Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography, Dakota Timber Company
Kelsey Morrison and her husband may reside in the F-M area, but their life-long dream has led them to Northwestern Montana. Although we don’t typically show homes from outside of our area, the Morrison’s Montana vacation home happens to be primarily constructed using reclaimed wood from all over Minnesota and North Dakota. Kelsey Morrison’s husband first drew out and designed every inch of the cabin’s layout, with the reclaimed wood details left to her brother and sister-in-law, Seth and Ashley Carlson, owners of Dakota Timber Company. See inside the Morrison’s reclaimed, lakeside retreat with a spectacular mountain view.
The Morrison’s would love to live full-time in Montana, but with their careers here in full-swing, for now, they’re happy to call it their vacation home. Growing up, Kelsey Morrison’s family often spent time in Montana which is when her love for the rugged terrain began. After many trips to the area as a couple, her and her husband found themselves dreaming of someday building a home amidst the untouched landscape and mountain views.
The couple finally saw their dream come alive when Morrison’s husband drew the plans and designed the cabin. After carefully planning out every detail, they eventually broke ground on the lakeside property in late summer of 2016. “We wanted to use as much reclaimed wood as possible throughout the home. So, in addition to the lumber and the wood you can see, we also used a lot of reclaimed wood structurally, wherever we could,” said Kelsey Morrison. Much of the cabin’s siding is done in a reverse, board and batten, which is a common Montana style. All of the wood for the siding as well as the soffit, exterior porches, corbels, window trim, trusses and timbers are sourced from Dakota Timber Company.
“The only materials that are not reclaimed is the metal roof, doors, Cor-ten, cedar shakes and the actual framing of the house,” said Morrison. “Pretty much everything that we could use reclaimed wood on, we did. We purchased it all from Dakota Timber and it was sourced from all over the Midwest. A lot of it came from a farmstead in Minnesota.” Keeping the exterior’s look raw and natural was one of the Morrison’s main goals. Leaving the wood in its natural, reclaimed state allowed the property to blend into its environment.
“I love the exterior siding and I feel like it’s something that should be utilized far more often in this area, especially with so many people in the Fargo area who have lake homes in Minnesota,” said Ashley Carlson. “People tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the interior of their home, then end up doing vinyl siding. What they don’t realize is that reclaimed wood can completely change the way a structure looks and it can actually be affordable.”
Inside, the main level of the cabin is around 1,500 square feet, with the unfinished basement doubling the footage. The main level features one bedroom and one-and-a-half baths, but eventually, the Morrisons plan to complete the basement which would add another bathroom, bunk room and living room.
Emulating the exterior, the interior exudes warmth and character from its reclaimed elements. “One of the favorite elements, for a lot of people when they see our house is the ceiling which was made from reclaimed, Minnesota barn wood,” said Morrison. “We did a full, paneled ceiling in reclaimed wood, using burly, original and unfinished patina.” This style is a light-sanded mix of pine and fir in fixed widths to keep the boards uniform. Two extra-long, solid ceiling beams from a grain elevator in North Dakota were chosen in contrasting tones to extend the length of the home.
The Morrison’s custom dining table was built by Dakota Timber Company and delivered to its new Montana home by Seth and Ashley Carlson themselves. To complement the table’s old-growth charm, Morrison scoured the Eco Chic Junk Market until she found these antique chairs to coordinate.
Fireplace Focal Point
In the main living space, the Morrison’s design centered around a real, wood-burning fireplace with a dry-stacked, stone surround. Wanting the mantle to wrap around the edges of the fireplace, they decided against a solid beam, in exchange for a custom-built, box beam from reclaimed wood.
Black, White & Wood
To obtain a rustic, timeless appeal for their Montana cabin, the Morrison’s chose mainly black fixtures to contrast with other white and wood elements. “Sometimes when you use a lot of different wood tones like we did, it can seem really busy, so I think it was good to keep everything else simple,” said Morrison.
“One of the things that I like about the cabin is that sometimes when you think of reclaimed wood you think super rustic or really farmhouse,” said Ashley Carlson. “I think their cabin is the perfect blend of modern and rustic, so it’s got warmth, but it’s also very clean. I love the choice of those black fixtures. The combination of black, white and wood is so timeless.”
On the main floor, the baseboard, trim work, and wide plank, Douglas fir flooring are all reclaimed wood from Dakota Timber Company. “The flooring being reclaimed is one of the most surprising things to people because they just assume it’s newer, wood flooring,” said Morrison. To get the finished look, Ashley Carlson explained that the wood flooring had been smooth-planed to take off any rough surfaces, then stained to their choice. “Dakota Timber Company manufactures flooring that is ready to install. That means it’s tongue-in-groove and matched so it can be installed just as you would any hardwood flooring,” said Ashley Carlson.
The Morrison’s flooring was once from warehouse floor joists that Dakota Timber Company milled into flooring. “The nice thing about this style of flooring is that you get the character,” said Ashley Carlson. “There are nail holes and splits, but it’s graded. We grade out all of the wood that isn’t usable for flooring. So, this is nice and smooth, with some character, while still being a really functional floor.”
