Log Cabin Homes, March 2013
True to its name, M.T.N Architects has been designing custom high-end mountain-style homes since 1990. With an emphasis on log and timber frame design, the firm works one on one with each client to create a unique, luxurious, one-of-a-kind home. Their clientele and projects span from East Coast to West, in the USA, Canada, and abroad. Lead designer Celeste Raygosa shares her ideas and experiences in the log and timber design arena.
How long have you been with M.T.N. Architects, Celeste, and what about the firm appealed to you when you first joined the team?
I started with M.T.N. Architects in 2006. From the beginning, what appealed to me about our firm is the relationships that the designer creates with the customers as we collaborate on the project through the entire process. Sometimes a project begins simply, sitting around a table with the clients and a blank piece of paper, but the involvement carries all the way through, to completion and move-in day. Years later, clients are still sending us Christmas cards and telling us how much they love their home. Those relationships are very rewarding.
Did your education in architecture provide you with the knowledge to work with log and timber in home design, or is that something that has developed over the years, through experience?
My architectural education provided some of the more basic knowledge of structure and design, but designing log and timber homes is most definitely a specialty that is learned over years of practice. Our designs have become more complex, more creative. It’s our customers who are driving the designs. Our design team is able to satisfy the demand because they are not only degreed architects, they also have years of specialized log and timber experience.
What, if any, do you find to be common characteristics between your clients, people who are choosing to build a home with log and timber elements?
Our clients, in particular, want unique mountain-style architecture. Log and timber elements are, in a sense, “indigenous” building materials for mountain, particularly rustic, style homes. Even more than wanting a unique home, they want the home to reflect who they are, and suit their lifestyle.
Are clients coming to you looking for complete direction in their home’s design, or do they generally bring you ideas that they would like you to build on?
We have both kinds of clients … some have their own ideas, others get inspiration from our design concepts, but in the end they come to us because they have seen what we are capable of and trust us to design their custom home. The process has definitely evolved over the years; if anything, we have become more involved in our clients’ projects since we started offering design-build services.
Do you find your clients are looking to incorporate “green” elements in the design and construction of their homes?
A good portion of our clients have a desire to incorporate green technology and sustainability in the creation of their home, and we always discuss green options at the onset of a project. Once we understand their “green goals,” we can incorporate these elements into the custom design of their timber or log home. It is really important that we educate our clients on the differences between energy-efficient building materials, green finishes, and what we can accomplish from a design perspective. Sometimes there are simple design options that can make a huge difference in your home’s ability to reduce energy usage, such as deeper overhangs or thoughtful positioning of the house on the site. Sometimes people get hung up on what kind of sustainable flooring they are going to choose and don’t realize what a difference something like north-facing windows can make.
Does a preference for green elements increase the design and building costs to a homeowner?
Again, I think it is important to define green elements and understand the specific goals of the homeowner. Do they want a more energy-efficient home so that their energy costs are lower, or do they want to build with sustainable materials to reduce their carbon footprint, or both? We can make cost-effective design choices that will increase the efficiency of the home, or we can recommend HVAC systems, solar panels, and appliances that will require a larger budget. It depends on what the client wants and what they can afford. The cost for design does not increase, since all of our homes are customized in one way or another. As with all of our projects, we design to a budget so we will try to help a client accomplish all of their design goals, including green, if we can.
Do you frequently spec the finishes for the interiors of the homes you design, and have you seen a change in the selections clients are making for their interior finishes?
More than a change in what finishes people are choosing is a shift in the number of requests for interior design services. Thanks to this demand, we now provide interior design to those clients who are interested. We have a dedicated interior designer on staff who will work with the client to design elements such as the kitchen layout, house-wide flooring, bathroom tiles, and specialty cabinetry. We have also just completed work on an interior design showroom that showcases the materials that we can not only spec, but provide directly to the client.
You specialize in mountain-style design, so do you design many homes for clients who don’t reside in the mountains?
For the most part our designs look rustic in nature so we don’t have too many “urban” clients, but not all of our homes are in the Rockies or Appalachians or other mountain regions. We’ve built on many lakefront sites as well as desert terrain and rolling hillsides. I think what appeals about “mountain style” to clients, regardless of whether their home is actually in the mountains or not, is the concept of connecting to a natural setting with natural building materials, especially for those building a second or third home. Many of our designs look as though they grew up from the earth beneath them.