The Rustic Farmhouse of Their Dreams
Inspired by the landscape, a pair of empty nesters built their dream home in Montana
For a couple born and bred in Ohio, the Midwest was never west enough. So, in the early 1990s, when their children were 9 and 11, they realized that if they wanted to raise their kids surrounded by wilderness, mountains and rolling plains, this was their chance. “We sold everything and headed for Montana,” says the homeowner, who is married to a now-retired contractor.
“We flipped houses all over the place for years and years.” They hung on to two properties along the way—a ranch near Butte and a home located just south of Bozeman. In fact, it was the journey between the two that inspired their third purchase, a beautifully lush expanse of 20 acres. “We drive on I-90 constantly and had our eyes on the area for a long time,” she says. “We knew it would be a great place to build another home.”
In order to make the most of their surroundings, they called in two Montana-based experts, architect Charley Franklin and interior designer Teresa Kessler-Prond, to create a homestead that would enhance those wide-open views. “We didn’t want the standard, dark lodge home,” says the homeowner. “We wanted something light and bright, so we just turned Teresa loose. She and Charley came up with the plan.”
Kessler-Prond had a bit of an edge—she had worked with the homeowners on a previous project—so she and Franklin set about designing a house that suited both the day-to-day needs of empty nesters along with comfortable spots tailor-made for their always- invited adult children and grandkids. “Our goal was to create a home filled with spaces that speak to specific family members when they visit, so they immediately feel right at home,” says Kessler-Prond.
The owner and design duo also took the serene surroundings into consideration when deciding on the architectural style of the home. “We wanted to capture the spectacular setting, and bring the outdoors in,” adds architect Franklin. “The home-owner had visions for each space in the home, and we really designed from the inside out.”
The result: a light and airy six-bedroom, four-bathroom 5,744-square-foot modern farmhouse featuring a host of natural elements—white oak floors, exposed fir beams, a fireplace clad in limestone, and tons of light. “We lengthened the home on an axis line running from northwest to southeast, and we were intentional about the window design to produce a wonderful, natural illumination throughout the home at all times of day,” says Franklin.
Additional special touches include charming transoms, cozy window seats and an old-school, built-in breakfast nook. Of the latter, the homeowner says, “We sit there all the time. It’s become our spot for morning coffee and it’s where we take in the great views in the evening. Hundreds of deer, moose, eagles, mink, sandhill cranes—every night it’s a show!”
Those very views also contributed significantly to the palette inside. The designer says that while most people associate the color blue with coastal décor, she grew up surrounded by the hue in the mountains of nearby Big Sky. “I really amped up the blues knowing how calming they are and how they represent the landscape the homeowners have come to love,” Kessler-Prond says.
She layered in additional pops of color via textiles in various patterns, plaids and florals. “But I kept the overall canvas light and airy to leave room for my clients’ lives to be the texture. I like to think I help set the stage for their story,” she adds.
Their story, as it turns out, is a happy one. “I really give all the credit to Teresa for our rustic Bohemian farmhouse,” the home-owner says. The design and floorplan are perfect for the active couple—when it’s just the two of them, they rarely go upstairs, because everything they need is downstairs. “I truly can’t name my favorite spot because we love them all,” she says. “Every single room is lived in and messed up.”
Their interior designer says that nothing could make her happier: “Knowing I helped create a place where the beauty is more about making memories than just enjoying the immediate surroundings is a lovely feeling!”
When it comes to carving out a cozy little nook, interior designer Teresa Kessler-Prond advises thinking big. Distinctive sconces, bold fabrics, fun accessories and thoughtful construction can make for a setting that’s almost as dreamy as the scenery on the other side of the windows.
MAKE IT WORK Kessler-Prond designed custom cabinetry with each specific location and function in mind. The master bedroom window seat has drawers for extra pillows and blankets, while the kitchen banquette boasts shelving for cookbooks. The third window seat base was crafted with the homeowners’ adult daughter’s style in mind. “It has a motif that helps it swing a little boho,” she says. PUMP UP THE PATTERN Even those who like to keep things in neutral should consider adding a splash of color with fun fabrics for pillows or window treatments. The investment is typically small—depending on the size of your application, you may only need a few yards—so why not take a chance on a chintz, check, chinoiserie or block print linen? SHINE A LIGHT Once again, it pays to assess how the space is meant to be used. A pretty pendant might make the most sense in a breakfast nook, but if you’re creating a reading nook, try a charming barn light or a sleek brass sconce. “The light fixtures really help to set the mood for the space,” says Kessler-Prond.
ARCHITECTURE SMA Architects INTERIOR DESIGN Tk Design Studio CONSTRUCTION Tollefson Builders