Outdoor Living Spaces for Mountain Homes

Written June 14, 2012 by Hendricks Architecture: Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP • Filed Under Architecture, Mountain Architecture

Throughout its evolution, Mountain Architecture has held true to the basic idea that spending time outdoors is an essential part of quality living.  One of the primary goals we strive for in designing mountain homes is to create a strong connection between the built environment and the natural landscape.  In the ideal, a quality home should provide a sanctuary from the elements when necessary, and at the same time be able to open to the outdoors when conditions allow.  Inhabitants should feel like they are a part of the surrounding environment, not isolated from it.

Mountain Home Outdoor Living: Decks, patios, bar, fire pits and spa

A well designed home for mountain living should be hewn from the materials at hand, harmonize with the landscape, and offer the inhabitants quality spaces both indoors and out.  Depending on the local climate, covered and uncovered outdoor spaces can be mixed to provide a variety of options for relaxing, entertaining, eating or watching the sunset.  In moderate climates, outdoor living rooms and kitchens can provide all the conveniences of modern life without the constraints of walls and windows.  Recent trends show that homeowners place a high value on quality outdoor spaces.

Trellis over Outdoor Living Space

In just about any climate, covered outdoor space is a virtual necessity.  It opens up the option to be outside when the weather isn’t great, offers a shaded place to relax on a hot sunny day, and also allows for a storage space that can be utilized year round.  In many mountain and lake environments, bugs can be a deterrent to otherwise hearty lovers of the outdoors, especially in the evening.  We have been designing a lot of homes with screen porches lately, including one that utilizes Phantom screens, an innovative system that rolls up and out of sight when it’s not needed.  I’m particularly fond of a hallmark of old Adirondack camps – the screened sleeping porch.  These seem to have lost popularity in modern times, perhaps due to the widespread use of air conditioning.

Screened Porch

Porches, patios, and decks are another common feature in the mountain and lakefront homes we design.  When the weather is good, nothing beats sitting outside reading or having a nice meal.  If a home site has good views and it works with the design, we often add upper level decks or balconies to offer the occupants a place to get off the ground and enjoy an enhanced view of their world. We typically include a covered front porch as well, which offers a venue to engage with visitors and should be considered as an important social element of any home.

A Small Covered Front Porch with Mountain and Lake Views

Many of our clients want outdoor spas or hot tubs, and a deck or patio is the ideal spot to relax and have a nice soak. Some might be deterred by the thought of heading outside on a cold winter’s night to get wet, but for those willing to brave a little discomfort it can be a rewarding experience.  For homes in places that have significant winter precipitation, I recommend locating a hot tub under cover but open to the outdoors.  You will get a lot more use out of it during unpleasant weather, and if you put a clear roof over it or keep the roof high, it still feels like you are out in the open.  My opinion was validated this winter when I watched numerous hot tubs become hopelessly buried under Schweitzer’s record snows.

Covered Patio Spa and Bar

We, like most residents of mountain resort towns in the West, live here because we enjoy being outside and connecting with the natural world.  An important element in the quality of life we enjoy is the proximity to incredible outdoor environments, often right out the back door.  In acknowledgement of this, we strive to create beautiful, sturdy homes that allow the inhabitants to live comfortably indoors or out regardless of the season.

Tom Russell, Architect


Bridge to Stone Deck

Hendricks Architecture specializes in the design of timber mountain style homes and cabins.  Most of the homes we’ve completed are in mountain resort areas throughout the West, and have been featured in Timber Home Living, Mountain Living, Cowboys & Indians, Cabin Life and other publications. If you are interested in a mountain home, or you have any other inquiries, please contact us.

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Adirondack Style Architecture

Written November 23, 2011 by Hendricks Architecture: Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP • Filed Under Mountain Architecture

The Adirondack Style has had a strong influence on much of the Mountain Architecture we enjoy today.  When I was growing up in the Adirondacks, I knew very little about the rich history of the area.  Now, traveling back there as an architect with a lot more knowledge of the natural and built environment, I am able to really appreciate a lot of the things that I hardly noticed when I was younger. One of the things I enjoy the most is checking out the Adirondack style camps that have become iconic symbols of the region, especially the ones that are built along the shores of the numerous lakes.  My favorite place to go to learn about Adirondack history is the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York.

