“In designing, building, and remodeling houses, I strive to use natural materials in modern and creative ways.” says Jacob Bell, owner of the construction company Jake Built LLC. The tag line on his business card is “building artist,” which is evident in his own home that he and his wife built over the last six years.
Their mountain-modern style home, nestled on the edge of Glacier National Park in Montana, has a serene warmth that ties together natural elements with a hand-crafted motif. From the mahogany acid-washed concrete countertops in the kitchen, to the travertine and marble master bath, to the rock slab shelves gathered from their own back yard, Jacob and Jaime’s home is both artistic and highly functional.
Mountain Modern Home Tour
The Bell home is lofted atop a spacious three car garage with Garn gasification wood boiler and work-shop. The second story is an open floor plan, and at the heart of the home is the circular kitchen. Because it is placed in the middle and almost completely open with only cabinets below, they can interact with guests and keep an eye on their son, Sam, from the entryway through the dining room to Sam’s room and even the living room.
Across from the kitchen is a full bathroom with distinctive tile design – an undulating flow of colored glass and travertine. Following around the outside of the kitchen is a coffee bar on the left, followed by a wine nook built of concrete, slate, and stone slab then a pantry tucked in the back corner.
A pyramid of windows grace the south side of the home and jutting from that wall a large window seat lavishly stocked with overstuffed pillows and a continuation of the slate design but in a vertical flow.
Continuing through, you come to the open living room – the focal point being a slate ledger wall with embedded arching book shelves on both sides of an arched candelabra fireplace and log mantle. Then you follow a curved wall around to Sam’s room, hand textured and sponge painted with the color theme of buttercup and spring green, with a sky-blue ceiling and chunky white window frames and crown molding.
Finally, you circle back around to the dining room, which juts out the front of the gine – encased with four sets of sliding glass doors and a lovely, timber framed hip-roof.
The same round curve in the kitchen can be found echoed throughout their home in the nooks, curved ceilings, walls, tile designs, and even the staircase which sweeps up from the kitchen to the master bedroom in a cantilevered semicircle of halved logs wrapped by a steel band with copper patina.
The master bedroom reverberates the curved motif with a barrel dormer, arch top window above the bed, and arched ceiling that looks like in-laid wood. The room feels a bit like an upside-down boat – complete with manila rope accents, and portals. From this room the view soars out from the third story to the orchard, ponds, and timber-framed gazebo below.
But it is the master bath that is the true apex of the tour. You enter the master bath at the opposite end of the barrel dormer with an arched entry and full length mirror edged in travertine. Jacob laid the floor with mosaic glass and marble strips that flow across the bathroom through the travertine into the catacomb-like shower, which shows the connectivity of elements that draws one room into another and feels like a flow of water pooling in the shower.
Jacob poured the concrete countertop to look like a creamy travertine with a vessel sink half sunk in the concrete. Above the glass shower door is a fossil of a fish from Jacob’s home town in Kemmerer, Wyoming.
The shower is totally enclosed with an arched, tiled ceiling complete with an arching window above a body spray fixture across from the shower head and concrete bench. The shower has a nook with turquoise-colored rock slab shelves gathered from their own back yard.
Across from the bathroom is their custom walk-in closet, complete with areas to organize Jaime’s scarves and Jacob’s hats.
Decorating the Mountain Modern Home
When it comes to decorating, the couple advises that less is more. “Most of the time, people have at least two extra pieces of furniture in each room that they don’t need,” Jaime’ says. “Instead, just buy key pieces that really draw the eye in the room and since you are saving money by buying less furniture you can spend more on those key pieces.”
Before purchasing anything, Jaime’ and Jacob took the time to find deals on Craigslist and Ebay. For example, Jaime’ and Jacob found the Pegasus bamboo faucets at a local big-box store but instead of paying full price they found them much cheaper on Ebay.
Jaime’ and Jacob also did quite a bit of recycling to decorate their home. The angle iron trim accents you see around the house came from old bed frames found in a shed. They gathered rocks from the local area and cut them in half with a tile saw for the accented stones throughout the home. The door headers are from the band-sawn walk planks used while framing the house. They cut and milled their own timbers, half-log steps, log shelves, and mantles.
Designing the Mountain Modern Home
If you have a strong design concept then you can stop worrying about “rules” and follow your own artistry. Your personal design concepts can then be echoed throughout the house. Such as the boat motif or the curvature of the kitchen.
Pick key materials that you like aesthetically and work with them for their particular strengths. For example: Natural stones have richness of color, water resistance, and store and release radiant heat. Steel comes in angled pieces that can trim corners while flat steel is flexible for wrapping around curves. Once you have a strong design concept re-use it in several key areas around the house pulling the whole project together. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment and try something different and unique: let your house reflect your personality and style of living.
Advice to DIYers
While the majority of their home would require an expert builder like Jacob, there are some areas that any DIYer could duplicate, such as hand texturing the walls like they did in Sam’s room.
Jacob’s advice to DIYers: “You don’t need the technical skills to accomplish your project; you just need the patience and tenacity to keep trying. DIY is the purest form of education you can get. You just have to be willing to tear down when it doesn’t work and re-evaluate – this process is not wasted time but education and it will help you solve future design and building problems with renewed vision and understanding.”