Landmark Builders creates a French Country home in Bigfork, Montana

Landmark Builders creates a French Country home from Montana Living


By David Reese, Montana's Finest Homes
Paris France is a long way from Montana.

But on a small lake near Bigfork, a bit of France has come home. Here, Landmark Builders has built a spectacular French country home overlooking a small lake, where the Swan Mountains form the backdrop to this pristine, quiet setting just 10 minutes from Bigfork.

For Landmark Builders owner Orlan Sorensen, creating this unique home gave his company a chance to create something entirely out of the ordinary for northwest Montana. The home is full of custom touches, from custom doors, to custom cabinetry in the kitchen, to a marble fireplace in the dining room. A spectacular water fountain in the front yard adds to the European feel of this home.

Having never done a home in French country architecture, Landmark Builders thoroughly researched this style of French architecture and came up with a plan that the owners loved. Building the home gave Sorensen and his team at Landmark Builders a chance to flex their creative muscles. “We have done different types of homes, from arts and crafts, to timber frame and log, but we had never done a French country home before,” Sorensen said.

Never doing the same house twice means each home has its own unique, custom touches. “We really invent the wheel a lot of times and do most of the construction work right on site,” Sorensen said. In the kitchen you see a grand example of the craftsmanship in this home. Cornerstone Cabinetry in Kalispell designed and built the kitchen masterpiece, which features oak with carved onlay details. Distressed aging and shadow accenting on the buttercream finish gave the cabinets an authentic, European feel.

The center island and range area were made from maple. and the kitchen was designed around two main pieces of furniture: two, 200-year-old antique cabinets from northern France. A dining area off the kitchen overlooks the lake, which unfolds with continual drama of nature and wildlife.

Cornerstone Cabinetry created the cabinets not just for the kitchen, but for 10 rooms in the home. As examples of their varied design ideas, Cornerstone Cabinetry created several different looks throughout the home. The downstairs wet bar was made with quarter-sawn oak, and a French blue cabinet made of knotty alder serves the laundry room. The wine room was built with knotty alder and featured stick construction.

The homeowners were helpful in coming up with the different design ideas. “It was extremely custom,” said Kevin Kelleher, a designer at Cornerstone Cabinetry. “The owner put a lot of thought into it. It was nice working with someone who envisioned what they wanted, and we were able to work with them to make it happen. It was a very unique project. It was fun to be a part of.” It was a trip to France that captured the homeowner’s imagination to create their home in French country style.

“After Europe, I knew what I wanted,” one of the homeowners said. Accenting the home’s style was the use of custom doors from Swan River Door. Using its team of craftsmen at its Bigfork shop, Swan River Door created all of the arched exterior and interior doors using woods like oak and fir. The home was another example of craftsmanship of Swan River Door, a 10-year old Bigfork business that specializes in high-end custom doors. Sorensen, at Landmark Builders, said the homeowners’ eagerness was a breath of fresh air throughout the process. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a client who has come to me with so many thoughts and dreams of what they wanted,” he said.

From the interior to the exterior, the home is a display of craftsmanship. The home was the 2004 winner of the Flathead Building Association’s Parade of Homes. The setting where the house was built is an idyllic place. But it was the community of Bigfork that really drew the couple to the area. “What sold us on the area are the people,” one homeowner said. “We were looking for a place to call home. There’s a true sense of community here.”

The biggest challenge, Sorensen said, was to do something different. “This was not quite the normal house around here,” he said. “It was a good experience researching into the architecture and delving into French architecture. We learned how they lived, and what really meant French architecture.”

This learning process has inspired Sorensen throughout his career as a builder, which began decades ago as a drafting student at Montana State University. He began drawing floor plans in the seventh grade, and his father and grandfather were also builders. He combined his love of architecture with his passion for business. “I really enjoy meeting new clients, getting new ideas, because it’s a constant learning process,” he said. “Everybody has something new. When you build a home, you have to understand that it’s a business, and I get to do both. It’s the best of both worlds.” •

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