A Family Creates a Life in Jackson Hole That Hearkens to an Earlier Time
Meet Hillary Munro who is reimagining her rustic roots
In the 1990s, my husband and I both moved to Jackson Hole, a wild and remote place where locals endured a six-month winter by dressing in Gore-Tex boots, layers of Synchilla and paisley silk scarves wrapped around their necks. Mac moved from the East and I from the West. Quickly, we fell in love with the mountains, we embraced seasonality and a simpler way of living and, in time, winter.
When we married and started a family, I dreamed of a place where my children could run free, raise animals, and grow and harvest food. My grandmother, Jaqueline, and my mother, Joni, raised me this way. Once common in Jackson, this rural lifestyle is disappearing.
The opportunity to purchase a small piece of land arose and we jumped on the chance to build our future. The biggest selling points: a disassembled historic cabin, a double-sided outhouse and a wagon. My mother-in-law suggested we name the property Sawmill Ranch after my children, Sawyer (8) and Miller (7). The following Christmas, she made the name official, gifting us reusable plastic cups embossed with “Sawmill Ranch.”
Our new lot was a flat field with no trees. We envisioned a one-story barn-style house, with simple, modern lines and spaces that would be lived in daily. Anna Butler from Miro Studio Architecture helped us design a 4-bedroom, 5-bathroom, 3,500-square-foot home with a 1,500-square-foot garage.
Designed with my family in mind, the interior style is casual, where little is precious. A wood-burning fireplace offers a warm welcome and a cozy place to read on a winter day. Neutral shades of browns, blacks and whites complement the architecture. The backyard faces south to take advantage of mountain views. The southern exposure also provides passive solar heat through large glass sliding doors.
As a modern hunter and gatherer, my passion is to frequent antique markets and vintage consignment stores for one-of-a-kind treasures. Finds include a butcher-block dining table salvaged from a Midwest bakery and a local lodgepole sofa, which I updated with black velvet cushions.
We reassembled the historic cabin that had come from the historic Jackson Hole Puzzleface Ranch with the help of 300 photographs. The logs were wrapped in numbered bundles, but after many years of sunshine, the figures were illegible. We changed the cabin’s original four-room design to fit our needs and kept only the beautiful weathered logs to create a one-story space.
After establishing the foundation, we stacked the logs, a process akin to building with childhood Lincoln Logs. A professional finished the job, chinking the gaps with mortar to seal the structure. I was lucky to find weathered wood in a friend’s boardyard, which I mixed with rustic white oak to create a floor in keeping with the cabin’s age. An old galvanized horse trough made a perfect sink, and a Waterworks claw-foot bathtub, which was procured from a barn loft with a crane, finished the bathroom. This primitive building now serves as my creative workshop for personal projects and seasonal classes.
Growing our own food and raising animals on our property was paramount to me because this ranch lifestyle teaches my children responsibility, builds confidence and promotes a meaningful connection to the land. And watching a seed turn into a plant or finding an egg in the coop is magical, too. Our garden provides enough food to feed our family through the seasons, and a chicken coop houses 12 laying hens. A fenced-in pasture is a home for our horses, Darby and Press.
Modern life with social media and constant connection is here to stay, but blending this electronic world with a simpler way of life is how I’m raising my family. Hands-on activities such as digging in the dirt, grooming the horses and feeding chickens remind me to disconnect, connect with nature, be creative and stay inspired. I’m thankful to have a community of friends and family that believe in a similar lifestyle, and I hope to inspire you too.
PHOTOGRAPHY Lisa Flood