A Stylish Loft in Downtown Bozeman
A master of classic Western design keeps it simple in 1,800 square feet of style
You might expect the head of an architecture practice known for its restorations of classic ranch properties to live in a grand Western house surrounded by a vast natural landscape. So it may come as a surprise that Paul Bertelli, design principal of JLF & Associates, makes his home—shared with his fiancée and her daughter—in an 1,800-square-foot loft just a short walk from Bozeman’s historic downtown area, where his firm is based.
But Bertelli’s home of the past four years not only hews closely to the philosophy that guides his business but also perfectly suits the lifestyle he prefers. “At JLF, we are regionalists,” he explains. “We respond to the immediate environment of a property, whether it’s in the Rocky Mountain West; Newport Beach, California; or Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I believe strongly in preserving the cultural and environmental identity of Bozeman, and the more we sprawl, the less we have. So living like this is a wise thing to do.
”It’s also convenient, especially for a man who travels often for work and pleasure. “I really enjoy being able to leave the car in the garage underneath the building and just go at the drop of a hat,” he says.
That’s not to say that Bertelli has forsaken the great West for the life of a city slicker. One look into his loft belies that notion. In the kitchen/dining/living area, wide ceiling-high windows run perpendicular to two main interior walls that frame arched steel-and-glass window-doors. Their large expanses allow natural light to flow through most of the loft’s interiors while showcasing vistas of some of the area’s most dramatic mountainscapes: Hyalite Canyon, the Spanish Peaks and the Tobacco Roots.
Bertelli set the great room’s sofa and dining table askew so people seated there could gaze out at the best vistas. “Why square the layout to the room?” he says. “One of the most compelling reasons to live here is the ability to look out at that mountain range.”
When designing the loft’s interiors, Bertelli opted for “a really clean palette that shows a little restraint.” The walls and ceiling are predominantly painted white, as are the kitchen’s custom cabinets. Most of the floors and some of the interior doors, meanwhile, are made from rough reclaimed corral boards that evoke Montana’s ranching past. “The dominant elements are contemporary,” Bertelli explains, “while the contrasts come from the more traditional components.” Along with comfortable neutral-toned upholstered furnishings customized in consultation with local interior designer and friend Catherine Lane, that materials palette provides an ideal background for a highly personal range of beautiful and useful items Bertelli has collected over the years.
In a compact footprint, it all adds up to a surprisingly spacious-feeling home that expresses the tastes of the man who designed it. “I’d never done a place for myself before this one,” Bertelli says. “I think too many architects build something for themselves too early in their careers, and they give in to the temptation to express everything they know. Not until later in your career can you show some restraint. You realize how little you really need, which coincides with a level of maturity about your work and about what’s important in your life.”
A late-19th-century Mongolian wedding chest and a pair of antique doors from the Philippines anchor a casual but thoughtfully composed display of books and art, including, on the floor, pastels by Danish painter Peter Brandes and, on the wall, Montana landscapes in oil by James Poulson.
Homeowner and architect Paul Bertelli designed the vanity for his master bathroom. Made from black steel pipe with a clear matte finish, it features a black Venetian granite countertop with unfinished edge and an undermounted sink with fixtures by Dornbracht. Complementing the retro-industrial look are a floor of Italian ceramic tile, wainscoting in white subway tiles from Montana Tile & Stone, and a pair of swing-arm, chrome-and-glass wall sconces by Rejuvenation. On the wall to the right of the vanity is a framed pencil drawing of a bucking bronco by artist Walter Piehl, Jr.
Near the dining area, a pair of antique Chinese doors some 600 years old contrast with the adjacent doors to the master suite. Bertelli designed the dining table with rolling steel-pipe legs and a reclaimed-fir top. A wicker couch by Palecek with gold mohair cushions provides seating on one side; chairs on the other three sides are from Restoration Hardware. A sisal area rug helps define the space.
The kitchen is equipped for serious cooking with a six-burner-plus-griddle Viking gas range, granite counters, Elkay sinks, a Viking dishwasher, and ample storage in white-painted wood cabinets designed by Bertelli and fabricated by Mountain High Woodworks.
Bertelli relaxes in the doorway to his study filled with books, art, model ships and other personal collections. Behind him is a vintage Stickley wood-and-leather Morris chair.
Behind the master bedroom's mohair-upholstered headboard, designed by Catherine Lane, is the only wall in the home painted a soft gray hue rather than white. "White is about light," Bertelli says. "Gray is that wonderful neutral color that makes all others more vibrant." A Nepalese rug adds another touch of color.
A freestanding cast-iron tub by Cheviot adds a hint of Old West style to the master bathroom, while sleek Dornbracht chrome fixtures bring modern-day convenience. A wool carpet Bertelli bought on a trip to Kathmandu adds softness to the floor of two-foot-square, mottled-gray Italian ceramic tiles. Above the tub is a lithograph by artist Russell Chatham.
“Living in a smaller space forces you to think about what’s important, and to be very particular about what you have,” Paul Bertelli says of his loft home in downtown Bozeman. With that in mind, the architect singles out a few items he’s learned he can’t live without:
Books A voracious reader, Bertelli fills the shelves in his study with favorite categories including biographies “of everyone from John Adams to Neil Young,” histories and travel books, “including a section of just maps and Fodor and Lonely Planet guidebooks.”
Pots and Pans Those from the professional-quality All-Clad brand are the avid home cook’s favorites. “The overall simplicity of their design, their functionality and their durability make them, day to day, the cool things to use in my kitchen.”
Art “Most of the pieces have come from artist friends,” Bertelli says, “and I’ve also received a lot of art as gifts from clients.” He started collecting with plein-air landscapes, “but lately,” he says, “I’m beginning to move toward abstract works.”
Antiques Because he lives in a compact space, Bertelli has limited his antiques to a few excellent pieces. He’s drawn to antiques from Asia, “which are expressed in a simpler way that I really appreciate,” he says.
ARCHITECTURE JLF & Associates, Inc., Bozeman, MT, 406-587-8888, jlfarchitects.com INTERIOR DESIGN Paul Bertelli and Catherine Lane, Catherine Lane Interiors, Livingston and Bozeman, MT, 406-222-7166, catherinelaneinteriors.com COUNTERTOPS AND TILE Montana Tile & Stone, Bozeman, MT, 406-587-6114, montanatile.com CABINETS Paul Bertelli design, fabricated by Mountain High Woodworks, Bozeman, MT, 406-587-1131, mountainhighwoodworks.com LIVING ROOM SOFA Taylor King, Catherine Lane Interiors, Livingston, MT, 406-222-7166, catherinelaneinteriors.com BATHROOM LIGHT FIXTURES, Rejuvenation, rejuvenation.com DINING ROOM TABLE Paul Bertelli design, CHAIRS Palacek, palecek.com BEDROOM BED Paul Bertelli and Catherine Lane design LINENS Frette, frette.com SHUTTERS Blind Source, blindsource.com
Making the Most of Minimal Space