A Home on Whitefish River


Montana's Finest Homes

When you think of living on the water in Whitefish, you likely think of a home on Whitefish Lake, that long, narrow body of water that sits above the town.

For one family, living on the water came in a different form — just a few miles downstream from Whitefish Lake, on the Whitefish River. On a small knob that juts into a bend in the river sits this two-story timber-frame home. Built by Malmquist Construction, the 3,800-square foot home is rustic and refined, with abundant natural stone and arts and crafts accents. The home has an unassuming quality with a casual flair, and is not overstated in color or design. 

The grand fireplace was created in rough stone called “Mossy Mason’s Mix” from Montana Rockworks. The fireplace anchors one end of the home’s great room, while at the other end of this room is the open kitchen. Here, rock that matches the fireplace was used as accents in the kitchen, which also features chipped black granite counters and Venetian plaster walls. Windows from the kitchen look out over the meandering Whitefish River, and nature is brought inside with sweeping views. The appliances are panelized with alder, and a large maple butcher block anchors the center of the kitchen.

The home was a dream project for Rich Graves, senior design partner for Kibo Group Architecture. He worked closely with the clients, who were adept at visualizing what they wanted and were able to translate that to the architect and contractor. “That pushed us, and that collaborative effort was what made this project so successful,” Graves said.

The collaborative effort was a good example of give and take between the builder and the client. “They trusted all of us,” said Casey Malmquist, owner of Malmquist Construction.

Good planning was key to developing on this home site. After notching out a flat spot in the rolling terrain, they were able to situate the home with views upstream and downstream of the Whitefish River, with flat meadows between the home and the river. With the Arizona-based homeowners wanting to be able to add structures in the future, Graves and veteran Whitefish site planner Bruce Boody did a “master plan” of the site, with utilities being planned into the initial construction. Now, when the family wants to pursue the future phases of the home site — like a guesthouse that’s already in the works — everything is in place underground. “By doing it this way, the whole thing works,” Malmquist said. 

A garage that opens on one side toward the river allows the residents to pull their canoes and kayaks right from the river, into the garage. 

The land had its own set of requirements. By being situated on a knoll overlooking the river, the home was adapted to what the landscape dictated. With the help of Boody, a longtime Whitefish landscape architect, they didn’t force the house on the site. “We let the land dictate the plan,” Graves said. “When the home was finished, it looked like it had been there for years,” says Malmquist, who has a degree in environmental studies.

The home blends well into the native landscape, and that was no accident. Extreme care was taken when leveling the home site to preserve the natural character of the land. In fact, trees next to the house were given injections to help them through the stress of construction. The painters even matched the bark from the nearby Ponderosa Pine trees to the stain used on the board and batten siding. Rock from local rock supplier Montana Rockworks is used abundantly throughout the interior and exterior of the home. The rock helps the home blend seamlessly into the landscape, and once again the homeowners’ tastes are reflected here. “They knew exactly what they wanted in the stone,” Malmquist said. Walnut flooring adds to the warmth and charm of the main floor, but getting light into the center of the home was a challenge, Graves said, so he added clerestory windows with electric openers. 

Malmquist is an advocate of using the best architects and getting a solid set of plans long before any nails hit the wood. “The money you spend on design, you’ll recoup it during construction,” Malmquist said.

During construction, the homeowners lived in a nearby barn that was converted into comfortable guest quarters. All the while, they were able to enjoy the amenities of living on Whitefish River: canoeing, fishing, bird watching or just listening to the sounds of nature.

On the Web: www.kibogroup.com; www.malmquist.com

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