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A Playful, 'Retro Chic' Guesthouse



Audrey Hall

This one-bedroom guesthouse in Bozeman, Montana, pulls double duty: When the homeowners (whose main house is just a short walk away) have company, it's a quirky, charming place for guests to kick back. But during football season, the guesthouse is game-watching central for the owners and their three sons. So it's no wonder that interior designer Abby Hetherington let playfulness inspire her vision for the space. "You could call it a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a 1970s Montana Lodge," she says.

Whether the ’70s gave us anything as cool as this guesthouse is up for debate. Hetherington’s interpretation easily blends modern lines, hunting-lodge accessories, rustic finishes and retro details. The result: a space that feels both surprising and perfectly at home in Montana.

The first thing Hetherington bought for the house is an enormous neon “BAR” sign, discovered at a vintage shop in Bozeman. “You could say that set the tone,” she laughs. “We weren’t going to have an earnest space with a giant neon sign in the middle of it all.” The designer transformed the kitchen area beneath the sign by extending the height of the existing cabinets and painting them black. “When you’re designing something this over-the-top, black is a good choice because it grounds the space,” she advises. The bar got a coat of silver leaf and a custom top. To create it, the homeowners gathered currency from the countries they’ve visited, and a craftsman arranged it under a layer of acrylic—a retro treatment and sentimental element all in one. To add more storage space, Hetherington chose an armoire made from the doors of a Model T Ford; inside are the coffee maker and other breakfast accouterments. And the whole space gets a little extra glow from blue etched-glass pendants made from seltzer water bottles.

Transforming the rest of the main room proved a bit trickier because “it’s so linear,” Hetherington says. “We had to maximize seating and arrange it so everyone could see the TV.” To add a little softness, she chose a curved sofa from USA Rags covered in cobalt-blue brushed velvet and finished with silver studs. “Don’t they remind you of the ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’?” she asks. A coffee table from the Bozeman gallery Misco Mill features caster legs and can be raised to function as a dining table—perfect for game-time meals. Under it all is a beautiful and durable rug that was custom-made in Istanbul from remnants of antique kilims.

The pièce de résistance in this space is the giant map that covers an entire wall. Hetherington found the 11-by-17-inch original in an antiques store in Portland, Oregon, and worked with a graphic designer to scale the map to fit precisely. The designer also adjusted the color to blend with the home’s palette. “I love adding art that means something to the family,” Hetherington says. “It’s an easy way to personalize a space.”

With so many high-octane elements, the real question is how Hetherington made the design look smart and cheeky, not weird and wild. The secret, she says, is in a consistent color palette. The cobalt-blue hue of the couch shows up again in a pillow in the bedroom’s sitting area, the kitschy framed prints in the bathroom, the light fixtures above the bar, the woven leather on the antique-cart-turned-bench, and the streams on the map. The bright orange bedroom lamp has a mate in the living-room coat rack. And bold red makes an appearance in each area of the house. “You get visual consistency, even with all these extraordinary elements,” Hetherington says.

All in all, the design delivers a good dose of fun, which is just what the owners wanted. "Some people try to be so serious and literal about their homes," Hetherington says. "This space is just to make people smile and laugh and have a good time." Let the games begin. 

Designer Abby Hetherington worked with graphic designer Serena Finn to blow up a vintage map of nearby Park County, Montana, which she used to cover an entire wall. The Thayer Coggin chairs are covered in a Fadini Borghi fabric, and the coffee table, from Misco Mill, spins up to dining table height.

Scooter stands sentry at the front entrance beside a “ski chair.”

The kitchen got a facelift to complement the funky “BAR” sign overhead: Hetherington painted the existing cabinets black, then gave the bar a silver-leaf finish. The armoire is made from a Model T Ford’s doors, and stools from Halo Styles swivel like classic diner stools. The living area’s curved sofa from USA Rags is covered in cobalt-blue brushed velvet. “You could basically drive over it and it would still look awesome,” Hetherington says.

Hetherington topped this bench cart, from Bobo Intriguing Objects, with colorful woven leather from Dedar. “It’s rustic with a modern twist,” she says. Doug Nordberg, a craftsman in Cody, Wyoming, made the side table, complete with enough fringe to satisfy Buffalo Bill. Well-loved pieces of mountain adventure gear, from a fishing net to ski poles, become objets d’art on the wall.

Hetherington stocked the bar with vintage bottles that represent places the owners have traveled.

A funky custom chandelier adds personality to the living area.

Hetherington originally wanted to hang blue mercury glass pendants over the bar, but fell in love with these seltzer bottle lights from Unearthed instead.

In the bedroom, Hetherington paired Andrew Martin wallpaper—a cheeky riff on a traditional log wall—with an antique Montana map and topped the dresser with a vintage duck decoy, a nod to the owner’s love of hunting.

She kept the couple’s existing lodgepole pine bed and side table and selected neutral bedding “to create the feeling of a traditional Montana lodge.” Then she added a few funky elements to modernize the space: an industrial lamp-hand light from Misco Mill and a bright orange table lamp.

To visually tie the bathroom to the bedroom, Hetherington used the same Andrew Martin wallpaper in both spaces. Lights from Schoolhouse Electric add retro charm, and custom barn wood frames show off kitschy photos from Fab.com.

FUN & FUNCTION 

Ready to add a little fun to your home’s design? Start here. 

CUSTOM ART
For Hetherington, there’s nothing better than creating large-scale art from a beloved photo, local map, favorite poem or any other visual element that her clients love. “Find a graphic designer who does large-scale pieces, like car ads or billboards,” she suggests. “He or she will have the capabilities to scan the original image and produce something high-quality.” And one more tip: The designer should measure the space before you start. 

QUIRKY WALLPAPER
You might not want it all over your house, but playful wallpaper can add just enough flair to a room. Ask your designer about putting it in a powder room, den or bedroom (or a bed and bath, like Hetherington did, to visually tie the two rooms together). Start your search at Andrew Martin, Aimée Wilder, Timorous Beasties, Graham & Brown or Ferm Living. 

BOLD LIGHTS
Lighting is so interesting,” Hetherington says. If your home suggests otherwise, consider swapping out your ho-hum fixtures for something bolder. You might want color-infused glass pendants that draw out a color in the room’s palette, or maybe you should crown a space with a sparkly chandelier with hand-cut white glass. Ask your designer to help you cull good ideas from the wide range of lighting companies producing gorgeous options.

INTERIOR DESIGN Abby Hetherington Interiors LIVING ROOM CUSTOM WALL MAP Serena Finn LAMP Restoration Hardware SWIVEL CHAIR Thayer Coggin UPHOLSTERY Fadini Borghi COFFEE TABLE Misco Mill KITCHEN TRUCK DOOR CABINET Rusty Nail Design BAR STOOLS Halo Styles SOFA Rags Custom Furnishings PENDANTS Unearthed HALL BENCH CART, Bobo Intriguing Objects LARGE PILLOWS Restoration Hardware SMALL LEATHER ARROW PILLOW Eliza Eddy WOVEN LEATHER BENCH CUSHION Dedar Fabric BUFFALO LEATHER-TOP TABLE WITH ANTLER BASE Doug Nordberg BEDROOM WALLPAPER Andrew Martin HAND SCONCE Misco Mill BEDDING Villa Home BATHROOM LIGHTING School House Electric

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