Terra Homes creates a modern modular home June 28, 2011
BY DAVE REESE
Mention the words "modular home" in custom-home circles and you're likely to be laughed at. But Sigi Malinowski, a German designer, artist and builder, sees things a different way. Malinowski, owner of Terra Homes, designs and builds custom homes with the ease and convenience of modular homes. His designs revolve around tall, sweeping Gothic arches, curves that blend graceful with the Montana landscape. He started Terra Homes eight years ago, and has completed projects in Bigfork, Kalispell and Missoula. His arches are built out of laminated plywood, with studs four feet on center - a design element that allows him to create curves and rounded corners. The curves and free-flowing interiors are something not often seen in traditional Montana construction - something that created a bit of a challenge when looking for framers and carpenters. When he first started his company Malinowski had a hard time finding contractors who could work with the rounded frames. "You don't find a good carpenter who can deal with that easily," he said. "If you can, they really like it." Malinowski doesn't use traditional framing but instead uses a product called "Ecrete," an airblock framing system that can be literally carved to the design of the home. This system costs about five percent more than traditional framing, but it allows for considerable savings in energy costs and makes for a well-insulated, sound-tight home, Malinowski said. "It's amazing what kind of sound is in them." "It's a new idea," Malinowski admits. "It needs a little proving time, but I think that time is over." Now that he's built about 10 of them, "People are getting very interested in them." His goal in designing Terra homes was to move away from traditional roof lines to a home that looked appealing on the Montana landscape. "It's a good combination of curves and straight forms," Malinowski said.
TERRA HOME CUSTOMERS can purchase only the finished trusses or the entire house. In Malinowski's designs, all of the dormers are curved and you don't see any exposed beams. "It's very clean, it's very much a floating energy," Malinowski said. Most of his homes are around 3,200 to 4,500 square feet, though he's built a 1,400 square-foot studio and 800 square-foot cabins. Malinowski has 60 floor plans that clients can choose from. Most people just use them as guidelines and take off from there, adapting their own styles and uses in the final design. Such was the case for Jeff Krein and Gayle Parkhill-Krein, an Ohio couple that purchased a partially completed Terra home near Bigfork.
For Gayle Parkhill-Krein, the home represented a new beginning. The family had toyed with idea of creating a vacation home in Montana, but it became more urgent when Gayle was diagnosed with cancer. "This became a priority," she said. "We especially wanted to take advantage of a vacation home while we had our two boys who liked being outside." The family wanted to find a place while was still in good health and their boys were at an age could view it with a "sense of wonder," Gayle said. They found it in the Terra home. With the help of Kalispell interior designer Colleen Anderson, the Krein family began putting together a scrapbook of all the things that were important in the interior design. They added a river rock fireplace and other special touches, then set about to work on the exterior, heating and landscaping. Her husband had put an offer on it before she saw the home, but she quickly became enamored with it once she visited the home. It sits on a bluff in the Many Lakes area north of Bigfork, at the base of the tall, forested Swan Mountains. Gayle noticed right away that there were no closets in the downstairs bathroom - typical, she said, of what a guy would look for in a house. She put her feminine touch to the home. "We had a really great sound system but nowhere to put clothes," she said. "There was a lot of love required to turn it into a home, but by the minute I stepped inside the house, I could tell it had a lot of potential." After their first meeting with Anderson, owner of C.M. Anderson Design, Gayle and Colleen quickly came to a meeting of the minds that they didn't want to decorate it in a traditional log home style. Now, looking back at the blank canvas they were given to work with, Gayle says their design was exactly what they'd intended. The unique design of the home allowed them to turn it into "one big fun house," Gayle said. "Colleen and I had a riot working together." Jeff Krein saw the potential right away in the unfinished home. "A lot of the appeal in the house is Sigi's (Malinowski's) artistry," he said. "The uniqueness is still very evident."
On the Web: www.ccterrahomes.com
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