From a design standpoint, the idea behind Alan and Jennifer Fournier’s Big Sky, Montana, vacation home set within the exclusive Yellowstone Club came with a bit of a twist. “It was a natural inclination to go for the traditional all-out rustic log vernacular that you usually see in the area,” says Alan. “But we wanted the visual effect to be more of a hybrid, chalet-style, with large connected spaces where our family and guests could gather together and be social.”
Expressing that concept took some creative thinking on the part of all involved. “The overall composition was driven by the views and conditions of the site, which offers ski-in/ski-out access,” says project architect and principal Joshua A. Barr, who worked on the architecture alongside lead designer and founding principal Larry Pearson. “Our goal was to take a classic log structure and add a contemporary edge.”
While materials are rooted in tradition, they were tweaked to add a more modern feel. The exterior is clad with beetle-kill wood siding, Harlowton moss rock and reclaimed barn wood, all either harvested or sourced locally in Montana. In certain sections of the home, such as the great room and dining room, ample windows are set inside lodgepole pine beams—many of which are wrapped around structural steel I-beams; this enabled the team to “express the structure with glass planes for a different experience that added depth and a layering of views,” Barr says.
Inside, a clear connection to the exterior was achieved by incorporating the same, or similar, materials in a more refined manner. Log walls and beamed ceiling structures, as well as locally quarried sandstone flooring, create contrast against plaster finishes, while reclaimed white oak was used for everything from flooring and wall paneling to cabinetry and door packages, and details like hand-hewn fireplace mantels. Most of the millwork was done by builder Chris Lohss and his crew, either on-site or at their log and timber yard outside of Bozeman. “It gave us more control,” he notes. “We had five semi loads of lodgepole pine and 30,000 board feet of white oak, and used everything but the sawdust. It was insane.”
Pulling it all together into a comfortable living space was the task of designer Rain Houser, who was involved from the start along with interiors assistant Skye Anderson. “Alan wanted a rustic, masculine look; Jennifer had more modern sensibilities and wanted things to be lighter and brighter, and have cleaner lines,” Houser says. “The design aesthetic became a combination of both styles.”
Working toward delivering a turnkey experience, Houser considered the owners’ requests in every detail, from architectural finishes to lighting to even bedroom slippers. Custom-designed furniture, which tended toward a more masculine style, was kept softer in tone in the home’s private areas. In communal spaces, including the great room, a sense of comfort was instilled with the addition of textural fabrics (alpaca, silk blends and supple leathers), accessories and rugs in light colors. Large, high-ceilinged rooms were brought down to a more livable scale by simple touches, such as creating cozy seating areas and lowering chandeliers.
Used year-round, the home easily accommodates the Fourniers and their four children, as well as a myriad of extended family members and clusters of guests. Après-ski (or golf, as the case may be), the generous spa—complete with a massage room, separate dry sauna and steam room—and a waterfall feature provide respite. In the forest nearby, a rustic-chic guest cabin pays homage to Montana’s earlier days.
After the two-year building process, the design team agrees that the involvement of the owners, particularly Alan, who even accompanied Houser from his home in New Jersey to design showrooms in New York at the beginning of the project, was critical to the home’s success. “Alan made it clear that he wanted an exceptional product, so we went the extra mile and pulled out all the tricks,” says Lohss. Barr notes that it might have been push-and-pull sometimes, “but when owners are aware and involved, they end up with something they love.”