Sketches to Reality: Designing a Waterfront Home on Priest Lake

A waterfront home we designed was recently completed on the shores of Priest Lake in the Selkirk Mountains of North Idaho.  I think I can speak for all architects in that it is always gratifying to see sketches become reality.

Waterfront Home on Priest Lake by Hendricks Architecture

Home on Priest Lake

Our client wanted a “mountain rustic timber-framed Arts & Crafts style home.”  Among other prerequisites, the home needed to take advantage of the lake views and white sand beaches, include a view tower and window seats, and be spacious and inviting with several large rooms.  A small allowable building footprint (made even smaller by flood plain requirements), as well as building height limitations, turned it into a fun puzzle to solve.

Typically I go over with our clients what the requirements are, whether it’s in person, by phone, email, etc.  In this case we did all three.  There are some clients of ours that I’ve actually never met, and some I’ve never even heard their voice.  In this particular case we met in person and went over his initial objectives.  We then went over space relationships (kitchen near the mud room, etc.), and after looking it over I gave him an estimation of how many square feet the house would be, as well as how much it would likely cost to build.

Waterfront Home Firepit on Priest Lake designed by Hendricks Architecture

Peek-a-boo view of the house, and a nice place to hang out in the evening.

By the time I start designing we are in mutual agreement on everything, and it’s a matter of me putting it all down on paper.  I take out the trace paper and start molding the spaces into a form.  At the same time I’m drawing quick form sketches of plans, roof plans and elevations that only I can understand.  Sort of like a sculptor artist starting to shape a block of clay (though maybe not quite as elegant).

Rough sketch roof plan design of the waterfront home

A Rough Sketch of a Roof Plan

These sketches are not pretty, and to others may look like chicken scratch.  Here is another unedited sketch, this time of the elevation.  The roofs don’t work well here for snow runoff, but again these are real quick and the details are figured out once the form is being shaped.

Waterfront home architect sketch on Priest Lake

Rough Elevation Sketch

I rarely show these to clients as many wouldn’t understand them, and might fire us on the spot for using kindergartners to design their house.

Once I have the design basics figured out, I’ll draw a site plan, floor plans and the exterior elevations in more detail to present to the client.  I like to give them the entire composition so they can see the overall concept in front of them.  This is part of the schematic design phase.  You can get a glimpse of the typical architectural process by clicking here.  Here is an updated lake-facing elevation.  Now the tower has been moved more towards the center of the house.  For some finished photos see Priest Lake House.

Waterfront home lake elevation sketch designed by Hendricks Architecture

Lakeside Schematic Elevation

After we’re in agreement on the design, we move onto design development.  Here we’ll put these sketches into more defined form on the computer, along with any changes requested by the client.  Here is the same elevation after it’s modified and drawn in the computer.  See if you can see what the changes were.

Priest Lake waterfront home elevation in AutoCAD

Once we agree on the design here, we’ll start drawing up construction documents, which will be detailed enough for contractors to price and build from.  Here again is the lakeside elevation with applicable notes and tags.

Priest Lake waterfront home AutoCAD construction drawing

Here is a photo of the final product, again from the lakeside elevation to be consistent.  This photo doesn’t show all the windows of the tower.  To actually see them at the same angle as the elevation drawings, I would need to be about 25 feet in the air, or out on the lake (where the tower and lake “see each other”).

Waterfront Home Priest Lake

Many thanks to Sandau Builders of Priest Lake, who did an excellent job as the building contractor.  Jane Scott Design lent her expertise to the Arts & Crafts interior design.  Barcus Engineering did the structural design.  Mingo Mountain Woodworking did an awesome job with the woodworking throughout the house.

Hendricks Architecture specializes in the design of timber mountain style homes and cabins, not only at Priest Lake, but throughout North America.  Our homes have been featured in Timber Home Living, Mountain Living, Cowboys & Indians, Cabin Life and other publications. If you are interested in a mountain home, or you have any other inquiries, please contact us.

Previous Post: The Family Cabin

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The Family Cabin

I’ve designed a lot of family cabins as an architect.  Each cabin is custom-made for each unique family and its individuals.  The goal is typically to build a comfortable and special place that will become a home base for fond memories, and I do my best to pick our client’s brains to achieve that objective.  I have experience on both sides of the issue, so I thought I’d share some experiences I’ve had in the family cabin where my siblings and I spent our childhood summers.

