Whitefish, Montana, is more than 5,200 miles from Kyoto, Japan, but a condition of our globalized world is that one can have a strong influence on the other. In the case of a luxurious pool house with spa, gym and art gallery on the shores of Whitefish Lake, Susie Hoffmann, founder and principal of Envi Interior Design Studio, was inspired by Japanese design. As we’ll see in this tour of the building (designed by architect David Koel of CTA Architects Engineers), she was also inspired by the nature just beyond the walls of the pool house.
Pool House 1: Audrey Hall, original photo on Houzz
The building consists of three floors. The lowest is primarily storage and mechanical, but a secondary entrance can be glimpsed in the lower right below a shallow canopy jutting from the building. The middle level is where the bulk of the project is found, including the pool below our feet, the gallery in the gable volume to our right and the main entry in between, just beyond the rock garden. The top floor is the gable volume on the left, which houses the exercise room.
The main route to the pool house is from the east, up a stone walkway that is carefully inserted into the landscape.
You have two main choices once inside the entrance: Go left to the art gallery or right to the pool.
The pool is completely open to the hall, so the glass door at the gallery is important to maintain a lower level of humidity in the space.
Pool House 2: Audrey Hall, original photo on Houzz
The long pool space is anchored at the eastern end by the rattan chairs designed by Isamu Noguchi.
Pool House 3: Audrey Hall, original photo on Houzz
Here we take a step back from the previous photo to take in more of the pool and how it relates to the stairs to the gym on the left, and to the gallery volume through the glass wall on the right. Note the rock garden through the glass on the right; access to it is via a door by the pool railing.
Pool House 4: Audrey Hall, original photo on Houzz
Turning almost 180 degrees clockwise, we can understand how long the pool actually is (75 feet, to be exact). We can also understand why all the glass: It beautifully opens up the space to the trees and lake beyond.
Pool House 5: Audrey Hall, original photo on Houzz
The lights in the wood ceiling accentuate the linear proportion of the pool. From this vantage we can glimpse the hallway to the right of the plaster wall that provides access to the changing rooms, a small kitchen area and a Japanese bath house. The infinity edge pool meets the limestone flooring beyond the teak deck.
The changing room extends the feel of the Japanese inspired design, particularly through the shoji-like sliding doors.
Access to the Japanese spa is through a Dornbrach rain shower over a custom slatted drain in teak.
Pool House 6: Audrey Hall, original photo on Houzz
The Japanese bath house is much different in character from the pool, even though the same materials can be found here. Of course the scale is much smaller, but much of the character comes from how it relates to the landscape.
Instead of water and the horizon, the view is rocks, trees and the slope of the hill that is kept at bay by the retaining wall running the length of the building on its northern edge. Here the Japanese influence is strongest, as the intimate view becomes part of the room.