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The Valeo House:  A Narrative.

As exterior of the house came together, “So, you’re renovating an old Victorian.” became a more common comment from people new to the project.  As you considers the before-and-after photos, you realize how deceptive new work can be.  Although the exterior image of the project is largely a recreation, the origins of the house do date back to the Victorian era.

The house began as a sawn timber cabin (not round-log or hand-hewn). As yet, formal research has not been completed which would pinpoint a date of construction. Anecdotally, it dates back to the early 1880’s, which would be consistent with the time shortly after Mr. Rankin (Jeanette Rankin’s Father) bought the lumber portion of the old Missoula Mills and relocated the sawmill to Grant Creek.  Since its origins, the house had been through a long history of additions and alterations:  most of the phases still exemplary of their time.  The latest significant alterations were in classic late-60’s, early-70’s style:  harvest gold, avocado, floral patterns, shag carpet and dark, wood-panel walls.

Paramount to the owners were:
1)  The preservation of history:  a decision based upon principal.  A new foundation and supplemental floor structure were installed under the original log cabin.  It  was not practical, or fitting to the general exterior image, to expose the original log cabin on the outside. But peeling back the layers of history to expose it on the interior became a thoughtful and playful process.  For instance, original wallpaper was left exposed in layers in the back of a closet.  The original finish on the logs was left as found when later layers were peeled back.  As an introduction to the house, a 100+ year-old wonderfully crafted rough-sawn dovetail corner juts into the polished 1½ story entry area as a reminder of more humble beginnings.

2)  Retaining the “artifacts”: most notably three existing fireplaces.  Although they would not be allowed to be built new, today, these fireplaces are grandfathered and of historic value.  Thus, the option of demolishing most of the house in order to start over with a clean slate, and relocating the original log cabin for restoration as a possible guest house was ruled out.  Ideally, preserving not only the log cabin, but much of the rest of the “evolution” of the house, became a priority.

3)  Unifying the whole design of the house under one predominant style.  Although not a literal replication of the house’s log-cabin origin, the new style was to be sympathetic to its time and era.  The owners chose a simplified, or “Homestead” Victorian.

4)  Improving and clarifying the functions and spatial relations within the house.  A direct matter of practicality and livability:  some spaces were simply not working well due to size, or a lack of direct relation to other necessary spaces.  Other spaces suffered a nebulous and ill-defined nature.  Redefining and re-arranging spaces and functions to relate well to each other was critical.

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