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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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