The Parade of Homes starts Friday, September 11th!
You would think because the Lookout is mine that I am the only person to write the story of the Lookout…but that isn’t true. This project became the special, unique and memorable project for every single person who worked on it, and because of that I feel like I am the luckiest girl in the world.
The Lookout is not a normal project, and not a normal house. It wasn’t meant to be normal. It was meant to be different. It was meant to be exceptional, and one of a kind and something that didn’t fit into a traditional category. It was being built on family property, it was being built as a forever home, a structure that would be passed down to my nieces and nephews, and someday to their kids, and not something built with the parameters of being practical or needing to fit into some resale box. I wanted a visitor center where people wanted to come and hang out, drink coffee and play games, I wanted an apartment so nice it was booked and used every week of the year, and I wanted a little compound to make people feel like they were living a little piece of Glacier Park. I wanted a shed designed after a little vacation getaway in Jackson Hole and a wall tent fit for glamping. I wasn’t asking for much.
The Lookout came to be because MY builder of the year, Jon Krack, pushed me to think beyond what I could imagine. He took my great ideas and made them even better…which is all you can ask for from your partner and your best friend. And we had FUN. We challenged each other and we tried new things and we asked a lot of the people working with us…and because of it we created something fantastic.
The Lookout was never easy. It took a lot of planning, it took a lot of designing, and it took a lot of engineering. It took a year of surveying. It took the genius of Jon Krack to take my love of park architecture and design me a little fire lookout. It took minds like Jim Dunkl and Jim Henjun knocking their heads together to make things structurally work. It took a lot of tree falling and burn piles and hole digging. It took my cousins Luke and Bill a few months to get in a road and do the site work, to get the utilities started, and my Uncle Chuck who hauled in something like 120 loads of fill. It took Dallas about 8 days to jackhammer in an area for a foundation and about a month for utilities and an engineered septic and a tank buried in a rock pile. The building site looked like the moon. It took Renta and crew days to set up and drill in the rebar to pour the footings, and it took serious insulation and work for Hodges and crew to get in my foundations. I waited a couple months for the perfect framer, the only one I wanted to do the job…Cal Brenneman…and there wasn’t a better decision on the project. Cal had some serious challenges, including a house covered with metal brackets and fasteners, flying my roof in with the biggest crane we could get in the Flathead Valley and building a 40 foot tall Lookout in the middle of the winter in West Glacier with 42 windows (to name a few). Cal was there with us at the end setting the roof platform he designed, and hanging photos on my walls. It took Bode Miller who tackled “that roof” and ran his own standing seamed metal on site in order to get the perfect look I wanted. It took Scott and Lilienthal coming up with the best long-term (life long!) energy conscious insulation package which included coating all my walls with 6 inches of spray foam. It took the best windows in the Flathead Valley for energy efficiency brought to me by Steve and the team at Montana Sash and Door. It took Hallstrom Heating and Plumbing to take on 4 mini splits, propane, and HVAC, the most unique plumbing package Todd from Ferguson could put together. It took my electrician Dave several long weeks in the middle of the winter and sub zero temps to get a lot of cans and 4 basic fixtures into just the right lines (I don’t think a “basic” lighting plan has ever been more analyzed nor has a house ever looked more stunning lit up at night). It took RBM who gave my my entry door for being a company cheerleader, went above and beyond to collect a year’s worth of mismatched flooring just so I could test my wild idea about creating “fake reclaimed”, and Joshua in the door shop who agreed to my crazy big black doors. It took Martin Otto to take my pile of RBM flooring and listen to my idea and get the 7 stains right and create a reclaimed-new floor in every area of my house. It took Ben Burling and his carpentry team to tackle every little detail I asked for with a smile and a “yes Somer we can do that” (the list is too long to write down here) but I wanted trimless, I wanted big windows mulled together, I wanted a wood ceiling, I wanted timber stairs and metal cabinets to name just a few. I wanted an entire apartment built out of jobsite scraps. It took my dry-waller Ron to take on an entire house of trimless/baseless details with a smile on his face and the same man to tackle plaster for the first time just for me. It look Kevin at Cornerstone to give me a dream kitchen and to agree to my crazy ideas of flat white cabinets and a metal island and figure out exactly how to do them and make them perfect. It took Lane from Fred’s Appliance to help put together the dream kitchen package and convince me I needed a built in coffee maker (who doesn’t and yes he is a good salesman). It took TJ and Carol from Alpine Cabinets to get my pantry perfect and knock my master closet out of the park (for a girl who had a curtain and wire shelving!). It took Terry at CMT to agree to cover everything I had in metal: the island, the garage doors, the bed, the bench…everything I could think of. It took John Morse from Highridge Steel to take on a staircase like none other and make it work and make it a showpiece and make people cling to the wall for months as they tried to go up it. It took John to tackle a girl that liked everything clean and square and figure out how to make her happy with railings. It took Jacob and the crew from Rocky Mountain painting to do my house from top to bottom, from inside and out….and Jacob Cassidy proved he was an artist as well as a painter and came up with ideas that should be patented because he was just that creative (walls, floors, metal, doors, ceilings…you name it, he did it). It took Mike Anderson from Hot Springs to create just the right concrete countertops and all the details he took the time to get right. It took the collaboration between Malchi Tile and Jaron from Montana Plaster Company to create shower unlike anyone else’s (featuring rocks from Glacier and the Middle Fork River). It took Valley Glass and a team of awesome people to create the “glass house” from top to bottom. It took Steve who took a pile of jobsite scraps and miscellaneous pieces and created the most unbelievable guest apartment we will ever do (Thank you to all the clients who donated their remnants). It took my Uncle John who never said no to anything in this project, including getting me started and saying yes to a glass garage door and facing 3 doors in cold-rolled steel which as he put, was my “one crazy idea for this house”. It took my Dad and my Uncle Jim who painstakingly built my barn wood walls and turned old wood into pieces of art from the top floor to the bottom of the lookout, and who built my fantastic shed and chipped in to finish every detail I could have asked for. It took my little brother Ben who drove over from Havre to build me a bed because he loves me. It took my Mom who cleaned my house from top to bottom and worked on every thing from getting my trails in shape to sewing my shower curtain. It took my cousins who showed up in the last few weeks and rock-scaped my rock pile into something fantastic. It took my husband Brad who believed in me enough to let me be as creative as I wanted with no limits and only put in one wish “I want a fireplace” in the entire course of the project.…and the rest of my amazing family that helped burn piles and shovel snow in the winter and plow out my driveway, welded brackets and fixed gradalls, help set cranes, drilled holes, fixed maps, cut flowers and basically cheered and pulled for me to get it done (so they could come and visit!)
I had quite the crew, I had quite the team, and we built quite the place.
Jon and I walked through the house about 5 AM on the morning we finished, just in time for the parade, and I could hardly believe it was actually MY house. What a funny feeling…after a couple years of planning and building and looking around and having the feeling “this is really too good to be true”. I feel like it belongs to everyone who worked so hard on it, poured their hearts into it for me, who gave it their best, who made me happy, who gave me far more than I could have ever asked for or imagined.
I wanted something different, something unique, and something special…and without a doubt I got it (and so much more). Luckiest girl in the world. Home run.