Crimson Bluffs Home: A sustainable smaller home

Modern metal exterior siding















The Crimson Bluffs Home, in Townsend, Montana, was designed by Greenovision Home Design and contracted by Brad Dana and Family. This sustainable smaller home is constructed with long-lasting materials and has a combined heating approach of passive solar and radiant hydronic floor heating, a strategy we call “Sun Smart Radiant Heating.” Located on the historic Lewis and Clark Trail, the 2200 square foot, two story home (plus attached garage) has 360 degree views of the Missouri River, various mountain ranges, and the Crimson Bluffs hillsides. Greenovision designed this home to be energy-efficient with strategies that include as passive cooling, ample natural day lighting, high insulation values, advanced framing, and the use of local and recycled materials. The home style is modern rustic and much of the interior design was organized by the homeowner. Construction began in fall 2015 and the interiors were completed in January 2017.

We practice environmental design at Greenovision, meaning that the environmental conditions of the site and its surroundings influence our home designs. The Crimson Bluffs Home was specifically designed to compliment and blend with the surrounding desert landscape. From a distance you can hardly pick the home out of the landscape as the colors, textures, and low roof profiles blend so well. This home is basically like land camouflage.

The Crimson Bluffs Home is constructed with durable, long-lasting, and low maintenance exterior materials. The roof is standing seam metal and the siding materials include rusted corrugated metal (on the east and south facing sides), painted concrete Hardie panels (on the north facing side of the main volume and on the garage), and some horizontal white cedar (on the smallest volume that houses the mudroom and studio).

Montana modern rustic home













Most new homes are built with inexpensive, lower quality materials and require regular maintenance, remodeling, and energy-efficiency updates. We at Greenovision do not believe in a “throw away house” and do our best to design homes correctly and intelligently from the beginning. We advocate downsizing square footage and using that money to invest in quality design, energy-efficiency, and quality, long-lasting materials. With this approach, homeowners eliminate the need to re-roof, re-side, or remodel their home every 10 to 20 years, ultimately resulting in a more affordable home. With our material usage and energy-efficiency strategies, we consider the Crimson Bluffs Home to be “green” and “sustainable.”

Naturally lit exterior entry roof

Upon entering the Crimson Bluffs Home from the west-side entrance, you are greeted with a brightly lit and well organized foyer. This mudroom area has custom built-in cubbies and a closet for storage of seasonal clothing, shoes, and gear. Eventually there will be a custom built-in bench for sitting down and removing shoes. A door to the north of the foyer leads to a small and quiet office/wool dying and spinning room. Natural sunlight entering through the entry door is also shared through the glass door of the office.

Warm sunlit entry foyer



This is custom-built shelving in the office/wool dying and spinning room. All of the custom finish carpentry and built-ins were crafted by Dan Harrigfeld of Cadillac Custom Cabinets of Townsend, MT.

Simple clean shelves over cabinet

Exiting the foyer to the east, you walk into an open floor plan which includes the kitchen, dining room, and living room. You immediately have stunning views of the Big Belt Mountains to the east and the Crimson Bluffs to the south. Views of the Missouri River can be seen just down the hill to the east and northeast.

Open sunlit Livingroom

The upper and lower operable awning windows are specially designed to promote passive cooling in the home. Cool air enters the home from the north and warm air exits to the south. The homeowners report the home is staying at a very comfortable interior temperature during the hot summer months without running any electric fans or venting devices.

Open floor plan with awesome view

There is an open kitchen with a custom wood slab counter top. Notice the fun pocket windows along the west-facing wall. They are specifically designed to minimize the amount of glaring western sunlight entering the home and provide snippets of views of the beautiful hillside behind. They serve two other important functions: senses of security and privacy. The homeowners can see from their kitchen and living room small views of the road and who is entering their driveway, but drivers-by cannot see in.

Basswood ceiling modern home

The natural wood ceiling gives the home a bright and organic feeling. The lumber used is basswood, which was brought to Montana by the homeowners from their native home of Minnesota- a homage to their roots.

