Log Home Living
It’s a crisp, clear day in Hamilton, Montana, and Matt Guzik is doing what he does every day: training for another race to raise funds for his favorite charity. Some people might say the general manager of Stock Farm, and exclusive gated community designed with a Western flair, is obsessed because he ran 13 marathons in 13 months for charities. Passionate is more accurate description for “Marathon Matt,” whose enthusiasm runs through all aspects of his life, including the Bitterroot Valley and his hybrid log home.
When Matt flew to Montana to interview at Stock Farm, he stepped into a clubhouse of hand-hewn logs, antler chandeliers, cowhide-covered lampshades and sawn-milled floors. It was the first time he’d ever been exposed to log construction. “All that warmth. Wow! It felt like home,” says Matt. At that moment, he knew he wanted the job, no matter what it paid.
He accepted Stock Farm’s offer, moved to Montana and built a house. Shortly after settling in, someone unexpectedly offered to buy the house for a price Matt couldn’t refuse. It was as if Matt had been in training; only this time instead of a marathon, he was going the distance for the perfect home.
Out on a Rim
Matt bought 2 1/2-acres in his old neighborhood, conveniently located 3 miles from work. With help from his training buddy, architect Jeremy Oury of KIBO Group in Missoula, Montana, Matt situated his home on the rim of a plateau overlooking the Bitterroot Valley. That let him take advantage of views of the scenic mountains, alfalfa fields and nearby trout pond. “The views are extremely important to me,” Matt explains.
Scheduling was also important. His goal was to move directly from one house to the other without a transition, so he needed a finished home quickly. By using many of the same contractors who built his first home, including log provider Rocky Mountain Log Homes and general contractor Kent Kearns of Kearns and Sons Building Contractors, the ambitions plan had a chance.
“Matt needed to get going in December,” Kent says. “That’s a hard time to build in Montana. Luckily, we had a little break in the weather and got the foundation in before it turned really cold.” Six months later, Matt moved in.
Best in Show
The conventionally framed home is sheathed in plywood and sided with rustic exterior log siding. Freestanding pillars and corner posts are custom log accents, and chinking adds authenticity. “It looks like a log home, but there isn’t a stacked log anywhere,” Jeremy says. “It’s a hybrid.”
Rocky Mountain Log Homes’ representative Max Coleman says that log siding is milled from standing dead lodgepole pines. “It’s no different than the rounded log product we produce. It’s very stable.”
Mat chose a hybrid home because it offers a good balance of wood, slate, textured walls and color. The design, like his first home, is Rocky Mountain Log Homes’ “Cottonwood” plan, modified to complement Matt’s active lifestyle and personal tastes. Enlarged windows enhance the views, an expanded kitchen provides added room for entertaining and a bonus room above the garage provides extra space at low cost.
“Building and decorating this home was kind of hard for a single guy,” Matt says. He’d go to the office and say, “Okay everyone, I have to make a decision.” Then, as a team, friends and co-workers helped pick colors, surfaces and other finishing touches. Still, Matt’s individuality burst through. It’s a fun house, with masculine accents and rich décor. In fact, it’s so spectacular, it won “Best in Show” in the 2002 Bitterroot Tour of Homes.
A Place for Friends
The open layout of Matt’s 3,200-square-foot home lends itself to entertaining and a frequent gathering spot for friends. Guests are drawn first to the great room where floor-to-ceiling windows let in views of the snowcapped Bitterroot Mountains and a wood-burning fireplace angles into the vaulted ceiling. A 1912 Harley Davidson motorcycle hangs from the rafters, adding a quirky touch. Texture dominates the great room and throughout the house. Look around and you’ll see circular-sawn fir flooring, leather and plush upholstered furnishings, manufactured stone masonry, smooth plaster walls and hand-peeled character logs.
For Matt, the fun part was picking out the logs and doors. “Can you imagine choosing?” he asks. “This one’s going to be in the living room, and this one in the dining room” He adds, “The logs are from trees that had been through a fire. There are some black marks, holes and knotting, but that makes them special.”
