A Cozy Mountain Cabin in Montana
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A Cozy Mountain Cabin in Montana

This little cabin in Big Sky cabin was built to fit just right.

Written by Melissa Mylchreest
Photography by Heidi Long
If you ask Paul Larson whether he has a favorite room or feature in his Kalispell, Mont., cabin, he’ll tell you yes, definitely.
“I love the big patio door in the living room,” he says, referencing the three-panel glass door that opens onto the wraparound porch. “And the loft bedroom,” he continues. “And the porch too, of course. And the kitchen. Oh, and the radiant floor heat!”

Cabin-Building Success

When a homeowner counts nearly every facet of his new cabin as among his favorite features, it’s a pretty clear indication that the cabin-building process was a success – from conception to design to execution. Paul will agree, and he’ll also be quick to point out that the success wasn’t the result of happenstance or luck; it was the product of a clear vision and good communication from the outset.

Small Cabin Design

“It sounds silly,” says Paul, “but I actually designed this house around specific furniture.” Although enamored by the tiny-house movement, Larson knew himself well enough to know that a true tiny house wasn’t for him. But, the basic tenets of the movement – simplicity, deliberateness of design, economy of space – spoke to him and ultimately dictated the roughly 1,000-square-foot design that he arrived at.
The decision-making process was all about tough, thoughtful choices. “I really liked the idea of being super deliberate about every choice you make,” Larson says. “Do you really need this extra space? Do I need a guest room?”
“I had the stuff that I knew I needed and wanted to be in the cabin,” Larson adds, “and I didn’t want any more space than was needed to fit those pieces. It was all very practical.” Because of this, each room feels perfectly furnished – because it is. The sofa is just the right size to demarcate the line between living room and kitchen, the dining table nestles comfortably into the dining nook and an upstairs workstation hosts a desk, chair and bookshelf – no more, no less.

Room to Breathe

And while small cabins can often feel cramped, such is not the case with Paul’s place. “You get that crowding all the time with little houses,” says Jason Gerzboy, owner of J. Martin Builders, who designed and built Paul’s cabin. “Where they say, ‘well, we put in a tiny sink, because we only have room for a tiny sink. And you have to slide into the shower sideways, and don’t even think about turning around!’ This home isn’t like that at all.” 
While it’s true that the design is space-conscious, nothing has been compromised here; everything is full-feature, with full-sized appliances and fixtures, creating a space that is comfortable and not crowded. Large expanses of windows, high, pine-paneled ceilings, neutral colors and modern features – like metal railings and simple cabinetry – contribute to the spacious feel as well.

Design Choices

“I didn’t want the cliché rustic,” says Paul. “Everyone’s got the big logs, and that’s nice and all. But that’s not what I wanted. This looks like what my house would look like in Chicago, but with a little more wood.” And it’s true. With pine trim, a reclaimed barn wood accent wall, a wood stove and a decorative stack of “firewood” providing the central structure of the staircase, there’s no doubt that if one looks out the window, they’ll be greeted not by the bluster and rush of the big city but by the forests and vistas of northwest Montana.
“Out here in this part of the country,” says Gerzboy, “there’s so much to take in. So we decided it was important to build something based on Paul’s needs and ensure the lot, the views and the terrain fit those parameters.” The result was a cabin not only with windows placed to maximize the view and light but also a fabulous wraparound porch that provides additional living space and an opportunity to survey the valley below.
For Paul, the cabin has proved to be the perfect retreat for him and his canine pal, Ivan, who often accompanies him on longer trips to Montana from their Midwest home. In fact, Ivan played a role in the deliberate design considerations for the cabin, making sure that no corner went unused: The otherwise empty space under the stairs was outfitted as a built-in dog house, and quickly became Ivan’s favorite place to snooze.


Both Ivan and Paul need a good place for a good rest, given Paul’s answer to another question of favorites, this time about his favorite activities in the region. “I like to hike, of course. And I do a little mountain biking. Really, you want to get involved in everything out here. Hiking in the winter is possible, and snowshoeing, and I do a little cross-country skiing. And stand-up paddleboarding in the summer. And I have a kayak … .”
Clearly, the opportunities to be out  adventuring are endless. All one really needs at the end of the day is a cozy, comfortable, perfectly designed place to come home to.

Cabin Details

Built: 2015
Location: Kalispell, Mont.
Square Footage: 1,000
Bedrooms: 1
Baths: 1

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