John Hendricks trout fisherman before architect

Me (John) with one of many trout we caught.

Our cabin was located at Huntington Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about halfway between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks in California.  The cabin wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of mountain architecture.  The main level consisted of a mudroom/pantry, a small kitchen around a built-in dining table, a bathroom, small master bedroom, and a fairly large living room (great rooms weren’t invented yet) with a high vaulted ceiling.  This ceiling was not held up with the large architectural timber trusses we commonly design today, but with trusses made up from a conglomeration of patterns made out of 2×6’s, which later had to be fortified after the roof started sagging.  We had a 12:12 (12” vertical to 12” horizontal) roof pitch, which was ample enough space for a second bedroom upstairs.  All the walls and ceilings were pine, which was very common way back in the 20th century.

Our family mountain cabin in winter after heavy snowfall

Our cabin in winter.

The three of us brothers let our sister take the bedroom in the summers.  We slept outside in an army tent.  With four cots on the perimeter and two spaces on the floor, there was ample space for friends and cousins as well.

I was seven years old when we moved in, and we spent a lot of those first few summers’ trout fishing.  We’d fish off docks and our secret “fishing hole”, and would catch enough for some large pan-friend trout dinners.  We also caught a few sucker fish.  An elderly couple in a nearby cabin kept a garden and would pay us 5 cents for every sucker fish we caught.  It was mutually beneficial.  They would use the sucker parts for fertilizer, while we’d save up our nickels to buy comic books, which were only 25 cents back then (all of a sudden I feel really dated writing this).

Trout Fishing on Huntington Lake

My brothers and I fishing on Huntington Lake.

We’d walk a couple miles through the woods and cross a big log over a stream to get to the store at Cedar Crest Resort.  Cedar Crest had plenty of comic books, where I began buying Casper and Richie Rich, and later moved on to Marvel Comics (Captain America was a favorite) and Mad Magazine.  Evenings would be spent reading or playing games.  Poker, Monopoly and Mystery Date were favorites that the previous owners had left us.  Yes, Mystery Date.  I did mention we have a sister.  We had a lot of laughs with this one.  The previous owners also left us stacks of National Geographics, Little Lulu comics, and Mad Magazines from the 50’s and 60’s.  That’s where I learned all my culture, despite my dad’s best intentions taking us to the Fresno Philharmonic concerts.

Mystery Date Game guilty pleasure

The Mystery Date Game. About as much strategy as Candy Land.

My parents had a San Juan 21 sailboat and would use that for cruising and racing.  Huntington Lake is known as one of the best sailing lakes around, and every year holds the High Sierra Regatta, which pulls in top quality competition (about 150 boats each weekend including some Olympic sailors) for two weekends.  My brothers and I started off racing in 8 foot flippers, and eventually moved up to Lasers and crewing (and skippering) on the bigger boats.

Fresno Yacht Club's High Sierra Regatta

The Fresno Yacht Club’s High Sierra Regatta

The San Juan 21’s were among those racing the first weekend.  The week preceding the races was always my favorite week of the year.  There were about twenty San Juan’s in the fleet, and we were all good friends.  Every night a party would be held at one of the owner’s cabins.  For some reason our party was always held on Thursday nights.  The adults would always have a rousing good time (for some reason a few seemed a little groggy the next day), while us kids would go off into the night after dinner, playing “spotlight” going to “the swing” or playing “spoons”.  Later, as the boys came to appreciate the girls a little more, we’d go to Lakeshore Resort to go dancing, where old Charlie Hull was the DJ.  He was the entertainment director from the 1940’s through the 80’s, and made it a lively time.

Fun at the Hendricks Family mountain cabin

One of my brothers (middle) and cousins (right) at the Hendricks Cabin. Can you guess the decade?

