An Angler’s Paradise in Ennis, Montana
A multi-family retreat hooked on fishing
Locals from Ennis, Montana, often describe their slice of the world as a small drinking town with a big fishing problem. It was definitely the latter that drove a retired sports executive and his wife to build on a property with a mile-long stretch of the Madison River—better known as “The Miracle Mile” to serious anglers—running through it. “I started fishing in that area about 20 years ago,” says the husband. That led to a friendship with Krista and John Sampson, who eventually opened the Madison Double R fishing lodge. The couple, who split their time between Montana and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, purchased 310 neighboring acres.
The task of designing a multigenerational retreat—visits from five grown children and grandkids are routine—fell to Julia Starr Sanford, principal of the Florida residential design firm Starr Sanford Design. “Julia designed our Florida home, and we really like her coastal, traditional style,” the wife says. “We asked her to design one of her (signature coastal) houses but with a Western twist.”
In response, Sanford, along with associate Michael Sherrod, looked at an abundance of rural structures before incorporating wide plank cedar siding—a barn reference—and a weathered color into the design. The enviable creek-side locale, where the residence nestles in a protective stand of willows and cottonwoods, includes sweeping views of the Madison Range. Inside, the flexible floor plan features an open living and dining area with a separate but open kitchen, a main-floor primary suite and guest bedrooms upstairs, the latter accessible via a staircase in the foyer.
Sanford then handed over the structure, still in need of interior finishes, to designer Teresa Kessler-Prond, TK Design Studio, who, having worked on the interiors of the Madison Double R, proved a natural fit for the job. “I’m grateful that the homeowners opted to work with a local designer. As someone who understands the region and the feel of a river home, I was thrilled at the opportunity to help them realize theirs,” Kessler-Prond shares. “Similar to the lodge, they wanted to keep a neutral, eye-calming aesthetic with an emphasis on nature and a sense of place.”
In a cohesive move, wood flows inside with durable engineered wood floors, rough-sawn fir ceiling beams and walls in the main spaces wrapped in horizontal fir panels. Thanks to builder Mike McKitrick of MDM Construction the woodwork is seamless everywhere, including tricky places like the dormer gables, where all paneling needed to be in perfect alignment.“Throughout the upper level every dormer angle had to be meticulously mitered to create the sense of seamlessly wrapped wood walls, and Mike and his team made that happen,” says Kessler-Prond.
Kessler-Prond chose furnishings with an eye toward practicality, style and symmetry to keep with the wife’s request for “pared-down elegance coupled with a cozy cabin feel.” In the living room, for example, matching sofas with rattan side panels face off across a custom ebony-stained white oak coffee table, while a pair of chairs with an elegant brass detail for her and a comfy deep seat for him provide counterpoints to the sandstone fireplace.
Similarly, in the dining room sleek and comfy leather chairs fall in line around a sturdy acacia table chosen to stand up to the rigors of big family gatherings. Flanking the entrance to the kitchen, portraits of Cheyenne chiefs Poor Elk and Wolf Robe by artist Aaron Hazel stare at each other across the void, further cementing the sense of order. Kessler-Prond worked with the clients to select Western-themed artwork like the bison over the living room fireplace. “My overall goal with every project is to celebrate the life narrative of my clients while interweaving a compelling connection to local history and the home’s surroundings, and that objective flowed very naturally here.”
Even in a house with ample doors and windows that allow for an abundance of natural light, when the sun does go down, ambient, task and decorative lighting take over. In this Montana homestead, designer Teresa Kessler-Prond explains how she used all three to keep things bright, welcoming and appropriate to the environment.
IN THE KITCHEN where you want to avoid casting shadows on work surfaces, it’s important to layer light sources,” says Kessler- Prond. She used recessed downlights in the ceiling to create an ambient glow, under-cabinet and floating shelf lighting to enhance task lighting and a blown-glass and metal fixture over the island as a streamlined but striking decorative accent. DECORATIVE LIGHTING establishes a mood in the dining room, where the designer’s choice of double-curved metal pendants with etched lava glass on the tips is a poetic reference to the owner’s love of fishing. “It’s a loose nod to angling culture with the strong arch evoking the idea of a successful catch,” she says. PLAYING OFF WILDLIFE With moose, sandhill cranes, otters and all manner of wildlife visible through the windows, incorporating nature on the interiors was a natural impulse. About the antler pendants in the breakfast nook and primary suite sitting area, Kessler-Prond says, “The clients had long admired the antler globe sculptures at the Madison Double R and we decided to bring them to light. As a simple treatment, I supplied the interior lighting elements and our local artisan fabricated the antler cages to surround them.”