By Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photos by JK Lawrence, courtesy Buccellato Design, LLC
“Go slap a wall!”
This is often the first thing Craig Brewerton invites guests to do upon entering his Henrys Lake cabin, which is situated at the confluence of the Montana, Idaho and Wyoming borders. Just to be clear, “go slap a wall” is not synonymous with the phrase, “go jump in a lake.” It’s simply the fastest way Craig can convince new guests that the cabin he shares with his wife, Joan, is made of cement – not timber.
Craig and Joan chose to build their cabin with EverLogs, a concrete composite system, due to its durability and minimal upkeep.
“We loved the idea of building a house that we wouldn’t have to continually work to maintain,” says Craig. “And this has the same natural look of a log home, complete with all the striations of the logs.”
Cool & kitschy home décor
When it came time to decorate, the couple had fun merging their love of art and folkcraft with their passion for fishing. For instance, the trout sconces that hang in the family room, as well as the cutout fish railing in the loft, enabled Craig to inject his enthusiasm for fly-fishing into the architecture of the cabin.Craig and Joan also have two “gate guards” who watch over the family room.
A 12-foot totem pole sits on one end of the room and “Melvin the flying moose head” hangs on the adjoining wall on the other end. “Melvin got his nickname when we were transporting him from British Columbia in a box that flew out of the truck,” explains Craig. “Luckily, he remained unscathed.”
The Brewertons enjoyed outfitting their cabin with special pieces of furniture, including six funky – and fragrant – leather chairs that are placed in the family room, loft and a bedroom. “A buddy of mine was looking to get new chairs for his cigar store, so I asked if I could buy some of the old ones,” says Craig. “They’re comfortable and all broken in!”
An outdoor wonderland
Craig and Joan don’t spend a ton of time resting in those comfy chairs, however. They’re too busy planting flowers, sprucing up the landscaping and erecting crossbuck fencing. (Crossbuck fencing is a post-and-rail design with an “X” pattern between posts that is often used out West to keep animals in but to hold snow back.)Craig’s favorite outdoor activity, however, is fishing. So he feels blessed to be surrounded by Blue Ribbon trout streams.
“This area is the holy grail of fishing,” notes Craig. Within an hour’s drive, he can be at the Henrys Fork, the Madison, the Yellowstone, the Beaverhead, and the South Fork of the Snake River. The Henrys Fork River is a tributary to the Snake River, which eventually goes to the Columbia River. Every year, Craig invites eight buddies to fly-fish the area with him.
“We’ll fish in Bozeman for two days, Henrys/Madison for two days, sometimes the South Fork, which is south of Jackson [Hole, Wyo.],” he says.
“It depends on where we want to be,” says Craig, who notes that Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Glacier National Park are not too far away. “It’s a wonderful drive on Highway 32 in Idaho, going toward the South Fork, with its rolling hills and potato farms. Plus, the view of the Tetons [mountain range] is amazing.”
When their fishing rods are dry, the Brewertons are likely busy showing friends and family around their outdoorsy area. “We watch the geysers at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful and Mud Pots,” says Joan. “We also go hiking and biking, relax on the dock, and take out the float boat [on Henrys Lake].”
Walking on the wild side
The couple takes lots of nature walks, and apparently, so does the wildlife. Craig and Joan regularly spot moose, wolves, deer and grizzly bears cutting through their backyard.
In addition, each fall and spring the Brewerton’s have a front-row seat to the elk migration between Montana and Idaho.
“From May through November, we see herds of 50–60 elk moving across the mountain,” says Craig. “The path from Ennis [Montana] to the park or reverse goes along the mountains behind the house.”
The Brewertons never know what wild thing they might witness when they peer out their cabin windows. For instance, last spring before the ice melted on Henrys Lake, Joan yelled for Craig to grab the binoculars.
A female Bald Eagle was out on the lake trying to show her eaglet how to snag leeches by pecking through the ice. Yet, rather than taking notes, her eaglet was spacing out.“I’m sure all mothers can relate,” says Craig with a chuckle. “Here’s this mommy, working hard to teach a lesson. Meanwhile, her baby is completely ignoring her.”
It’s these unplanned peeks at nature that help make cabin life so spectacular.
“This is the epitome of what we wanted out of a place,” says Craig. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Concrete Logs You Say?
The Brewertons chose to build with a composite log system because it’s durable, airtight and requires very little maintenance.And their architects, Aimee and Kevin Buccellato of Buccellato Design, LLC, were impressed with how the concrete log homes surpassed, in some respects, the traditional materials.
“It was great fun to design a house that took advantage of the best properties of true timber and steel and fused them together,” says Aimee. In fact, concrete logs are a composite mixture of concrete, steel reinforcement and insulation.
EverLog President Stewart Hansen says EverLog cabins are cost-effective to build. “Because our logs are engineered to tight tolerances, no pre-assembly and dis-assembly (at the manufacturer’s yard) or on-site building modifications are required. This provides substantial savings (both time and money) on installation.”