In August the action at the lake would cool down a little in the sailing world, so we’d sometimes go backpacking deep into the Sierra’s for a week at a time.  My dad was an Eagle Scout, and he taught us a lot about living in the backcountry, which served me well later as I continue taking friends and family back into the wilderness.  Sometimes we’d set up a central base camp and hike from there every day, but usually we’d do a big loop through places we’ve never been.  In our high school years just the boys and my dad would go (my sister had no interest and was old enough to say no).  My younger brother and I played football and our coaches would get upset that we weren’t in the gym lifting weights.  They didn’t understand that we were getting a lot better workout than our teammates!

Family backpacking from the mountain cabin

The family backpacking in the earlier years. I’m second from the left. Even the dog had a pack.

Hendricks brothers backpacking in the Sierras.

My brothers and I (right) after crossing a High Sierra mountain pass in August. Shot by my dad. At 16 I just received my driver’s license, but there’s no driving up here.

High Sierra Mountain Backpacking 80s bangs

Those who know me might find this amusing. Here’s me and my bangs on that same trip, circa early 80’s.

The roads were not plowed in the winter so we would ski in about four miles once or twice a year to shovel the snow off the roof (those trusses made of 2×6’s!) and deck, and to one of the entry doors.  The Sierra winters can be brutal, and I remember one winter where we couldn’t do the whole roof, even though it was a fairly small cabin.  Some winters we could touch the snow from the second level bedroom window.  One winter it snowed so much that the roads weren’t plowed within thirty miles of the cabin, but just to the top of the four lane highway.  So we proceeded to ski up and down the highway (not much traffic and I was only about 13).  I was skiing down the highway by myself when the highway patrol pulled me over.  They took me back to the car and admonished my dad without giving a ticket, who then cursed them after they left.

Cabin under heavy snow

Here’s the cabin again under heavy snow.

In the late 80’s we had to sell the cabin.  The buyer quickly remodeled and added on to it.  I’ll always remember the way it was though, and could design the same cabin from memory if I wanted to.  I probably never will as it wasn’t the most efficient or the best design.  But for about fifteen years it was the best cabin there ever was.

John Hendricks, Architect AIA

Kids at Lakeshore Resort Huntington Lake

A few of the next generation of Hendricks kids at Huntington Lake’s Lakeshore Resort about ten years ago.

Hendricks Architecture designs mountain style homes and cabins throughout North America.  Please visit our selected projects page for some of our more recent projects.  Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog
If you have an interest in having a cabin designed, or in talking about the good old days at Huntington Lake, please feel free to call or email me, or contact me on our Contact Page.

Previous Post: Architecture for Specific Sites 3: Sun Orientation and Control

Architecture for Specific Sites 3: Sun Orientation and Control

Sun orientation and the ability to control it are important in looking at specific sites.  Whether it’s by architecture or other means, the power to harness the sun’s energy and limit the detrimental effects can make a huge difference between a good site and a bad one.

The Climate and Microclimate


Before going into detail on controlling the sun, it’s important to know the effects of different climates and microclimates.  In general, a big reason you’re choosing an area to live is you may love the climate of the cooler mountains, the warmth of the desert, the smaller temperature variations near oceans, the low humidity, the fact that it’s in a “Banana Belt”, etc.

Land near large bodies of water such as oceans and big lakes typically have smaller temperature variations than inland locations like Colorado and Montana, both yearly and daily.  As an example, the City of Seattle on the Puget Sound varies from an average high temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 46 F in winter (a 30 F difference), while the average daily temperatures are often only a 10-20 F degree difference.  On the other hand, Jackson, Wyoming has an average high temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 28 F in winter (a 54 F difference), while the daily highs and lows differentiate by 45-60 F.  However, some in Seattle might long for the truer four seasons (or more sun and being closer to ski areas) that they would get in Jackson (where some may tire of shoveling snow).

Seattle architecture skyline in winter. Not much sun.

Seattle in Winter. Sun and snow are often scarce.

Each site also has its own microclimate.  Sometimes they can be quite pronounced even from one neighbor’s property to the others.  For example, spring arrives earlier on sloped sites facing south.  Because of the solar radiation and optimal sun angle, they will be warmer, and snow will melt faster. In the summer these sites will be cooler than flat sites when the sun is directly overhead.  Thus the more exposed and closer to 90 degrees a site is to the sun, the warmer it will be.

