Mountain and Lake Home Curb Appeal

Mountain and lake homes don’t usually have curbs, but the phrase “curb appeal” still applies.  There are few among us who haven’t driven, walked, or even boated by a nice neighborhood and admired the beautiful houses.  Everyone appreciates a well designed home with pleasing proportions, balanced massing, well placed windows, and coordinated materials.  A nice looking house draws the attention of people passing by, and especially catches the eye of prospective home buyers.

Mountain Home in Winter

Subtle Curb Appeal - A Mountain Home in Winter

Having a home that meets your spatial requirements, functions well, and doesn’t cost too much for operation and maintenance is important, and any new home design should be able to accommodate these basic requirements.  According to a recent survey conducted by Professional Builder magazine, respondents indicated that the most popular criteria people used to decide on whether to buy a property was the exterior look of the home, or its overall design and curb appeal.

While this is not a shocking discovery, it is worth noting that despite recent challenges in the housing market, people still value nice looking home exteriors and are willing to spend extra to have a home that looks good from the street.  Despite what the term “curb appeal” suggests, the best aspect of a home’s exterior isn’t always the side that faces the street, and sometimes it makes sense to enhance the curb appeal of a home as seen from other vantage points.  This is often the case on waterfront homes we design, and should also be considered for homes that front on a golf course, ski slope, or public park.

Rustic Shingle Style Lake House

This lakefront home's roofline has its own subtle curb appeal

Most of our clients, now and in the past, are building homes that they want to live in for a long time.  In general, they place a high value on having a home that looks good to them, their guests, and to the other residents in the neighborhood.  Creating a home with enhanced curb appeal not only leads to greater owner satisfaction, it also gives the property an advantage when it comes time to sell. It is likely that a good looking home designed by a creative Architect will appeal to a new buyer as much as it did to its current owner, and that the perceived value of good design will be realized in the form of a higher contracted sale price.

Designing a home may seem like it is not difficult to do, and in the case of a basic box shape with a simple roof that may well be true. Many people who have built homes think that since they know how all the pieces go together they can design a nice home, and I’ll admit to thinking the same thing when I built homes before becoming an Architect.  However, the process of creating even a moderately complex home requires very careful attention to spatial arrangement, building form, proportion, materiality, detailing, and the buildings relationship to the site. Architects have extensive training and experience in contemplating these “right brain” aspects of design and resolving them with the nuts and bolts requirements imposed by material limitations, building codes, budgets, and zoning restrictions.

What gives a home its curb appeal is subject to individual preferences, but most people would agree that the exterior presentation of a home conceived of by a skilled Architect is unmatched when measured against a similar home designed by someone with lesser credentials. Most people know better than to seek investment advice or trust their money to someone without extensive training in financial management.  It seems logical to suggest that the same should hold true for choosing an Architect, to help you realize the best potential from what may be your most valuable asset, your home.

Tom Russell, Architect, LEED AP

Hendricks Architecture specializes in mountain and waterfront homes.  Our home designs have been featured in and on the covers of various periodicals, including Mountain Living, Timber Home Living, Cabin Life, and Cowboys & Indians.  Please visit our projects page for examples of some of our most recent projects.

Previous Post: Outdoor Living Spaces for Mountain Homes

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Outdoor Living Spaces for Mountain Homes

Throughout its evolution, Mountain Architecture has held true to the basic idea that spending time outdoors is an essential part of quality living.  One of the primary goals we strive for in designing mountain homes is to create a strong connection between the built environment and the natural landscape.  In the ideal, a quality home should provide a sanctuary from the elements when necessary, and at the same time be able to open to the outdoors when conditions allow.  Inhabitants should feel like they are a part of the surrounding environment, not isolated from it.

Mountain Home Outdoor Living: Decks, patios, bar, fire pits and spa

A well designed home for mountain living should be hewn from the materials at hand, harmonize with the landscape, and offer the inhabitants quality spaces both indoors and out.  Depending on the local climate, covered and uncovered outdoor spaces can be mixed to provide a variety of options for relaxing, entertaining, eating or watching the sunset.  In moderate climates, outdoor living rooms and kitchens can provide all the conveniences of modern life without the constraints of walls and windows.  Recent trends show that homeowners place a high value on quality outdoor spaces.

