The Prairie Home
Native stone anchors this prairie home
By David Reese/Montana's Finest Homes
On a windswept prairie west of Calgary, stone from Montana sets the aesthetic of this custom 5,000-square-foot home.
Montana Rockworks provided the stone that architect Lyndon Steinmetz of Steinmetz Design used to design this family mansion with a prairie-home style. The homeowners had envisioned a home that felt transparent, like the wind on the Canadian prairie near the Elbow River.
Steinmetz carried this vision through every aspect of the home. "Overall the home looks and feels like I had imagined it," he said. "Working on this home allowed me to take myriad ideas and materials and mold them into a one of a kind design. It was very satisfying."
The house is designed with exterior stone pillars with glass infill. At the primary function areas of the home — living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom — Steinmetz placed the stone columns in from the corners to accommodate the placement of windows that wrap around the corners. That approach required the design to have cantilever beams reach out from the eave for roof support. "This gives a very dramatic affect and directs the eye to the view through corners as well as the face of the building," Steinmetz explained.
There were design challenges of building this home in a cold climate.
Weather was unusually cold over the winter months, at times stopping work on the steel structure. The deep frost level also required that they have a full basement under the entire house, both to get below frostline as well as to provide space for the mechanical equipment.
With the amount of tall, vertical glass the owners wanted in the home, Steinmetz had to get creative with the home's structural system.
He utilized a lot of steel, some of which was concealed in the structure and some that exposed when carried out over the entertainment terrace on the north and west side. Here he left the structure exposed and created a steel lattice supported by wide flange columns built around a curved steel beam with a 52-foot radius.
The terrace contains an outdoor kitchen, hot tub and fireplace with ample room for entertaining. Working with the slope on the south side of the house he curved the five-car garage into the slope, which helps to diminish the size of the garage. Adjacent to the garage is a two-story section of house that drops down from the main floor level to a bedroom wing and extends up to a fully glassed-in second floor entertainment area with 270 degree views.
Steinmetz did much of the design work remotely. He worked with the owner on the phone to get just the right orientation of the entry. "We would talk on the phone while he stood on the site with a tape and a compass until he got to just the right spot he wanted for the entry of the home," Steinmetz said. "He found the perfect place to enter and look out at a large glass wall that looks out to the prairie and mountains."
The rest of the house was then designed around this axis. The master bedroom to the east almost overhanging the bluff above the river is surrounded in a full glass wall and seems to hang in the air among the trees.
The home two under three years to design and built.
Part of the satisfaction for Steinmetz on this home was being creative with thousands of feet of Montana stone. "I love working with stone. It's been the original building material since we came out of the caves," he said. "And there is no shortage ever. But the biggest issue is always cost. It's in effect siding, but with a huge cost increase. So budgeting is always a challenge, so I try to use it where you get the most dramatic affect. This project was a dream in that no expense was spared with the stonework and the owner was open to using stone throughout.
"This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime projects with great clients." •
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