“As far as the integrity of reclaimed flooring, it’s already lived its life in a different application,” said Ashley Carlson. “Everyone associates pine and fir as being a soft wood, which can be true when you have a fast-growth pine that’s grown to be milled into lumber. This type of wood is really old-growth and it’s had time to gain that structure and hardness which makes this such high-quality flooring. Also, the finishes that we apply to our reclaimed flooring is what we call, “bomb-proof,” so we’re using products that are really protecting the wood against scratching and denting.”
One of the only rooms in the house that is not centered around reclaimed wood, is the kitchen. This space was designed with custom cabinetry in a traditional, shaker-style, accented by black iron hardware. Quartz countertops, a farmhouse sink, white subway tile and glass pendants help subtly fuse rustic elements with more contemporary amenities.
Using wood windows throughout is not as common as vinyl windows have become, but for the Morrison’s Montana cabin, it’s a look that blended seamlessly with their surroundings. “Our builder, Roger, had to manually stain all of the wood pieces of the windows, so it was a lot more time consuming than installing vinyl, but I think it looks much nicer in this environment,” said Morrison.
In the master bedroom with a stunning view of the Montana landscape, a custom, live-edge bench was built for the foot of the bed.
Designing with Family
With Seth Carlson and Kelsey Morrison being siblings, we wondered what it was like working together on new construction. “We pretty much put our builder in touch with Seth and Ashley right away,” said Morrison. “We didn’t really get in the middle of that and just trusted their ideas. It was definitely a little challenging because we weren’t physically in Montana and our builder wasn’t here, so we just had to make sure that everyone was communicating.”
“I don’t think Roger, our builder, had ever worked with that much reclaimed wood, but he had a really good time working with it. I know he loved how it all turned out. Even though we weren’t able to be there every week to see the progress, it all went really smoothly,” said Morrison. “Our builder was amazing and Seth loved working with him. We spent a lot of time planning it and a lot of time on the design and all of the little details. It was a long process even before they started construction.”
“When you look at the inside wood finishes, from the flooring to the ceiling, nothing matches perfectly,” said Morrison. “I had to kind of get over that, and realize that it’s all just wood, it doesn’t need to match. In the end, it all turned out well and came together. The color I chose for the flooring was the one thing that I didn’t like at first, it just seemed too warm compared to the ceiling. But, I ended up really liking it. I just had to get past the idea that everything had to match. By keeping some of the other things really simple it kept it from seeming busy.”
Usually, people who love reclaimed wood, tend to love imperfection almost more than perfection. “I’m working with a client right now and they want every single piece of wood to be the same and I have to remind them that’s it’s reclaimed wood,” said Seth Carlson. “Even if you use new wood, everything is going to vary a little. The thing that you have to accept if you want to use wood in your house, is that it’s a natural product and it’s going to vary. We see people all of the time that are concerned about that in the design process, but once it’s in their house, they think it’s amazing.”
Since January marks Dakota Timber Company’s one-year anniversary in their new, larger location, we asked Seth Carlson to tell us what’s in store for year two here.
Two Wood Trends to Watch For:
According to Seth Carlson, one new trend that’s coming up fast is wood tiles in varying shapes like hexagons, triangles, octagons and even a herringbone design. He’s already been getting requests for them from people that have seen them online. Shapes like these can be done in more of a mosaic design versus the usual paneling style. “We are also releasing all of our new finishes and styles in January,” said Seth Carlson. “We want to provide a unique selection that no one else has, so we update them every year now.”
Live-edge slabs have been popular for some time now, but lately, there’s been a surge of people stopping in to choose their slab and create their own table, bench or artistic masterpiece. “I work with the City of Fargo on this, so when trees are diseased on the boulevard, they have to get taken down. Every summer they’re removing all of these trees and we buy the logs and we saw them into slabs, then kill-grind and plane them so people can use them. We usually have around 100-200 in-stock and they sell out every three weeks. So, the big new thing is “Urban Wood”, straight from the streets of Fargo,” laughed Seth Carlson. “I’m actually in the process of meeting with all of the major cities in North Dakota and setting up more programs like this one, so we can get logs in from every community.”
The New Lumberyard Concept
A visit to Dakota Timber Company is not your typical lumberyard stop. Since marrying into the business, Ashley Carlson has closed down her shop, aendee, to take on a bigger role at Dakota Timber Company. She’s used her business skills to create a shopper-friendly store and fun experience. Choosing the right stain, species and overall look can be an overwhelming task, but Ashley Carlson shows that with a little organization and creative display, this task can be an enjoyable one. A trip to their lumberyard means perusing beams, panels, slabs and an array of finishes, perfectly sectioned out, displayed and named. She also spends much of her time online, helping to promote their latest projects and in-store events, classes and new DIY kits, all via social media.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as we can for people to utilize this material,” said Ashley Carlson. “Just simply by naming our paneling styles and having someone be able to hop on our website and ask questions has been huge. We’ve also done some standardization of finishes and sizing, so it just makes it a little easier for people to understand. This space has been great too, because we have everything under one roof.”
For more information, contact:
Dakota Timber Company
3202 7th Ave N., Fargo, N.D.