High-Style Western in Whitefish
The Firebrand Hotel in Whitefish, Montana
Photos by Gibeon Photography
The Firebrand is brick-and-masonry masculine; the interiors are a unique mix of cowboy rustic and contemporary chic. “Cosmopolitan,” says Jennifer Michele of Whitefish-based SAGE Interior Design, who along with her colleague, Colton Martini, created the hotel’s interiors. “But also a place where you can walk into the lobby in your cowboy boots or your ski boots…and feel comfortable.”
The hotel takes its name from nearby Glacier National Park’s iconic Firebrand Pass. And, in fact, Montana history was a huge influence on the hotel’s architecture and design. “When the architects and the design team sat down with the hotel’s owners (Averill Hospitality)…the city of Whitefish was definitely one of our clients,” says Michele. “We wanted to honor the town’s history and spirit.” Architect Aaron Wallace, of Whitefish-based Montana Creative, also credits Whitefish for his inspiration. “The town has such a strong identity, so we decided on a rugged and more distinctively western look,” he says.
A two-story lobby is pure drama—anchored by a monumental raw steel fireplace flanked by floor-to-ceiling, almost sculptural log stacks. The square timbers on which the fireplace sits were fashioned out of reclaimed structural supports from a local barn. “They almost look like railroad ties,” says Martini, “which fits perfectly because Whitefish was a big railroad and logging town.”
The small barnwood-sided sitting area, just off the lobby, is perfect for meeting friends après ski or after work. Theatrically lighted bison skulls act like a bold art installation and reference nearby bison ranches and large prairie bison herds in north-central Montana.
Graphic photographs cast onto metal have an edgy, avant-garde vibe—but look closely: they are photos of the surrounding area. “Motorcycle images bring to mind the thrill of Montana’s highways that go on straight and true…forever and ever,” says Martini.
In the lounge (on the other side of the dual-sided fireplace), sink into antique leather chairs with bowling-ball feet. Order a local micro-brew (there are more than a dozen on tap) or grab an espresso from the coffee kiosk.
Cozy fabrics, natural wood and industrial steel define the guest rooms. Custom-made headboards are upholstered in gray denim. Side tables and bathroom vanities are made of brushed steel. The bathrooms feature total body spray showers—great to massage sore muscles from skiing Whitefish Mountain Resort (the locals call it Big Mountain) or hiking to the top of Firebrand Pass.
“The hotel is meant to feel like the home of a friend,” says Michele, “calm and relaxed… not unnecessarily fancy but a place where you can be yourself and a place where
you know you’ll be taken care of.”
Perhaps most gratifying for the entire team—positive feedback from locals. “We designed it for the people of Whitefish and for the people who want to experience the real Whitefish,” Michele says.
The Firebrand Hotel
86 rooms (81 deluxe rooms/five premium suites). From $239.