Views of the Missouri River can be seen to the east. The deck with cantilevering roof overhang and custom cable railing is just outside of the sliding glass doors. The deck is a cool and shaded place to rest outdoors during the warmer months.

Main space Windows and views

Views to the south are of the Crimson Bluffs hillsides. Notice the tiled radiant hydronic floor soaking up the sun’s natural energy on this February 15th day. The passively collected solar heat is actively distributed throughout the first floor by the radiant floor in a strategy we call “Sun Smart Radiant Heat.”

Passive solar floor plan

The upstairs spaces have 360 degree views, ample natural daylight, and and open airy feel. Wildlife such as bluebirds, sand hill cranes, pelicans, moose, and deer are seen right from their couch or kitchen island.

Awning over Picture windows equal good venting




The main upstairs floor also includes a half bathroom, a walk-in pantry, and an open stairwell leading to the lower floor.

Simple clean Pantry design



These are the stairs leading to the lower level. The stairs were designed and built by Marks Lumber of Clancy, MT and were installed by Dan Harrigfeld.

Thick wood tread open staircase
The custom welded ties for securing the railing to the stairs were fabricated by a high school student from Broadwater High School in Townsend as part of a shop class assignment. The steel was leftover from the exterior custom awnings (fabricated by Mark Pelletier). Most materials of this home were carefully selected to be either recycled or sustainable/long-lasting, so it was great to reuse these metal scraps. The inclusion of this student into the construction of this home really illustrates how the Crimson Bluffs Home was a community project. Like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to build a house!

Modern rustic stairs

The lower level includes a master bedroom with master bath and walk-in closet, a guest room, a guest bathroom, and a large, sunny family room that can double as another guest room.

This is the view at the bottom of the stairs on the bottom floor of the family room. There is a custom rustic barn door leading to the guest bedroom. The south-facing windows are letting in the February sunlight for passive solar heat gain.

Passive solar daylight walkout basement



The guest bedroom has a custom crafted rustic bed frame by Cadillac Custom Cabinets. It’s hard to to see because of the glare, but there is a beautiful view of the Missouri River through the window.

Modern meets rustic bedroom 



The downstairs guest bathroom is naturally bright. The ample natural day lighting in this home saves significantly on electric lighting costs and creates a feeling of comfort.

Modern meets rustic vanity
The master bathroom with custom vanity is a mix of modern and rustic.

Cool clean bathroom



The master bedroom walk-in closet has custom cabinets for great organization.

Walk-in closet with built in shelves and drawers


The photo to the right is looking down the downstairs hall from the master bedroom. The ceilings on both floors are the natural basswood.

The lower level also has an unfinished room for storage, laundry, and the home’s mechanical systems.

Basswood ceiling modern hallway
One can exit the family room to the south and sit outdoors in a sunny patio area. The patio is specifically designed to be on this side of the house (the south side) as a warm, sunny place to lounge outdoors during the colder months. The bank to the west and house block the cold, northerly winter winds.

Polycarbonate Awning to reduce heat gain

Here’s a review from the homeowner:

On December 17th, 2017, much of Montana was experiencing bitter cold temperatures. While most Montanans were running their heat steadily on that incredibly cold, yet sunny day, the Crimson Bluffs and Quinn Creek homeowners have both reported to us that the heat was not running in either home. This is a great testament to the effectiveness of passive solar heating. Here’s a message we received from the Crimson Bluffs homeowner that morning…

More beautiful interior photos can be seen here.
Some thoughts on our description of this home as “smaller:” According to the 2013 U.S. Census, the average newly constructed single-family American house is 2598 square feet. Square footage statistics cannot be found for the Bozeman, Montana area, however from our observation, new single family homes are starting at around 2500 square feet with many homes averaging 3000-4000 square feet. In using the term “smaller,” we are not saying that a 2200 square foot home is necessarily small, but that it is “smaller” than the average new home.