What does sound have to do with the design of a home? Architectural inspiration can come from unusual and surprising sources. Staying attuned to these elusive clues is at the heart of meaningful design. There is a family lodge in the Bitterroot Mountains of Western Montana that was designed around the sound of a creek cascading through a remote pine forest.
As I walked the remote forested property with the clients and took notice of the various views, tree locations, rock outcroppings, and sun access, the one constant that was unique to this site was the mesmerizing sound of cascading water as it flowed around boulders in its trek toward the Bitterroot river a few miles downstream. The sound was omnipresent and flowed at a frequency that instantly provided a calming effect.
The tranquility of this sound established the prime design determinant. We positioned the building and developed site access so that you could hear but not see the creek in order to heighten the sense of anticipation. The sight of the creek is not actually revealed until entering the building. From here we provided a variety of views that included the creek in the foreground as reference and a backdrop to the contiguous forest and mountains beyond.
Although I can’t capture the sound in the following images, you can see that we placed the major interior spaces as close to and parallel to the creek flow as the stability of the creek bank would allow. One side of the great room is located parallel to the flow with the main window wall positioned at an angle so that a long diagonal view provides sight lines continuing upstream.
Downstream from here, four-bedroom suites and the owner’s office are positioned to allow views and creek sounds from all spaces. A long narrow terrace parallel to the creek provides outdoor “rooms” and a transition from building to the creek. River rock, like the stones in our creek, was used for the masonry installed on portions of the exterior as well as the interior. This further reinforced the feeling of a creek and grounded the building to the elements of the site.
To supplement the creek sounds, interior design details were themed to express the creek idea, including a sculpted tile backsplash in the kitchen. This backsplash “flows” around the kitchen perimeter and is set above countertops of granite that reflect the color and grain flow of moving water. All the bedrooms have themes that evoke Montana’s iconic streams—trout, fly fishing equipment, wildlife, boulders, trees and mountains.