Trees are also a big factor.  Trees blocking the sun will help keep homes cooler.  Fir trees will provide this year round, while deciduous trees will block heat in the summer, but without the shade of its leaves will warm the house in the winter.  Trees can also provide wind breaks from cold winter winds. I’ll describe wind affects in more detail in a later post.  Trees may obviously be planted, but might take some time to grow to become efficient.

Similar to cities next to large bodies of water, a house next to a pond or pool can also moderate the temperatures.  The same can be said for soil type.  Softer soil with more air pockets freezes more often, whereas hard soil can moderate the surrounding air temperatures similar to concrete.

Sun Orientation – The Angle of The Building


All things being equal, houses facing south are optimal for facades with more windows.  With large overhangs these will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  Those facing a little more to the southeast are more efficient than facing southwest, as more solar radiation is gained in the morning, versus the warmer afternoons.  Homes in all climates are more efficient when elongated along the east/west axis than those on the north/south axis.  In cold climates, the less elongated the better.  If a home is lived in only a part of the year, note that southern exposures are more important in the winter than in the summer.  It’s also typically more efficient to place living areas facing south, with the bedrooms facing north.  However, it seems like views and other factors tend to be more important to most owners.

Sketch of optimal building orientation to sun

Optimal house orientation to the sun

Another thing to note when buying a property – make sure that there is no danger of homes or other buildings, now or in the future, that will block your views of the sun.  You might want to check (or have your architect check) into the zoning regulations on adjacent lots.


Architectural Means


As I mentioned, larger roof overhangs will let in more winter sun and less in summer.  Trellises are also helpful, and have the same effect when designed correctly.  The most natural way is to plant, or nestle up to some existing deciduous trees.  The trees in the winter are bare and let in lots of sun, while in the summer they’ll block the sun’s rays.  Blinds inside the house help as well, but aren’t quite as effective as those elements located on the exterior.

Recently we designed a home on lakefront property.  The owner wanted a big glass wall with a gable roof facing the lake, where the best views were.  This would help in the winter, but in the summer had the potential to rack up some enormous air-conditioning bills.  We made the gable overhang a little larger than normal, added a trellis, and also specified some performance glazing.  In this case, Cardinal LoE-366 glass was used.  This has a slight tint to it, rejects more solar heat and provides more insulation than typical window glazing.  See photo below of the home in construction.

Architectural means to control the sun

Lake home facing south with performance glazing

See our post relating to energy efficiency for further information on harnessing the sun’s energy. also has a good article relating to the topic of passive solar home design.




Another positive impact of the sun is providing natural daylight into the home.  This not only can create a mental uplift (unless you enjoy living in dungeons), but also saves on your energy use.  We designed a home on a property that faced north of a mountain, with the best views facing north over a lake.  This home has great views facing north, but little privacy (a road) and sun exposure.  We added as many windows as we could on the south side, while keeping them high for privacy.  We also added a cupola with windows, which along with the others, provided plenty of natural light, while reducing direct glare.  The owner has given us permission to show her house in the past.  One or two potential clients have asked me on our way out why I didn’t turn off the lights, to which I replied, “I didn’t turn any on”.

Other ways to increase daylighting include:

  • Reflect or filter light as it enters the space to more evenly distribute the light.
  • Slope ceilings to bring more light into a space.
  • A building that is more spread out will allow for more windows.

See also Architecture for Specific Sites 1: Personalities and Views and Architecture for Specific Sites 2: Restrictions.  I hope to continue on with other site selection aspects in future posts.

John Hendricks, Architect AIA

Hendricks Architecture has designed homes throughout North America of varying styles.  We do our best to design beautiful and practical homes, while at the same time educating our clients on the benefits of good site selection and energy efficiency.

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Steel Bandshell in Sandpoint

A steel bandshell designed by Hendricks Architecture was recently completed in Sandpoint’s Farmin Park.  Sandpoint Rotary asked us to work with Parks and Recreation director Kim Woodruff to design a replacement option for the park’s bandstand roof.

The tasks we were given were to fit the structure within an existing circular brick base, keep the performers dry, be durable, low maintenance, and fit architecturally and aesthetically into a park in the heart of downtown.  We were also challenged to make the structure a unique and a one-of-a-kind piece of art.  In addition, we wanted to make sure it was acoustically viable for the musicians, despite the steel structure.

