Eagle Rock blends nature and comfort...

My Montana Home
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Perched on a hill in Eagle Rock Reserve, southeast of Bozeman, is an 8,000-square-foot home that is exactly what the owners intended it to be – a house that looks like it has always been there, rather than a trophy house sitting obtrusively on a hilltop.

Though they had a vision for what they wanted their first Bozeman home to be like, Bill Muhlenfeld and Anthea George credit the architect and builder for capturing the vision and creating the perfect end result.

“A lot of people say that,” was Muhlenfeld’s response to a comment that described the house as very comfortable. Not what one expects of a five-bedroom, six-bath house with three fireplaces and an indoor waterfall.

Perhaps one reason the house has a relaxed feel is the mix of natural and native materials used on the exterior and interior. In fact, the multi-level house blends so well with the landscape that, although it is viewable from I-90, even its architect Matt Foure has difficulty spotting it from the interstate.

The exterior of the house is Dryvit, stone, and chinked timbers, the combination of which breaks up the plane of the sizeable house. Twigs and branches add to the natural components and act as pickets for the deck railings. From the first step inside the massive mesquite entry door, you are enveloped in nature’s elements. Reclaimed timber beams and planks, slate, and stone flow throughout the house from floor to ceiling. 

“The nexus was to let the site dictate the direction we went,” Foure said. The hilltop location, 12 miles from downtown Bozeman, lent itself to designing a walkout basement on the downhill slope as well as decks and patios facing Mount Baldy and the Bridger and Gallatin mountain ranges.

A wall of north-facing windows in the great room provides an unobstructed view of Mount Baldy. The views should remain so for a long time, Muhlenfeld said, because a conservation easement on the farmland spanning beyond the front of his property will prevent future development. Each of the 39 home sites in Eagle Rock Reserve is 20 acres, but 17 of those are designated for wildlife habitat. Muhlenfeld said they frequently see bears, elk, and moose. 

The designated cook doesn’t have to worry about missing out on seeing the wildlife with the view from an oversized pass-through connecting the kitchen to the breakfast nook. It provides the same view of the Bridgers that is seen from the great room. The pass-through takes on the appearance of a fireplace, framed by a stone wall which also hides the vent for the six-burner gas stove that is positioned to look like a hearth.

Ambient lighting is used throughout the house to accent various architectural features. Uplights and recessed fixtures highlight subtle features that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as an old wagon wheel and pots that are mounted on the rock wall above the stove and the vertical timber beams in the great room. 

From the kitchen and great room, the faint, soothing sound of a waterfall is heard coming from an adjacent “winter garden” room. A rock wall provides the backdrop for the waterfall and 28 passive solar skylights form the pitched roof of the sun-drenched room, nourishing the collection of plants and flowers, and the frequent respite-seeker that occupy it. The glass ceiling also sheds natural light on the adjoining laundry room, making laundry tasks a little less mundane.

The Muhlenfelds enjoy the calming sound of water and have created an outdoor stream that runs down a slope in front of the house and feeds into a trout pond. A deck and pergola off the breakfast nook look out over the pond and, with the help of a built-in barbecue grill, create the perfect setting for an outdoor gathering. 

Several more respites are tucked away in the 1,170-square-foot master suite, which encompasses the east end of the main floor. A reading nook off of the bedroom is just the right size for the Muhlenfelds to curl up with a book in the two overstuffed chairs and relax in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace.

The sliding glass door off the bedroom provides access to a patio and the path to the hot tub, which also offers views of the Bridgers.

An eight-foot ceiling in the master suite, the lowest clearance on the main floor of the house, was designed for a cozier atmosphere. Intentional gaps between the planks of the bedroom ceiling allow light from the “meditation” loft to peek through. A hidden stairway in the corner of the bedroom leads to the loft, which is Anthea’s reprieve. A private, east-facing balcony is the perfect place to watch the sun rise in the morning solitude. 

One of Muhlenfeld’s retreats is an office that also has a private balcony that overlooks the trout pond. Hailing from Chicago, the Muhlenfelds wanted to have a reminder of their roots in their new home so they designed a Frank Lloyd Wright-styled office door with stained glass sidelights.

A stairway with steps made of half-sawn timbers supported by full logs leads to the other four bedrooms in the basement. Each of the Muhlenfeld’s three children has their own bedroom and the fourth is used for guests. The chinked log walls in the guest bedroom were used to give guests “that true Montana feel,” Muhlenfeld said. Sawn planks mounted below the sheetrocked ceiling, about eight inches apart, give the effect of looking through a roof to the sky.

But the fabricated primitiveness for guests ends there. A custom-tiled shower and heated towel bar in the guest bedroom, as well as an armoire-style bar in the hallway, are pleasant reminders to guests that they are in the 21st century.

Despite the modern amenities, the Muhlenfelds believe that their house does indeed look and feel like it has always been there on the hilltop. 

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