In a mountaintop in Big Sky, Montana, sits a chalet of wood, glass and stone so filled with light and warmth that even the most dedicated skiers might be reluctant to leave. This was not the goal the homeowners-avid skiers themselves-necessarily had in mind, but they did desire a house where all would feel welcome. “Cozy is a good word to describe it, as well as sophisticated and dramatic,” says the clients’ designer, Heather Wells.
The husband and wife are well-traveled art enthusiasts who appreciate vernacular architecture. “Each of their homes is appropriate to the location,” notes Wells, who also designed the couple’s houses on Martha’s Vineyard and in California. This house was to be no different. The site has south-facing light and stunning views, which is what drew the owners to the property and drove architects Reid Smith and Bob Brooks to create the massive south-facing glass walls. “They wanted us to capture the warmth and exposure, not just to the mountains, but also to the sunlight,” says Brooks, noting the powerful impact the sun has throughout all hours of the day-even into the evening. The glazing presented a particular challenge notes general contractor Erin Hayes, who collaborated on the project with his firm’s president, John Seelye, and site superintendent Steve Rapp. “The project is at almost 8,000 feet and sees winter conditions and temperatures around eight months a year,” Hayes shares, so time was of the essence in installing the glazing and waterproofing the openings prior.
A sense of place resonates with several of the quintessentially Western design choices the team favored-think rich wood, hide rugs, stainless steel and an antler-inspired chandelier-but these details pay tribute to the vibe in a modern way. “It’s refined mountain contemporary,” says Brooks. Smith concurs: “All of our natural materials lean more toward a refined, edited use of them.” The stone has a textural quality, but it’s a coursed stone laid flat for sleeker presentation. The steel windows are patinated and polished. “It’s more like a flat nickel,” notes Smith. The hemlock on the living room ceiling has a visible grain but the boards are smooth and a transparent stain allows the grain to read through.
Tempering the many typical-yet-not elements are glamorous ones. Senior designer Stephanie King, who worked with Wells on the project, observes, “The husband travels a lot, and he’s seen a lot of razzle-dazzle moments and used those for inspiration.” These were translated into such details as the back-lit onyx slab hung by the wine cellar and the glass wine cellar itself. Of the latter, notes King: “They liked that it was something you see all the time, but in an unexpected way. It wasn’t doing a wine room in a traditional style.”
Other material choices play up the sense of drama. Mixed metals, textured fabrics and bright colors were liberally incorporated, such as the royal blue table at the center of the living room. Wells notes that the vibrant table, along with graphic rug punched up by swaths of red and the eye-catching Jamali painting above the fireplace, set the tone for the space’s evolution. And a descent down the stairs to the lounge proves that a place where games are played can still be chic, with a channel-tufted leather chair and ottoman, navy blue Eames chairs and a wood and brass table.
Even clients who want a house suited for entertaining still need a place for escape. They have that with the master suite, a separate volume that is accessed through an interior bridge. Collaborating with fabricator Brandner Design (one of many local maker companies involved with the project), the team fashioned the suite’s striking entrance of blackened steel sandwiched between live-edge walnut slabs.
Inside, serene shades of gray and brown envelop the master bedroom where floor-to-ceiling glass shows off the mountains. The Art Deco-inspired master sitting room, which shares a double-sided fireplace with the bedroom, provides a different type of escape. It is pure drama with custom green Venetian plaster walls and a black marble and bronze table, yielding an intimate spot from which to peer outside. Even in such a private space, it’s yet another glam moment. “This home feels true to them,” says King. “You get a glimpse of who they are-and that they’re risk takers.”