Adirondack Museum

Until the late 1800’s, most of the Adirondacks were a rugged wilderness that few dared to venture into. As transportation routes slowly became established later in the 19th century, wealthy city dwellers started taking extended vacations there to recreate and escape from unhealthy urban environments. Early Adirondack accommodations were primitive at best, and as the demand increased more civilized shelters started appearing. The remoteness of the Adirondacks necessitated the use of indigenous materials for building, and abundant supplies of timber and stone made them the obvious choice. Sawmills and sophisticated fasteners were rare, so whole or half logs in easy to handle sizes and creative joinery became a part of the building process out of necessity.

Early Adirondack Cabin

As railroads started to penetrate the Adirondacks, many of the wealthiest industrialists of the time sought refuge in the clean air, numerous lakes and beautiful scenery of the area. They built grand lake lodges to house themselves and their guests, often as small campuses with separate outbuildings for sleeping or utility purposes. These so called “great camps” were built in a similar style using local materials and craftsman, and many of them are still standing and in service today.

Camp Pine Knot, the first of the Adirondack "Great Camps"

William West Durant, son of railroad magnate Thomas Durant, is often credited with developing the Adirondack style, though some of the signature elements of the style had been used for some time in early Adirondack buildings. Here is an excellent short PBS video on Adirondack Great Camps.

The great camps exemplify the Adirondack style, which has influences from the Arts & Crafts movement, the Shingle style, and Swiss chalets. Rustic elegance is the hallmark of the style, achieved through artful use of native materials left as close to their natural state as possible. Common exterior elements include unpeeled cedar log siding and railings, square pane divided light windows, indigenous stone, intricate twig work, and ornate gable decoration.  The cedar log railing below was built by RP Ledger Construction of Lake Placid, NY.

Adirondack Railing

Adirondack Deck

Highlights of interiors include granite boulder fireplaces, birch bark wallpaper, fir bead board for wainscot and ceilings, and furniture crafted from small diameter unpeeled logs, bark and rough edged boards.  Bedroom below by RP Ledger Construction.

Adirondack Bedroom

Adirondack Kitchen

Another common characteristic of the Adirondack style is buildings that harmonize with their surroundings. When the early great camps were constructed, large earth moving equipment was not available, and the rugged landscape forced the buildings to fit the land. The use of natural materials and earth tone colors helps to make true Adirondack style buildings appear to be part of the landscape, and the focus on recreation and outdoor living emphasize a connection to nature.

In classic Adirondack style, this grand lake home (photo below, also by RP Ledger Construction) is unassumingly tucked back into the forest. Unpeeled Eastern White Cedar railings and rustic timbers grace the exterior of this  Adirondack lodge home.

Adirondack Lodge Home

No Adirondack camp is complete without a covered deck, and screened “sleeping porches” are common for warm weather use.

Adirondack Sleeping Porch

The Adirondack style is not strictly an east coast vernacular. Adirondack style homes and furniture can be found in many of the mountainous areas of the country. The Adirondack chair has become a fixture on cabin porches and docks all across America. Perhaps the most visible adaption of Adirondack style can be seen in some of the National Park lodges in the western United States. The Old Faithful Inn, Glacier Park Lodge, and The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite are among those with influences from the Adirondack style.

Old Faithful Inn Exterior Detail

So called “Parkitecture” is a regional adaptation of the basic concept of using indigenous materials to create grand buildings that offer rustic luxury and promote engagement with the outdoors.

At Hendricks Architecture, we specialize in designing western mountain style lodge homes that take some inspiration from the Adirondack style. Having grown up in the area and worked on some old Adirondack camps when I was a young carpenter, I have a deep appreciation for the style. I am fond enough of it that I have designed an Adirondack style cabin that I plan to build on my property here in Sandpoint, Idaho. Anyone who has been to both the Adirondacks and North Idaho will know how similar the two places are.  I think an Adirondack style lodge or cabin would be a great fit for the heavily forested lake country of the Idaho Panhandle. If you have an interest in an Adirondack style home or any other Arts and Crafts inspired mountain home style, we would love to talk to you about your plans.

