anchor of the Kootenai Estates community, the lodge is U-shaped and wrapped by refurbished 10-foot deep covered porches with sweeping lakefront views. The interior of the sprawling main hall is characterized by exposed cedar and timbers, soaring 30-foot-ceilings, a restored original billiards table and a grand piano. An adjoining media room – equipped with a 60-inch flat screen television – transports guests to a more modern day era. In the adjacent lounge, a gorgeous bar features glistening copper counter tops.

Our overall approach was to gently blend the past with the present, remaining sensitive to the building’s history, while updating it with the comforts of today.

The massive original fireplace is made of indigenous stone.

The massive original fireplace is made of indigenous stone.

The lodge has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and offers a beautiful example of turn-of-the-last century rustic log architecture.

For images of the lodge, the gorgeous Montana property and exquisite homes at Kootenai Estates, be sure to visit its website. We also have photos of our work posted on our website and Facebook page.

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