A Family Creates a Life in Jackson Hole That Hearkens to an Earlier Time

Meet Hillary Munro who is reimagining her rustic roots
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When decorating her home’s entry for fall, Munro used foraged materials from nature. Adding dried weeds to the vintage Hungarian horse troughs makes an impact and lasts all winter. | Photography by Lisa Flood

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.

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Handmade barn-door sliders hide the main suite and mudroom. The metal dome lights came from an antique store in Summerland, California, the cigar store Indian and painting are from Round Top, Texas, many years ago.

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.

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Munro in Grand Teton National Park—her favorite place, especially in the fall when the crowds diminish.

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.”

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The outdoor dining furniture and chandelier, once part of Munro’s childhood home, receive regular use in Wyoming.

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.

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Monroe with husband Mac and their dogs on foraging adventures.

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.

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The outdoor fireplace and lounge area make a cozy gathering place year-round.

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.

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Daily chores for the kids include tending to the flock of chickens.

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.

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Cabinetry color is Farrow and Ball Pitch Black. Munro selected Brazilian macaubas for the countertop and backsplash because of the unique veining.

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.

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To make a traditional antler chandelier more unique, Munro foraged dried hops and hung them haphazardly. Karen Bezuidenhout painted the custom canvas of Munro and Mac riding the range.

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.

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Setting a table in an unexpected place is Munro’s fun way to mix up the dinner routine.

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.



Categories: Outdoor Living