The new Montana style in home design

New styles evolving in Montana design

By David Reese/Montana Living

It's happening in Montana architecture and design.
As more people move to Montana from urban areas around the country - or from around the world, for that matter - they're bringing their tastes with them. It's showing up in more contemporary design, the kind you'd find in Los Angeles or Seattle.

Bozeman architect Van Bryan sees the changes every day. As the owner of Van Bryan Studios, a "boutique" architecture firm that specializes in close, personal attention to the client, Bryan doesn't have to push contemporary design. His clients bring it to him. "We're getting more clients who are moving outside the box," Bryan said. "They're wanting to be a little more expressive and independent of what's out there."
People are bringing their attitudes (for design) from other states with them. There's a wider bandwidth of people coming here that don't necessarily want the typical look." "It's an exciting time to be working in the state." Van Bryan Studios has been practicing in Bozeman since 1988. It's a small firm of two architects and five associates that specialize in custom residential design for absentee clients. When Naples, Fla., resident Peter Mendolson built a home in Montana, he and his architect came up with a concept that is unlike any other home you've seen in the state - yet.
The 6,000-square foot home, in South Cottonwood Canyon near Bozeman, is built entirely out of concrete, with floor-to-ceiling windows in almost every direction. Like most people moving to Montana, Mendelson's idea for a home centered around something a bit more traditional. "I was going to build a log cabin," Mendelson said. But his architect, Peter Berman, urged him to create something a bit more unique. "He talked me into it," Mendelson said. 
Mendelson's four-bedroom, four-bath residence was built by Bozeman contractor Bill Roller and finished in 2001. It took nearly four years to complete because of the amount of custom work involved. "Everything in the house had to be hand-made," says Mendelson, noting that all of the concrete forms for the house were created and poured onsite. When you approach the home, all you see is the upper level. But after crossing a small bridge into the foyer, you step into another world of glass and concrete. "It's almost like an art gallery," Mendelson said. "It's hard to tell where the outside of the house begins and the inside ends. You can literally look through the house in every direction." Even in his hometown of Naples, Fla., Berman doesn't see homes quite like the one he created in Montana. "There are not a lot of homes like this," he said.
The nature of architecture of being something that's reflective of a society's tastes should help re-define Montana style. "If you listen to what the client is saying, then not all the projects will look the same," Van Bryan says. "We're helping people achieve their vision of Montana."
With people like Mendelson bringing new ideas into Montana - and the architects and designers available to back them up - Montana's design and architecture will continue to evolve.
Move over, rock and log. Step aside Victorian and Queen Anne. The new Montana is here.


This article appeared in the summer 2006 issue of Montana Living

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