Steel bandshell Hendricks architects Sandpoint Idaho

Steel bandshell in Sandpoint Idaho’s Farmin Park

In an initial brainstorming meeting with Kim and structural engineer Carlos Suarez, we talked about the possibility of using steel instead of wood for its longevity and low cost maintenance factor.  Kim suggested I meet with talented local steel artist Tom Brunner onsite to put our heads together.  I met with Tom the next day, our ideas clicked and within about 15 minutes we had the basis for the design.  I threw some quick sketches together (one shown below) and the next day we (Kim, Carlos, Tom and I) were all in agreement on the conceptual design.  The following day Tom threw together a small scale steel model, which became effective later on in getting approvals from various City committees.  The next steps were to secure funding, and end up with stamped construction documents to assure public safety.

Steel bandshell Hendricks Architect Sandpoint Idaho

Front view of the bandshell in Sandpoint, built over an existing brick bandstand

The design is based off the existing curved bandstand, from the columns to the beams, to the purlins and other support elements.  We wanted it to be more organic than to just add a linear roof over it.  Carlos was given the tough task of trying to make the shell stand upright through the toughest snow and wind storms.  Carlos ended up donating about 80-90% of his time.  It ended up being a very time consuming project, but I think for both of us it was a fun puzzle to solve.  Tom Russell of Hendricks Architecture served as the project architect and was able to make all the pieces come together, including a 3D rendering which helped gain approvals.

Steel Bandshell Hendricks Architecture Sandpoint Idaho

Side view of the Farmin Park bandshell in Sandpoint

The purlins (the steel running right to left under the roofing – some nearly reaching fifty feet) were also designed to be curved, but in the end, we decided to make them straight.  This was a painful compromise, but to curve each of them would have increased the price significantly, not just from curving the steel, but mainly because the roofing would have had to be intricately cut and laid over some very complex curves that bend in more than one direction.  This would have become very time consuming to build, so the purlins are straight, but are laid out in six segments each so they at least hint of a curve.  The structure is all steel, while the roof is corten steel.  Eventually the entire structure will have a nice rust patina.  The bandshell shouldn’t need any major maintenance, and should outlive all of us.

Bandshell architect sketch

John’s original sketch of the side elevation

One of my biggest concerns was the acoustics.  Exposed steel is not a material typically used in theaters or other music venues, as sound tends to reverberate off steel.  We certainly didn’t want to amplify the sound too much and to the detriment of local businesses and neighborhoods.  The existing base had curved walls which angled out towards the park’s music audience, so we emulated that in the roof structure.  We angled the roof up, as well as limited steel in the sound path to allow music to escape easier.  Still, I was a little nervous as the construction was pretty loud at the points when they had to put hammer on steel.  I was relieved to actually hear the musicians play and find it sounded pretty good.  I’ve heard from a few that the sound is better than it was before, and worst case, the same as before.

All the consulting work Tom Brunner (the steel artist) did initially was at no cost. Tom also designed the artwork in the four structural steel rings, where each symbolizes one of the four seasons.  Most of the team donated a lot of their time and offered reduced rates to get this built.  Sean Fitzpatrick (a fellow Rotarian) acted as the general contractor.  Wayne Bistodeau of Multi-Trail Enterprises, framed the steel structure in his shop, then disassembled it and put it together on site.  Apex Construction, CE Kramer Crane and Contracting, DSS Construction, Glahe and Associates, North County Electric, and Pacific Steel also contributed towards the Rotary project.  Several other Rotarians contributed their time on this, including Presidents Paula Parsons, Jerri Anderson and Bob Linscott, the community service head and a former architect.

Steel Rotary wheel

A steel Rotary wheel was inserted in the main truss.

The bandshell was funded by the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency (SURA) and Rotary.  SURA financially supported the project acknowledging that, though more costly on the front end, the long-term investment was best served with the steel structure.  Sandpoint Rotary requested funding and it was granted in late 2012.

Many thanks as well to Marie Dominique Verdier for her beautiful photography!  See our Facebook page for more photos.

John Hendricks is an AIA architect at Hendricks Architecture.  Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog

Previous Post: Architecture for Specific Sites 2: Restrictions