Returning home to find their mountain getaway ransacked a few too many times led Libby and Mike Murphy to hire a team that could finally come up with a solution to keep unwelcome bears outside where they belong. The project was led by award-winning architect, Todd Gordon Mather, who collaborated with general contractor, Norm Milz, to engineer a sleek, protective “Bear Door” to outsmart nature’s crafty intruders once and for all.
TGM Architect specializes in creating unique living spaces that often solve interesting challenges like creating innovative snow-design elements or in this case, a protective barrier indestructible by bears. The Bear Door needed to be made of reinforced material with a smooth surface and fully-enclosed edges, unlike sliding, barn or track doors, so bears couldn’t grab hold and force it open. The door was built by welding two tube-steel frames together and weighs a whopping 1,600 pounds, though it is easily raised and lowered with the flip of a switch on the living room wall.
The Bear Door lifts upward directly out of the deck using two hydraulic pistons operated by a motor that is stored in a separate equipment room underground. When raised, the door’s hot rolled steel is a beautiful design feature as well as a fireproof. Once the Bear Door is lowered, the glass sliding door and window accessing the living room are revealed. The Bear Door seamlessly tucks away under-foot when not in use by sliding into a two-foot concrete sleeve that was built into the home’s foundation beneath the back deck.
The Murphys originally purchased their home in Alpine Meadows in the early 2000s, coincidentally in the same neighborhood that Libby grew up in. It wasn’t until she was touring the backyard that she recognized the property she had played at as a little girl. A self-described “serial remodeler”, Murphy and her husband made several upgrades to the home, but none as unique and impressive as the Bear Door, which is the first of its kind.
The door inspired Mather and Milz to incorporate touches of custom decorative steelwork throughout the home’s interior. He installed steel railings on the staircase, steel shelving and cabinetry, a private reading nook built-in to a rock wall with steel bookshelves, even a steel toilet paper dispenser in the master bath. The exterior of the home was also sided with hot-rolled steel which is not only decorative but also a fireproof and requires no maintenance whatsoever.
Photos by Vance Fox.