Tricia Vita

First published in Country's Best Log Homes, September 2005

Copyright 1997-2009
Tricia Vita
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A Natural Beauty

Montana’s Stillwater Valley is an outdoorsman’s paradise. The Stillwater River, which is anything but still in this south-central part of the state, draws fly fishermen, kayakers and whitewater rafters. The river flows between the Absaroka Range and Beartooth Mountains, through Custer National Forest, where miles of trails attract hikers and horseback-riders. Elk and deer abound. Only a lucky few homo sapiens call this pristine wilderness area their home.

Among them are the owners of a spectacular log home nestled in a canyon a few miles south of the old gold mining town of Nye. “It’s a beautiful spot on the Stillwater River. The way the crow flies, it’s not that far from Yellowstone Park,” says Missoula-based Ted Patterson, regional sales manager for Real Log Homes, which custom-designed and supplied the logs for this Western red cedar home which has a natural beauty all its own.

After living in California for many years, the owners decided to retire in this area where they vacationed and the husband had grown up. They were fortunate to find an ideal site—40 acres with river frontage. Real Log Homes’ design team worked closely with the couple to create a custom floor plan. Everything from photos that caught their fancy in log home magazines to check lists of their wants and needs entered the mix. The result is a 3,500-square-foot, two-level home with lots of open living space and three bedrooms, including a master bedroom on the first floor adjacent to the river.

Since the homeowners wanted to maximize their view of the canyon, a prow front with a dramatic expanse of glass became the focal point of the home’s custom design. “As you walk out into the great room, the walls of glass allow you to catch a little more of the view from the sides,” says Patterson. “You can also hear the roaring of the river, which is just a stone’s throw from the home,” he adds.

One factor that influenced the couple’s choice of Real Log Homes was the company’s patented joinery system “It seals in between the logs, but also accommodates the settling and compression,” Patterson explains. “With our pre-cut system, the log part of it goes up quite quickly, because the builder doesn’t have to do a bunch of cutting onsite.”

According to the home’s builder, Bill Sielinsky of Sielinsky Construction Company, who has completed more than 20 Real Log Homes, the triple seal system has meant he’s never had to chink a home. “In fact we’ve had the blower door tests for energy efficiency and they’ve never found any air leaks on the logs or around the doors and windows, so they seal real well,” Sielinsky says.

The roof system includes naturally contoured full-log rafters pre-cut to length and roof pitch, as well as full-log joists for the floors. “There’s probably a half-dozen different ways to structurally build a roof and this is a real popular one if folks want exposed beams,” says Patterson.

The home is built of Western red cedar that comes out of the Pacific Northwest and was milled at Real Log Homes’ facility in Montana. “It’s what we call our 8-inch contour log,” says Patterson, who notes that cedar makes an excellent wall log because it’s easy to work and generally lightweight.

The fact that the company, which is based in Vermont, has a facility in Montana was also an advantage from the owners’ point of view. The representative introduced them to Sielinsky, a local builder whose experience and proximity made them feel at ease. The top-notch quality of his work pleased the couple so much that the wife, whose father had been a master carpenter, complimented him by saying she never dreamed she’d live to see such craftsmanship on a home to eqaul what her dad did.

Throughout the home, the rich hue of the cedar is complemented by burled lodgepole pine from West Yellowstone and local river rock. “We didn’t supply the burl wood, which was actually something the owner had collected before we started construction,” says Patterson. “He replaced some of the support posts with this burl wood just to give the home a more rustic, unique look.”

When it came time to install the burl posts, the homeowners enlisted Sielinsky’s help. “The living room has two big burl logs that separate it as you walk in, with the river rock coming up about four feet on each side,” says Sielinsky. “Since there are a lot of round boulders in the creek, the owner thought that would blend in with the natural environment.” River rock was also used to build a retaining wall.

A second-story loft with burl railing and posts call to mind the century-old “crow’s nest” at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. The loft, which overlooks the great room, also has the airiness of a tree house, thanks in part to an extensive skylight system. “The skylights are on the south side of the home to take advantage of some passive solar,” Patterson notes.

To read the rest of this article see the September 2005 issue of Country's Best Log Homes or email me

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