Magazine article Sunset

The New Ranch: It's Prefab and Fab, Modular and Modern, Eco- and Kid-Friendly. and This Montana Update of a 1950s Icon Makes the Most of Its Big Sky Views

Magazine article Sunset

The New Ranch: It's Prefab and Fab, Modular and Modern, Eco- and Kid-Friendly. and This Montana Update of a 1950s Icon Makes the Most of Its Big Sky Views

Article excerpt

HUGE EXPANSES OF GLASS. Exterior walls that roll up and virtually disappear. Almost 2,400 square feet of deck. The Moseley family's home in Montana's Ruby Valley is a Western design classic in the making. But truth be told, when Paul Moseley thought about the perfect house for himself, his wife, Jeanne, and their two children, he simply wanted a place he could "clean with a leaf blower."

That rugged-meets-sophisticated sensibility runs throughout this home, a reimagining of the ranch house made iconic by Western architect Cliff May (and this magazine) in the mid-20th century.

The Moseleys, who own fly-fishing resort Ruby Springs Lodge, had the house built a few years ago so they could spend summers and weekends on the 6,000-acre property. "The idea was to be close to the lodge without living there," says Jeanne. (The family's permanent residence is in Missoula, a few hours away.)

The couple picked a spot about a half-mile from the lodge, and started working with interior designer Stephanie Sandston of Greathouse Workroom in Bozeman. "We love this valley and wanted a place that would be playful, with great flow, but in no way fancy," says Jeanne. Sandston helped them come up with a design that capitalized on the landscape and was durable enough for the harsh Montana climate--not to mention the couple's son, Austin, 12, and daughter, Bennett, 9.

Because of the property's remoteness, transporting construction crews and materials to the site day after day would have taken a heavy financial--and environmental--toll. So the Moseleys chose a prefab approach, hiring designer E.J. Engler of Medicine Hat to build the house on vacant lots near his office in Gallatin Gateway and then truck it in four sections for quick assembly on the land.

"Minimizing our footprint--with a house made of four 'pods' narrow enough to fit on flatbed semi-trucks--really appealed to us," says Paul. One pod in the 1,880-square-foot home contains the master bedroom and bath; another, the kitchen and dining/living room; another, the children's bedrooms with a shared bathroom; and the fourth, a laundry room, pantry, and den.

On a site where you can see five mountain ranges and three weather patterns at once, Engler oriented each pod to capture the views. "At the end of the day, when the sky turns deep pink, and the Ruby Range glows purple," says Sandston, "it's what you want to be seeing, sitting there with a drink in your hand."

The dilemma with that exposure was the hammering heat of western rays. But Engler turned that liability into an inventive feature, using movable slatted screens of salvaged Douglas fir to filter the light. The living room's big west-facing screen opens like a canopy. Raised by a device made of tractor parts and hydraulic cylinders--a mechanism that Engler describes as "burly and effective"--it lets the owners fine-tune the shading angle. Outside the bedrooms, wood screens on barn-door sliders soften the sunshine as needed.

And the family's love of cooking and casual entertaining--crowds gather here regularly for barbecues--inspired the kitchen's glass-paned garage door that rolls up, encouraging activity to spill outdoors. "It's the kind of place where things happen comfortably at the same time," Jeanne says. "I can get coffee going and the kids might be having fun in the mud on a rainy day."

Sandston, who had experience with modular and prefab design as a longtime art director for movies, extended the house's inside-out possibilities by upholstering the furniture with outdoor fabric and adding industrial wheels to everything from the custom-designed sofas to the steel bathtub, a modified cattle trough. …

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