A Playful Home Built on History

Dubbed “Freedom Lodge,” a couple’s new Big Sky home is infused with family stories
Photos by Audrey Hall

After 25 years of frequent moves and a four-year stint abroad, a soon-to-be empty-nester couple from the Midwest was preparing for their final migration, and in search of a place to land. They spent years familiarizing themselves with communities and architects all over the West, eventually falling for the commanding views of Big Sky, Montana.

The couple researched architects throughout the region and selected Pearson Design Group for the architecture firm’s rugged yet sophisticated designs. The project played out in multiple phases. First, PDG principal Greg Matthews designed the guesthouse—with an aerie-like après ski room and views of the area’s distinctive peaks—where the couple stayed while getting accustomed to the property and devising a plan for the main home. Phase two included design and construction of the main house, executed by Lohss Construction. For both phases, designers Rain Houser and Skye Anderson (who worked with PDG at the time, and have since moved on to open their Bozeman-based boutique Urbaine Home), helped the clients execute interiors.

“Even a new home should have layers of meaning and be a reflection of the family inhabiting it,” says Houser. “We love an eclectic home layered with textures, antiques and anything timeworn, which gives a space instant personality. “

It’s amazing to think of new construction having such deep roots.” — Architect Greg Matthews

The couple sold most of their furniture before they moved, but they insisted on incorporating a few touchstone pieces into the new interiors. The house needed more than a few family heirlooms, though; it needed a backstory. The entire team worked with their clients to draw out their story, their interests and their histories, and found a way to infuse the new house, dubbed Freedom Lodge, with meaning and character that come out in details like the rustic branch work in the hallway of the guesthouse. The swing in the great room hearkens back to the wife’s earliest memory of freedom, when her mother encouraged her to jump off a rope swing at age five. The new version, she says, “is absolutely beautiful and it means a lot to our family. It reminds us to never forget that we have freedom.”

Other details, such as hand-hewn timbers reclaimed from a barn in the husband’s Indiana hometown and a grandfather clock inherited from the wife’s great-grandmother, provide layers of meaning that ground the family in their home. Notes architect Greg Matthews, “We worked so closely with them for so long, and the house is such a reflection of who they are and what they’ve done in their lives. It’s amazing to think of new construction having such deep roots and such references throughout the project.”

The timeless stone-and-timber home surprises with contemporary touches—a translucent divider wall at the base of the stairs, a front door set into a glass-and-steel window wall, a light and bright kitchen with quartzite countertops and backsplashes and open shelving, a bunk room with pipe fittings, all details that translate into a fresh take on modern rustic.

The resulting lodge is proof that with a close-knit design team working in concert with the clients, taking their time and acting on inspiration, a house can instantly become a home.

“It was kind of a leap of faith,” admits the wife of their bold move from a Midwestern suburb to a mountain retreat. “But with all our moves, I’ve always said our home is wherever we are.”

Inside the entry, a sleek window wall juxtaposed with hand-hewn timbers and a sculptural 1940s caribou mount lend a modern rustic vibe.


The rope swing in the great room, created by Integrity Builders, is inspired by the homeowner’s childhood memories and symbolizes the spirit of the home. A vintage buffalo mount and comfortable, weighty sofas from Urbaine Home ground the room and balance its whimsy.


Designed to accommodate large groups, the serene kitchen features a quartzite backsplash and countertops, custom cabinetry from Integrity Builders and open shelving displaying featherweight ceramic dishes from France.


A key ingredient in the mountain modern ethos of the home’s main rooms is the translucent partition that creates a sense of separation without the solidity of a wall. The bold painting of a bear at the landing is by Amy Ringholz.


A custom-designed bed set against a timbered half wall is positioned to enjoy the views through two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. The chandelier is from John Brooks, Inc.; the bed and nightstands were commissioned through Tim Sanford.


The sculptural carved marble tub makes a dramatic statement in a master bath with custom floating vanities and low-profile mirrors.


The restrained proportions of the rustic entrance create a sense of arrival, which then gives way to drama upon experiencing the home’s soaring spaces.


A wood-burning fireplace, built-in appliances and a custom-made dining table and chandelier comprise the essential elements of year-round outdoor entertaining.


The guesthouse was designed as a glass-walled après ski room with far-reaching mountain views. Furnishings were kept low and simple to avoid competing with the scenery. A painting by Duke Beardsley hangs over a table designed by Rain Houser.


Guest-room bed designed by Rain Houser and Skye Anderson; the graphic shapes on the textural rug speak to the mod angular chandelier.


A newly constructed home needs a rugged sturdiness and sense of rootedness to complement its mountain setting and become a repository for a family’s memories. Designers Rain Houser and Skye Anderson suggest several ways to accomplish this goal.

Think Ahead
When designing a client’s home, it’s imperative that the designers understand their lifestyle: how they live in a home, how they use a space and how they share their spaces. A good designer knows how to guide a client through selections—but, most important, the designer knows how to see a house through the clients’ eyes and to reflect their personality in the space.

Curate a Collection
Houser and Anderson approach each room as a collection. “I wouldn’t say that we decorate a space,” says Houser. “Rather, we curate a collection with a vast array of items from vintage antiques, one-of-a-kinds and European-inspired furniture. We draw inspiration from the European aesthetic, which we feel blends beautifully with our Western sensibility.”

Create Layers of Texture and Meaning
Houser and Anderson suggest infusing a new home with organic materials. Reclaimed hewn timbers, dry-stacked stone walls, handmade tiles, unlac-quered brass fittings and unexpected details set a house apart from the norm. Add elements that give a home soul. Notes Houser, “Lighting, for instance, we find to be the jewelry of a house, along with the cabinetry and door hardware. “



Categories: Contemporary Homes