Trellis over Outdoor Living Space

In just about any climate, covered outdoor space is a virtual necessity.  It opens up the option to be outside when the weather isn’t great, offers a shaded place to relax on a hot sunny day, and also allows for a storage space that can be utilized year round.  In many mountain and lake environments, bugs can be a deterrent to otherwise hearty lovers of the outdoors, especially in the evening.  We have been designing a lot of homes with screen porches lately, including one that utilizes Phantom screens, an innovative system that rolls up and out of sight when it’s not needed.  I’m particularly fond of a hallmark of old Adirondack camps – the screened sleeping porch.  These seem to have lost popularity in modern times, perhaps due to the widespread use of air conditioning.

Screened Porch

Porches, patios, and decks are another common feature in the mountain and lakefront homes we design.  When the weather is good, nothing beats sitting outside reading or having a nice meal.  If a home site has good views and it works with the design, we often add upper level decks or balconies to offer the occupants a place to get off the ground and enjoy an enhanced view of their world. We typically include a covered front porch as well, which offers a venue to engage with visitors and should be considered as an important social element of any home.

A Small Covered Front Porch with Mountain and Lake Views

Many of our clients want outdoor spas or hot tubs, and a deck or patio is the ideal spot to relax and have a nice soak. Some might be deterred by the thought of heading outside on a cold winter’s night to get wet, but for those willing to brave a little discomfort it can be a rewarding experience.  For homes in places that have significant winter precipitation, I recommend locating a hot tub under cover but open to the outdoors.  You will get a lot more use out of it during unpleasant weather, and if you put a clear roof over it or keep the roof high, it still feels like you are out in the open.  My opinion was validated this winter when I watched numerous hot tubs become hopelessly buried under Schweitzer’s record snows.

Covered Patio Spa and Bar

We, like most residents of mountain resort towns in the West, live here because we enjoy being outside and connecting with the natural world.  An important element in the quality of life we enjoy is the proximity to incredible outdoor environments, often right out the back door.  In acknowledgement of this, we strive to create beautiful, sturdy homes that allow the inhabitants to live comfortably indoors or out regardless of the season.

Tom Russell, Architect


Bridge to Stone Deck

Hendricks Architecture specializes in the design of timber mountain style homes and cabins.  Most of the homes we’ve completed are in mountain resort areas throughout the West, and 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: Lakefront Mountain Home in Northern Idaho

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Lakefront Mountain Home in Northern Idaho

A lakefront mountain home Hendricks Architecture designed was recently built in Northern Idaho.  The home faces north looking over Lake Pend Oreille, with great views of Sandpoint, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, and the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.

Lakefront Mountain Home

The property included an outdated lake home.  The layout of the existing home and view corridors didn’t work for the owner’s tastes, and wasn’t very energy efficient, so they decided to tear it down and start over.  The Owner’s mountain style home wishlist included a rustic, yet refined look on the exterior, with cedar, stone and timbers.  They wanted the interior a little more modern and cozy, with well done finishes, and higher ceilings.  They also wanted views from all the major rooms.

The existing home didn’t get any winter sun, so they wanted to bring in as much natural light as possible, while still maintaining some privacy.  We designed in a cupola (held up by timber trusses) and a couple of dormer windows to add more natural light, along with other windows.  I knew we succeeded when I showed the house to a client and they asked me why I didn’t turn the lights off when we were leaving.  When I replied that they in fact were off, they gave me that wide-eyed wow look that’s always fun to see.

Front Entry

Two existing garages were kept, one of which was connected to the new house and given new exterior materials.  A third garage was torn down to make space for construction materials, as it was a tight lot with limited access.  A long mudroom/laundry/pantry connects the garage to the house.  A great room, which includes an open kitchen, dining, and living areas, has breathtaking views out to the lake.  The master bedroom also has great views, along with its own fireplace, and a large nook for her desk and bookshelves.

In the daylight basement below are bedrooms, an exercise room and office.  The guest bedroom is a favorite, and it looks out between massive stone pillars forming an arch, which frames the water and mountain views.  Because the home is on a fairly steep slope (about 30 degrees), the basement sits back against the hill.  We designed mechanical and storage in the rear, and included a wine room that is so naturally cool year round that a refrigeration unit isn’t necessary.

The home was built jointly by Dan Fogerty of Sandpoint, Idaho and Denman Construction of Whitefish, Montana.  Photos by Marie Dominique Verdier.

John Hendricks, AIA Architect

Hendricks Architecture, Idaho mountain architects specializing in mountain style lakefront homes and cabins.  Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog.

