Little House With a Big Sky View

Photos by Gibeon Photography

Western Montana is famous for its vast blue skies, long summer evenings, crisp winter days, and the beauty of Glacier National Park. But it was the fiery sunsets over the Flathead Valley and Whitefish Lake that sealed the deal for this Chicago family. “Before we came to Whitefish for the first time, my husband … he’d traveled here on business…[and] promised me the most beautiful sunsets I was ever going to see,” the homeowner recalls, admitting, “He certainly delivered on his promise.”

They bought and for many years enjoyed one of the original cabins at Iron Horse Golf Community. Eventually they decided to look for something a bit more secluded, and, as luck would have it, the property had become available. Though located within Iron Horse, the building site was tucked away in the woods, and they loved the idea of being surrounded by birdsong and the wind in the tops of “beautiful mountain trees.”

The couple chose architect Nick Fullerton (who also heads Iron Horse’s design review committee) to turn their dream—a cabin in the forest—into reality. “It is the ideal site,” says Fullerton, who is based in nearby Bigfork and Los Angeles. “Fully wooded with a great deal of interesting topography—but not too steep.” Without cutting down “any more trees than we had to,” Fullerton created view lines to Whitefish Lake while retaining the privacy that the family desired.

The homeowners wanted their 2,800-square-foot cabin to incorporate the best of Western elements, with plenty of modern comfort, while also reflecting the rich architectural heritage of their own Midwestern roots. The materials Fullerton used and his attention to period detail give a nod to Montana’s mining, ranching and transportation history. “The windows, for example, are based on blueprints from the old railroad days,” says Fullerton, “except that ours are energy saving.” Adding to the historic appeal, some of the interior wood is reclaimed from the 1880s Hiram Walker whiskey distillery in Peoria, Illinois. “It had such a beautiful age and patina that we only treated it lightly…with oil,” says the homeowner. “You can actually see where the whiskey barrels sat for ages,” she adds.

“Our designer has an incredible sense of style and is a bit fearless,” says the homeowner about interior designer Hunter Dominick, owner of Hunter & Company Interior Design in Whitefish. Dominick explains, “The homeowners had a clear vision: clean lines, iconic pieces and nothing over-the-top rustic. They encouraged me to play with scale, texture and materials.” Natural elements like wood, leather, metal and stone give a warmth and coziness to the home’s interior. Bold, oversized patterns are paired with smaller pieces to create the illusion of spaciousness.

In the entry, an outsized contemporary metal chandelier cleverly references the wagon-wheel chandeliers popular in 1950s dude ranches. A large mirror (framed in thin strips of metal) reflects the chandelier’s light and makes the space appear larger.

The “gingham bedroom” breaks all of the rules for decorating a small space. An entire wall is upholstered in an attention-grabbing, patterned textile. “I was trying to create the impression of a fabric headboard,” says Dominick, “and the big pattern makes a big impact.” If you use one hugely bold element, she cautions, the other forms and fabrics in the room need to be restful and even a bit understated.

“They (the homeowners) had a clear vision—clean lines, iconic pieces and nothing over-the-top rustic. ” — Interior Designer Hunter Dominick

The homeowners incorporated a few beloved pieces of furniture into the décor of the cabin—namely, an original midcentury Florence Knoll sofa and an antique dining table they had bought on a trip to New Orleans. Dominick reupholstered the sofa in a luscious lime green mohair (a fashionable color during Knoll’s time) and paired it with contemporary Scandinavian wingback chairs upholstered in a gray-plaid wool with just a hint of lime.

Many years have passed since the homeowners first began vacationing in Montana; their oldest child was only 6 when they first came, and they now explore Big Sky Country with their grandchildren. But Montana’s rugged charm endures, and the family’s little cabin in the woods has become the perfect place to savor lingering sunsets over the Flathead Valley.

Hints from Hunter Dominick, of Hunter & Company Interior Design, Whitefish, Montana

Be brave:  “Don’t be frightened of big scale or bold color. But don’t overdo it. Remember that a little of a large pattern goes a long way.”

Seize the opportunity:  “People think smaller spaces need to be light and airy. Yes, there’s value in that, but a small space can sustain dark colors and gives the opportunity to showcase color and pattern.”

Experiment with the unexpected:  “Small spaces are perfect for big pieces of furniture. One large and unexpected piece works very well in a small space; it gives a focal point to the room.”


ARCHITECTURE Fullerton Architects  INTERIOR DESIGN Hunter & Company Interior Design CONSTRUCTION Jennings Johnson, Meredith Construction, Kalispell, MT, 406.752.4200 FURNISHINGS AND ARTISTRY CUSTOM CABINET Jim Sullivan, Glacier Woodworking, Kalispell, MT, 406.752.5598  HANDMADE GLAZED TILE BACKSPLACE Dunis Studios, Rocky Mountain Tile and Stone VINTAGE KNOLL SOFA WITH CUSTOM FABRIC Sofa was client owned; Fabric from Hunter and Company: Autun Mohair Leaf from Brunschwig and Fils, Inc. GUEST BEDROOM UPHOLSTERED WALL/HEADBOARD in Tagore Brown/Red fabric by Kneedler Clarence House, Hunter and Company showroom GREAT ROOM PENDANTS Name: Lotus Flower, Finish: Smoke, Size: 21” Dia., Manufacturer: Roost, Vendor: Hunter and Company showroom ENTRY MIRROR Name: Dawn, Finish: Antique brass, Manufacturer: Made Goods, Purchased: Hunter and Company  ENTRY LAMP Name: Upbeat Table Lamp, Finish: Terracotta Red Manufacturer: Currey & Company, Purchased: Hunter and Company

Categories: Cabins