Pot of Gold

In terms of style and materials, this was as big a departure for me as a builder as it was in looks for the area.

October 01, 2002


The homeÆs European style necessitated the use of exterior finish materials seldom used in northwestern Montana, says builder Greg Tipps. "True stucco is very rare here because the freezing temperatures tend to cause tiny hairline cracks." Nothing was done to mitigate this, says Tipps, because the owners loved the aged character it added.


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The style of this 2,899-square-foot custom home in northwestern Montana was inspired by the homeowners' treasured memories of their trips to Ireland and the simple beauty of the cottages they saw there.

With its true stucco exterior, clay tile roof and wrought-iron accents, the elegant secondary home is clearly a departure from the more rustic architecture of the homes typically built in this rugged, picturesque area.

Still, with its straightforward exterior design, muted color palette and gravel access drive, it blends beautifully into its 7-acre site overlooking Flathead Lake near Bigfork, Mont.

"In terms of style and materials, this was as big a departure for me as a builder as it was in looks for the area," builder Greg Tipps says. "But I think it's great when people are willing to do something different. I loved working on this house. I believe you'll never learn anything unless you're willing to try something new."


"Home buyers in the empty-nester market know what they want and are looking for a home that meets their unique needs. The architect and builder who can work within these parameters will have found a lasting niche." Anne Olson, Olson Architecture Inc.

Tipps eagerly accepted the challenge of building the home even though it meant educating himself about materials he had never used for residential construction in his market. These included the true stucco exterior, thin-coat plaster inside, cast-stone detailing and mahogany decking.

Tipps also had to find subcontractors willing to learn something new. "The style worried some people who were unfamiliar with the materials and the techniques required for using them," he says. But everyone came away with valuable knowledge. "I had never used tinted plaster as an interior finish before this project," says Tipps, "and now I'm convinced it is the only way to go."

While the home does feature plenty of outdoor space, including a balcony off the master suite, a deck off the main-floor dining room and a lower-level terrace, this type of entertaining space was not a priority for the homeowners, says Tipps. "They really seem to prefer being out on the land." The property includes apricot and cherry orchards, natural forest and a beauti-ful lakefront.

The home's walk-out lower level includes a study, recreation room, guest room and wine cellar.


Tinted, thin-coat plaster adds a continental elegance to the formal dining room. Tipps used 2x6 construction rather than more conventional 2x4 construction for the interior walls. The plaster then was "wrapped" all the way up to the windows. The 6x6-foot fireplace features full masonry construction with a precast stone mantel and surround. The barrel-vaulted ceiling rises to 22 feet in this part of the house.

Style of Home - European

Location - Bigfork, Mont.

Total Square Footage - 2,899

Market Value - $5 million (including land)

Builder - Greg Tipps Construction, Ronan, Mont.

Architect - Olson Architecture Inc., Niwot, Colo.

Custom Clien - Second home for empty-nester couple

Major Products Used - Appliances: GE - Cabinetry: custom alder - Doors: Western Door Co. - Fireplaces: masonry - Flooring: travertine - Windows: Weather Shield - Exterior Finish: stucco - Roofing: Monier

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