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Adirondack Style Architecture

The Adirondack Style has had a strong influence on much of the Mountain Architecture we enjoy today.  When I was growing up in the Adirondacks, I knew very little about the rich history of the area.  Now, traveling back there as an architect with a lot more knowledge of the natural and built environment, I am able to really appreciate a lot of the things that I hardly noticed when I was younger. One of the things I enjoy the most is checking out the Adirondack style camps that have become iconic symbols of the region, especially the ones that are built along the shores of the numerous lakes.  My favorite place to go to learn about Adirondack history is the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York.

Adirondack Museum

Until the late 1800’s, most of the Adirondacks were a rugged wilderness that few dared to venture into. As transportation routes slowly became established later in the 19th century, wealthy city dwellers started taking extended vacations there to recreate and escape from unhealthy urban environments. Early Adirondack accommodations were primitive at best, and as the demand increased more civilized shelters started appearing. The remoteness of the Adirondacks necessitated the use of indigenous materials for building, and abundant supplies of timber and stone made them the obvious choice. Sawmills and sophisticated fasteners were rare, so whole or half logs in easy to handle sizes and creative joinery became a part of the building process out of necessity.

Early Adirondack Cabin

As railroads started to penetrate the Adirondacks, many of the wealthiest industrialists of the time sought refuge in the clean air, numerous lakes and beautiful scenery of the area. They built grand lake lodges to house themselves and their guests, often as small campuses with separate outbuildings for sleeping or utility purposes. These so called “great camps” were built in a similar style using local materials and craftsman, and many of them are still standing and in service today.

Camp Pine Knot, the first of the Adirondack "Great Camps"

William West Durant, son of railroad magnate Thomas Durant, is often credited with developing the Adirondack style, though some of the signature elements of the style had been used for some time in early Adirondack buildings. Here is an excellent short PBS video on Adirondack Great Camps.

The great camps exemplify the Adirondack style, which has influences from the Arts & Crafts movement, the Shingle style, and Swiss chalets. Rustic elegance is the hallmark of the style, achieved through artful use of native materials left as close to their natural state as possible. Common exterior elements include unpeeled cedar log siding and railings, square pane divided light windows, indigenous stone, intricate twig work, and ornate gable decoration.  The cedar log railing below was built by RP Ledger Construction of Lake Placid, NY.

Adirondack Railing

Adirondack Deck

Highlights of interiors include granite boulder fireplaces, birch bark wallpaper, fir bead board for wainscot and ceilings, and furniture crafted from small diameter unpeeled logs, bark and rough edged boards.  Bedroom below by RP Ledger Construction.

Adirondack Bedroom

Adirondack Kitchen

Another common characteristic of the Adirondack style is buildings that harmonize with their surroundings. When the early great camps were constructed, large earth moving equipment was not available, and the rugged landscape forced the buildings to fit the land. The use of natural materials and earth tone colors helps to make true Adirondack style buildings appear to be part of the landscape, and the focus on recreation and outdoor living emphasize a connection to nature.

In classic Adirondack style, this grand lake home (photo below, also by RP Ledger Construction) is unassumingly tucked back into the forest. Unpeeled Eastern White Cedar railings and rustic timbers grace the exterior of this  Adirondack lodge home.

Adirondack Lodge Home

No Adirondack camp is complete without a covered deck, and screened “sleeping porches” are common for warm weather use.

Adirondack Sleeping Porch

The Adirondack style is not strictly an east coast vernacular. Adirondack style homes and furniture can be found in many of the mountainous areas of the country. The Adirondack chair has become a fixture on cabin porches and docks all across America. Perhaps the most visible adaption of Adirondack style can be seen in some of the National Park lodges in the western United States. The Old Faithful Inn, Glacier Park Lodge, and The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite are among those with influences from the Adirondack style.

Old Faithful Inn Exterior Detail

So called “Parkitecture” is a regional adaptation of the basic concept of using indigenous materials to create grand buildings that offer rustic luxury and promote engagement with the outdoors.

At Hendricks Architecture, we specialize in designing western mountain style lodge homes that take some inspiration from the Adirondack style. Having grown up in the area and worked on some old Adirondack camps when I was a young carpenter, I have a deep appreciation for the style. I am fond enough of it that I have designed an Adirondack style cabin that I plan to build on my property here in Sandpoint, Idaho. Anyone who has been to both the Adirondacks and North Idaho will know how similar the two places are.  I think an Adirondack style lodge or cabin would be a great fit for the heavily forested lake country of the Idaho Panhandle. If you have an interest in an Adirondack style home or any other Arts and Crafts inspired mountain home style, we would love to talk to you about your plans.

Tom Russell, Architect, LEED AP

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