Home of the Year: Magic on the Mountain

Designed to welcome three generations of family, a Montana retreat offers a few surprises amid its dramatic architecture and whimsical interiors

Homeowner Marsha Hill had a clear inspiration for the Montana home she and her husband, Gregg, built on a ridge-top site in Big Sky’s Yellowstone Club: “It’s all about our grandkids,” she says. 

The Hills have five children and six grandchildren (with more on the way), and they wanted a high-country retreat where the whole family could gather to ski in the winter and play golf and tennis in the summer. But the Hills didn’t want just any mountain lodge; they wanted a home characterized by whimsy and fun, a place infused with a little magic. 

During her first meeting with Bozeman-based architect Reid Smith, Hill explained the ways she envisioned using the home: Her family would come in from skiing, store their gear, change out of their ski clothes, relax in the steam shower or hot tub, and then get cleaned up and ready for a family dinner. The gathering spaces had to be large enough to accommodate everyone but intimate enough to foster conversation. Hill also wanted rooms where everyone could play: a rec room, a theater room, a kids’ playroom, an exercise room and, near the top of her wish list, a space close to the kitchen where the littlest kids could play while their parents chatted and prepared dinner. Finally, the house needed five bedroom suites—one for each child and his or her family—and a pair of bunkrooms for the grandchildren, each with its own bathroom, that would adjoin the master suite. “We talked a lot about function,” Smith says, “and then Marsha told me to be creative with the architecture.” 

Smith had to be creative. The site is relatively flat at street level, but slopes dramatically down toward the ski access, requiring a clever solution to the challenge of descending the slope—all while capturing views of Sphinx Mountain and Electric and Ramshorn peaks. 

Smith delivered: The home’s most prominent architectural feature is a “ski bridge” that extends from the main house to an elevator that descends 31 feet to the ski room. “We got pretty excited about this idea,” Smith says. “We use the bridge as an opportunity to prepare you for the day’s skiing. It’s an experience.” The first half of the bridge has a bank of windows on the left, facing north and northeast, and a picture wall on the right. At the halfway point, there’s a small seating area, and the second half of the bridge reveals views to the southwest with a picture wall along the northeast side. At the end is a daybed that feels suspended in air. “You can’t have a fear of heights up there,” Smith says. 

Smith’s design, built by Bozeman- and Billings-based Langlas & Associates, includes a few more grand ideas: He created an observation tower with a wraparound deck that captures views of Lone Mountain to the north—“a bonus view,” he calls it. On the main floor, he designed a massive three-sided stone fireplace that anchors the dining room, kitchen and a great room that juts out to reveal a 180-degree panorama. Downstairs, Smith designed the two bunkrooms to be connected by a secret passage. And to satisfy Hill’s request for a kids’ play area near the kitchen, he dreamed up a teepee in the middle of a log “forest.” 

To these architectural feats, interior designer Hunter Dominick, principal of Hunter & Company in Whitefish, Montana, added exquisite—and playful—details. The interiors feel both Western and new-fashioned. For one of the guest suites, Dominick designed a contemporary cowhide bed, which she paired with a chunky black chest and a green chair with heather-gray upholstery. “The key to the room—to the whole house, really—is that there are unexpected design elements,” Dominick says. “You give your eye much more to enjoy when you skip the matching suites of furniture.” Another eye-catching choice: The dining room showcases antlers—but not in a chandelier. Instead, the dining chairs and benches are upholstered with a large-scale antler-print fabric in hues of green and khaki. 

Such bold color choices are especially brilliant against the textural backdrop of stone and timber. Yet instead of feeling unwieldy, the palette is unified in subtle ways. Fire-engine-red cabinets in the kitchen echo the red ceiling in the dining room and the fabrics that accent the daybed at the end of the ski bridge. The grass-green hue of the great room’s rug is repeated in the floral print on the oversized couches, the painted bed frame in a guest room and a plucky fringed ottoman in a seating area. “The key to using color well is having some common threads throughout the house,” Dominick says. 

There’s plenty to admire, down to the tiniest details: metal cowboy-boot hooks in the bunkrooms’ adjoining bathrooms, the cozy glow of the teepee, the glam gold-and-black pulls on the kitchen cabinets. But the Hills’ favorite part of their home suggests the design team succeeded in achieving their primary goal: “I just love to watch the grandkids play,” Hill says. “I love that they’re happy here.”  


ARCHITECT Reid Smith Architects, Reid Smith, AIA & Daryl Nourse, AIA, Bozeman, MT, 406-587-2597, reidsmitharchitects.com INTERIOR DESIGNER Hunter & Company, Hunter Dominick, Whitefish, MT, 406-862-1402, hunterinterior.com BUILDER Langlas & Associates, Steve Langlas – General Contractor, Loren Cantrell – Project Manager, Bozeman, MT, 406-585-3420, langlas.com LANDSCAPING Land Design, Inc., Stacey Robinson, Billings, MT, 406-655-3550, landdesigninc.net LOGS & TIMBERS Custom Log Homes, Stevensville, MT, 406-777-5202, yourcustomlog.com WINDOWS Montana Sash & Door, Bozeman, MT, 406-586-1858, mtsashanddoor.com CABINETRY & MILLWORK Mountain High Woodworks, Bozeman, MT, 406-587-1131, mountainhighwoodworks.com ROOFING & SIDING Cornerstone Management Services, Big Sky, MT, 406-993-2533 TILE Montana Tile & Stone, Bozeman, MT, 406-587-6114, montanatile.com FIREPLACES The Fireplace Center, Bozeman, MT, 406-522-9160, fireplacectr.com KITCHEN RANGE Wolf, subzero-wolf.com REFRIGERATOR SubZero, subzero-wolf.com BAR STOOLS Hickory Furniture, hickoryfurnituredesigns.com FABRIC Henry Calvin Fabrics, calvinfabrics.com BEDROOM BED Old Hickory Tannery, ohtfurniture.com CHAIR AND CHEST Hickory Chair, hickorychair.com LAMPS Currey & Co., curreyco.com

Categories: Rustic Homes