Tom Russell, Architect, LEED AP

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Origins of Mountain Architecture in America

Written May 7, 2009 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Architecture, Mountain Architecture

At Hendricks Architecture, we specialize in designing luxury mountain style homes and cabins.  While it is not the only type of work we design, most of the homes we’ve completed are in mountain resort areas, and most of our clients are looking for mountain style homes, often fairly rustic.  Mountain Architecture is a broad term used to describe this rustic style of building, and can be found throughout the western United States and Canada, and in some of the mountainous areas of New York, New England,  and the Southeast.  For a detailed description of the current style, see Mountain Architecture.

1830's Pioneer Cabin in Pine Mountain, Georgia
1830’s Pioneer Cabin, Pine Mountain, Georgia

The origins of mountain architecture in America came from the earliest non native peoples who chose to venture into the untamed mountainous areas of the country.  The structures they built were a direct response to the environment they were in.  They had to be made from native materials because transportation means were primitive, and they had to be robust to withstand harsh weather and deep snow.  Often the homes were adapted, pragmatic derivatives of homes they had seen or experienced in old Europe or the cities of the Eastern United States.  Civilization was slow in coming to the mountains, and early buildings reflected this.  Unmilled logs, rough timbers, and natural stone were the norm, and the rustic beauty of these materials became a part of the style.

Pioneer Cabin in the Appalachian Mountains
Pioneer Cabin in the Appalachian Mountains

One precedent for the mountain architecture we see today began during the industrial revolution in the late 1800’s.  In the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, wealthy, educated city dwellers would retreat from the crowded eastern seaboard cities to grand “Great Camps” that were being developed around the numerous lakes in this rugged, untamed wilderness.  This early version of “adventure travel” fueled a boom of construction, and grand waterfront lodges that were both lavish and rustic were built on most of the major lakes in the region.


Adirondack Boat House, Upper St. Regis Lake

The camps of the Adirondacks were constructed of native stone and logs or rough hewn boards, often with the bark still on them.  Ornate stick-work railings, siding, and furniture were hallmarks of the style, as was creating the appearance of “roughing it” while living quite comfortably in a rugged setting.  Adirondack rustic is a distinctive regional style that has endured and is still popular today.

Adirondack Lodge, Heart Lake, New York

Adirondack Lodge, Heart Lake, New York

Other notable examples of early mountain style architecture can be found in some of the National Parks in the western US.  Before automobiles were popular, people would travel by train to visit the national parks of the west, and grand lodges were developed to house the numerous visitors.  Iconic buildings like the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, The Glacier Park Lodge in Montana, The Crater Lake Lodge in Oregon, and the Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier were pioneering examples of the mountain style on a grand scale.

Glacier Park Lodge, Montana

Glacier Park Lodge, Montana

The Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite National Park is a great example of how rustic charm and refined elegance can be brought together and designed to harmonize with its surroundings.

Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite

Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite

Modern mountain style homes borrow from many different architectural styles.  Depending on the Architect, there may be elements of Craftsman/Arts and Crafts, Shingle, Bungalow, Chalet, Prairie, and even early Japanese style in the design.  Agrarian building elements like pointed gables, rusted corrugated metal cladding, and wood plank doors are also common in some areas. Regional variations to the mountain style have evolved, often in response to climatic conditions in a particular area.   Styles in the mountain west include Colorado Territorial, Montana Ranch, Southwestern, and Pacific Northwest.  We have designed homes that borrow from all these styles, depending on where they are located and client preference.

Craftsman Style - The Gable House in Pasadena

Craftsman Style - The Gamble House in Pasadena

The unique appeal of well designed mountain style homes comes from purposeful use of natural materials, a connection with the outdoors, the appearance of having “grown from the site”, and a strong sense of shelter from the elements.  Since people first ventured out of the cities to recreate or live in the mountains, they have found creative ways of using native materials to create buildings that combine the romance of a frontier homestead with the comfort and conveniences of modern life.  That is the essence of mountain architecture.

Grand Canyon Ranger Station

Grand Canyon Ranger Station

For those interested in a more comprehensive history of mountain architecture, an excellent source is Tom Deering’s Masters Thesis from the University of Washington archives.  Tom Deering is currently practicing architecture in the Seattle area.

See also recent mountain architecture photos and renderings.  If you are interested in having us design you a mountain home, or you have any other inquiries, please contact us.

John Hendricks, Architect AIA

Hendricks Architecture, Idaho mountain architects.


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John Hendricks, AIA Architect • Architecture, Planning, Construction Management
418 Pine St, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864 • T 208.265.4001 F 208-265-4009 • john@hendricksarch.com

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