In the kitchen where guests often congregate, gnarly knots and scars, called “cat faces,” contrast with the smooth slate countertops. Matt says friend often help with dinner preparations. Ten or more cooks can easily pitch in around the kitchen island and counter space. When they aren’t chopping or dicing, guest relax with a glass of wine from the sine cellar and bask in the warmth of the fir floors, alder cabinets and pine logs.
When dinner’s ready, friends adjourn to the dining room where the walls are finished in a warm, reddish Italian plaster coated with wax to create a marbled look. This texturing technique, called Marmorino, requires several coats of plaster and many hours of waxing and polishing to achieve its translucent effect. A warm glow emanates from the unique chandelier crafted from antlers and the steering wheel from a 1937 Plymouth. There oversized windows frame the view, and French doors spill out onto the deck where Matt and his friends toast the sunset. For the deck, Matt chose ipe, a dense South American wood known for its resistance to insects and decay. It also doesn’t require preservatives or sealants, and when left unstained, its rich red color weathers naturally to a soft silver-gray.
Ipe, which rhymes with eBay, is also affordable. “Ipe is so dense and strong you can use 1-by6 boards for a deck,” Kent says. “That brings the price down and makes it very comparable to synthetics.”
During quieter moments, Matt retreats to his private mater bedroom suite accented by rustic furnishings and bar-red walls. Wood floors, Russian pine doors and character logs create a warm haven. After a strenuous bike ride or run, he soaks in his 7-foot-long claw-foot tub, or when Montana’s harsh winters settle in, he relaxes in the combination steam and water shower.
When school’s not in session, Matt’s son and daughter visit. His kids chose their own themes for the upstairs bedrooms. Western cowboy paintings, sheriff badges and a sleigh bed complete his son’s lair, while his daughter selected custom willow furniture that resembles a thicket of small trees growing in her bedroom. A green leaf-patterned bedspread completes the effect. Following in her father’s footsteps, she displays photos of her own track events.
The office, also upstairs, is “kind of a guy’s area,” according to Matt. It’s an eclectic mix: a computer set up on an antique table from Mexico, a comfortable leather reading chair and a footstool, and he first whitetail deer Matt shot is on display next to his first elk hide.
A separate stairway leads to a combination fitness and entertainment room above the garage, “In the past I had my big-screen TV as a primary piece of art downstairs,” Matt deadpans. More impressive than that TV and exercise equipment, however, are the medals, ribbons and memorabilia collected from marathons and triathlons. In the 2003 Hawaii Ironman, perhaps the most grueling endurance test of all, Matt raised $255,000 for the Great Ravalli Foundation, which contributes to local school programs. Matt and the community have developed a symbiotic relationship; he’s having fun and they’re receiving a financial windfall. “There are days you want to quit, but there charities depend on you, so it’s easier to stay motivated.”
Matt’s enthusiasm for his friends, community and log home burns brightly. “I would find it extremely difficult to go back to a regular framed home because of the feeling I get from this house,” he says, “Everyone has a happy place to go to. This is my happy place.”
Marmorino – a smooth hand-trowled plaster from Italy’s decorative past – creates a marbled look that blends well with logs, wood and antiques.
“You can’t achieve the same look with paint,” says Scott Landis of Landis Painting in Victor, Montana, who created the deep red texture on Matt Guzik’s dining room walls. “Paint is designed by nature to be opaque. This is more translucent.”
Italian plasters vary in texture and sheen. To produce Marmorino, which means “little marble” in Italian, crushed marble is mixed with lime. The multi-layer process begins with a scratch coat that creates and adhering surface for the next few layers. Scott then applies three colors, blending and smoothing them with a stainless steal trowel to achieve the desired depth, design and shade. He follows with a coat of carnauba wax that polishes the walls to a high gloss that feel like smooth stone to the touch yet maintain Marmorino’s distinctive textured appearance.
Square footage: 3,200
Package price: $128,450
Architect: KIBO Group Architecture PC
General contractor: Kearns & Sons Building Contractors
Log producer/designer: Rocky Mountain Log Homes
Story by Candace Allen
Photos by Roger Wade