A Montana Bunkhouse With a Vintage Vibe
A 1,600-square-foot guest space shows off a playful collection of art and antiques
Photography by Emily Minton Redfield
Bunkhouses have come a long way since the days when cowboys crawled into rough-hewn beds after long, hard days on the trail. Proof positive: this enchanting 1,600-square-foot bunkhouse in Ennis, Montana, a pinprick of a town in southwestern Montana’s Madison River Valley.
Purchased by a pair of couples from Texas, the property originally held a dilapidated ranch house that was revived by the creative work of Bozeman-based architect Van Bryan and interior designer Carter Kay, of Atlanta. The main house is both fresh and appropriately rustic, its design deeply devoted to a marriage of Western vernacular and modern touches.
The owners soon realized that they needed more sleeping space for guests, especially their grown children and grandkids, and asked Bryan and Kay to create a bunkhouse that would be a welcome—and durable—retreat near the main house. The team dreamed up a three-bedroom, three-bath space that mirrors the main house’s style. Clad with reclaimed wood and a roof of cedar shingles and rusted metal, the bunkhouse feels like an old structure that’s been given new life. “Everything is like a worn shoe, cozy and livable,” Bryan says.
And good-looking, too. Inside, Kay and her colleague Nancy Hooff mixed antiques, vintage furnishings and accents and art for a style that’s playful and easy. “There’s a sense of spontaneity in the rooms,” Kay explains. “I think that’s one of the joys of designing with antiques and vintage pieces: They feel found, not forced, and maybe a little quirky in the best sense.” A perfect example is the living room’s pair of old rattan chairs “covered in the hairiest hide you’ve ever seen,” Kay says. The chairs stand opposite a hunky wood coffee table and a sectional sofa covered in durable denim. A pair of vintage silhouetted horse cutouts adds a light-hearted note. “We just flipped when we found these horses,” Kay says. “They’re an artful way to say, ‘We love animals and the West,’ without putting taxidermy on the walls.”
"Come on in, kick off your shoes and relax,"
— Carter Kay, Interior Designer
In one of the bedrooms, white resin deer heads with colorful antlers are mounted in frames made from old barn boards. Cheeky and whimsical, the heads stand sentry over a pair of beds and a turquoise cabinet enclosed with chicken wire—“so you can see where you put your things,” Kay says.
The mix of old and new continues in other spaces: A pair of curvy antique chairs are suspended over a vintage pine chest in one bedroom. In another, guests find “Birds on a Wire,” a colorful series of mixed-media art pieces, which Kay chose for their bright hues and nod to nature. Across the room, an old canvas print of a scarab hangs above another antique pine dresser. Even the small kitchen gets a flash of whimsy from a trio of rusted metal fish, found at the Ennis flea market and hung from an old hand-tied fly near the open shelves. A vivid rug with a fish motif, another retro find, adds a theme-appropriate pop of color to the floor.
Though the home showcases antiques and art in every nook and cranny, it’s hardly a museum. “People think that antiques are very serious. They can be, but the bunkhouse shows that bringing in old pieces and unique art actually can make a home more fun,” Kay observes. “This particular mix of things says to guests, ‘Come on in, kick off your shoes and relax,’”—just as a welcoming Western bunkhouse should.
Architect Van Bryan designed the bunkhouse's asymmetry to suggest that the home started out as a smaller structure that has been expanded over time. "I like the character of it, the implicit story," he says.
The entry shows off practical good looks: Hooks over easy storage, and a vintage expandable bench from 14th Street Antiques in Atlanta is the perfect spot to slip shoes on or off.
Interior designer Carter Kay found the living room's two antique rattan chairs, covered in hair-on-hide, at South of Market in Atlanta. The sectional, from Lee Industries, is covered in denim by Arabel Fabrics to make it especially kid-friendly, and the rug, from Keivan Woven Arts, is a contemporary riff on a fence-inspired pattern. The wooden horse cutouts are from Bobo Intriguing Objects.
Guests gather in the main house for most meals, so the kitchen is intentionally small. Its open shelves are made from antique wood. "You just need one splash of color in such a small room," Kay says of the colorful vintage rug.
"It's steel, and it does not budge," Kay says of the dining table from Go Home Ltd. "I was thinking of the grandkids: It's sturdy and easy to clean."
The breakfast nook's distinctive light fixture was custom-made by an Atlanta artist and purchased through South of Market.
A bedroom gets an infusion of fun from the "Birds on a Wire" series by Atlanta artist Corinne Adams. The bed is from Environment Furniture, and the vintage adjustable side tables with triangular metal tops are made from machinery springs.
A colorful scarab print, discovered at A. Tyner Antiques in Atlanta, is a playful addition to the second master bedroom. The vintage chest (from Provenance Antiques in Atlanta and a complement to the chest in the other master bedroom) rests atop an animal-print rug. The ladder is a convenient rack for hanging scarves or magazines. "I buy ladders whenever I find them," Kay says.
Whimsical antique chairs from BoBo Intriguing Objects hang ar artwork over an antique chest from Provenance Antiques in Atlanta.
This bedroom plays with Western tropes, courtesy of white resin deer heads from online shop White Faux Taxidermy. Kay had the frames made from reclaimed barn wood to give the "art" a greater presence. The beds, from West Elm, are topped with coverlets from Utility Canvas and paired with a painted metal cabinet from Four Hands.
Made from recycled gears, a console by Vintage Studios is a rugged foil to the softness of the beds in the kids' bedroom. A local craftsman fashioned its wood top. A watercolor of a fly fisherman, purchased by one of the homeowners, feels right at home next to a vintage fly basket Kay found at Peachtree Battle Antiques in Atlanta.
Kay tucked a simple wooden desk from Four Hands behind one side of the living room's sectional and added a fleecy pouf from Go Home for seating. The small wooden chairs and table are antiques.