Plus, concrete logs won’t leak, shrink, settle, check or decay, nor are they subject to mold or insect infestation. Craig Brewerton says, “I have a friend who lives in South Carolina and he has 20,000 kinds of bugs that want to invade his place all the time. I don’t have to worry about bugs because this [concrete structure] is a bullet-proof deal.”
In addition, the thermal properties of concrete materials far exceed the thermal performance of true timber. Concrete retains its internal temperature well, and during the manufacturing process, EverLogs are cast with additional insulation. According to EverLog Systems, its customers will save an average of 30–40% on their annual heating and cooling costs compared to owners of typical handcrafted wood log homes.
Another benefit: EverLogs are fire-resistant, so cabins made with them (and steel roofs) are less susceptible to the ravages of wildfires.
A Cabin Ideal for Entertaining
For cabin owners Craig and Joan Brewerton, their love for entertaining was central to the design of their retreat.“The large family/entertainment room is at the heart of the house and really influenced the organization and orientation of the entire structure,” says architect Aimee Buccellato.
The family room is a multi-purpose space (living, dining, entertaining and circulating) with very high ceilings and large glazed openings on multiple walls. Three pairs of French doors lead directly out of the living and entertainment room to a broad porch with breathtaking views of Henrys Lake and the mountains beyond (part of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest).
“The layout reflects the Brewerton’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle. They can spend their summer days surrounded by friends and the fresh mountain air, whether they’re indoors or out,” Aimee says.
The kitchen, dining, living room and loft areas are ‘layered’ to accommodate both intimate and large gatherings. Although the family room is big, the architects didn’t want it to feel cavernous or overwhelming.
Aimee explains: “To support the Brewertons’ casual lifestyle and their love of hosting great parties, the primary living and entertaining spaces – the kitchen, dining and living rooms – were all arranged within the same large room to accommodate both intimate family gatherings and large parties.
Family and guests often gravitate into the galley-style kitchen for stove-side conversations, while larger groups can spill out from the living room onto broad porches on either side of the house or up to the deep loft perched above the kitchen. “
“The high, painted wainscoting helps bring the room together, as does the organization of the first floor, which puts all of the primary living spaces just one room from the main living area,” says Aimee. “When it’s just Joan and Craig, they literally live in three rooms of the house – plus the porch that links them all together.”
The Brewerton’s two daughters and five grandchildren visit regularly, as do other family, friends and fishing buddies. When they host large gatherings, they utilize their table, which seats 12.
“We love to have barbeques,” says Craig. “It’s a party house!”
Even the ground floor extends the house’s entertaining capabilities. This floor enjoys breathtaking views of the lake, and the views are showcased from large windows and French doors leading to a deep flagstone terrace.
“Daybed sofas convert to extra beds for guests, and poker parties and game watches can extend late into the night – as they often do! – with a custom bar and wine room. Large dry storage pantries are ambiently cooled year-round. In the heat of the summer, it’s a really cool place to be!” says Aimee.
An Adirondack Influence
In the early 20th century, the Great Camps of the Adirondacks were summer retreats for well-heeled New York City dwellers. Today, these retreats remain some of the most beautiful examples of residential timber architecture in America.
When designing the Brewertons’ cabin, architects Aimee and Kevin Buccellato especially looked at Adirondack-style porches, fireplaces, and rooflines, and adapted the style to the very different western timber vernacular.
- Fireplace – The huge hand-laid fireplace is made of granite from a local quarry. A 2×12-inch-thick wooden mantel runs the length of the hall.
- Kitchen – Because the kitchen is located at one end of the family room, the design of the kitchen cabinets needed to blend in with the millwork that lines the large space. Therefore, Aimee and Kevin designed the custom cabinets to fit seamlessly with the high board-and-batten wainscoting, all of which are painted a lovely deep green. The countertops are wrapped in brushed galvanized sheet metal. Not only is it inexpensive, but the bright, clean finish hides a number of sins.
- Master Bath – The architectural team also designed a master bath that has an open plan to take advantage of northern light and summer breezes from high awning windows. A large, freestanding tub anchors the center of the room, perfect for soaking after a day of fishing.
“The open-leg cedar sink stand was designed like a piece of furniture to reinforce the openness of the bath and bring natural materials – which are present throughout the cabin’s interior – into the room,” explains Aimee.
A pristine paradise
The Brewertons spend winters at their home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Then in mid-April, they make the annual 950-mile trek to their pristine paradise in Idaho, located 18 miles from West Yellowstone, Mont. They usually remain at Henrys Lake until mid-October.
The 4,100-square-foot cabin has a loft and a basement, three bedrooms, and four baths (including one in the basement). The square footage includes the two-bedroom guest wing, which sits over the garage. An enclosed upstairs walkway connects the guest wing to the cabin.
- Log Manufacturer: EverLog Systems, www.EverLogs.com
- Architecture: Buccellato Design, LLC, www.buccellatodesign.com
For web-exclusive photos of Craig and Joan Brewerton’s cabin, EverLogs, and Craig’s trout-fishing adventures, click here.
Longtime contributor and cabin living enthusiast Christy Heitger-Ewing is a huge fan of any structure that keeps bugs at bay.