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The big country – rustic home with interiors by Lisa Kanning

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Classic meets modern interior by Lisa Kanning

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Building a mountain getaway in the rugged environs of Montana invites a corresponding rusticity of design and decor. However, if you want to bring a touch of the city to the country, one way is to address modernity in the details.

Only the upper floor of this 10,000sq ft ranch-style house in Montana is seen from the road. The house steps down a hillside with the lower level tucked out of sight. However this is just one of many expectations confounded by a house that celebrates the old and the new, the rough alongside the smooth, and the traditional with the decidedly modern.

Interior designer Lisa Kanning and builder Todd Theising both played integral roles in the interior design. Part of the equation for this design was responding to the setting, and many of the construction materials also impact on the decor, says Theising.

"The house looks at first glance like a giant log cabin. Hewn wood and cedar shakes are typical construction materials in this part of the country, as is the building style, with its gabled roof and exposed rafters."

The rustic feel continues indoors, with the extensive use of hardwood throughout.


The walls and most ceilings of the public spaces are finished in recycled rough-hewn boards. There are distressed exposed rafters, substantial support columns built from stacked wood pieces, and the floors are recycled wide-plank oak, in a custom finish.

"To bring the outdoors inside, locally sourced fieldstones were used for the fireplaces, complete with touches of original, living moss," says Theising.

However, this big country feel is only half the design story. The owners wanted to balance the traditional with the modern, and several surface treatments and features – some hidden in the detailing, some not – help achieve that.

An early clue to this is at the entry where double-height walls on both sides are finished in large ‘bricks' of cowhide, with rail pegs jammed into the textural surface as coat hooks.

"The mix of old and new is also seen in the millwork. The wood window frames, baseboards and door surrounds all have a band of steel running through them – the colors are dark on dark but the material contrast has a presence," says Kanning. "This juxtaposition can be seen most clearly in the living room."

"Exterior siding is used to line the inside walls, to create the feeling that an external niche has been enclosed. By contrast, the bar features glass shelves set into a wall backed with embossed leather. It is as if someone has cut through the traditional cladding veneer to discover a contemporary decor hidden behind."

Hand-matched hardwood boards used for the ceilings in adjacent rooms make way here for green Macrosuede fabric, giving the living room a softer aesthetic.

The mix of materials continues with the custom furniture. A coffee table in the great room has rough wood beams as a base, with steel legs and a glass table top.

"Material play is also seen in the chandelier in the living area – sculpted in metal, this has the look of real wood branches," says Kanning.

The contrast of materials is also seen in the master suite, although the bedroom gives priority to softness and comfort. This room combines weathered ceiling beams with a textured grasscloth ceiling finish, fine linens and whimsical feathers on the bedside lamp.

In the bathroom, rich stone tiles impart an earthy flavor while the freestanding tub is smooth and sculpted. Six types of tile include a floor tile embedded with fossils.

Downstairs, visitors en route to an outlying guest room pass a stand of close-set birch trees on one side of the hallway. At the end of the hall, the bedroom is wallpapered in a tree motif.

"Despite every detail in this big house being carefully thought through, the feel is simple, not grand. From hearthstones to sit on and warm yourself after a day out in the snow, to the custom dining tables that can be drawn together for après-ski feasts, this house is built to embrace and entertain," says Theising.

First published date: 06 October 2013

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Credit List

Architect of record Kirk Michels Architects AIA (Livingston, MT)
Interior designer Lisa Kanning LKID (New York)
Builder Todd Theising, Highline Partners
Siding Reclaimed hewn wood
Roofing Cedar shakes
Doors and windows Marvin, Simkins-Hallin
Flooring Reclaimed oak, custom finish
Wallcoverings Phillip Jeffries
Heating Radiant from Viessmann
Audiovisual Black Box Design
Cabinetry company Wilson Cabinetry
Cabinetry Rift-sawn oak, ebony stain
Bathroom flooring Stone tile, various, from Scott Macbeth Tile
Faucets Tub filler by WaterDecor
Tub Stone Forest custom honed basalt soak tub from Euro Bath & Tile
Furniture Great room – custom glass-wood-steel cocktail tables from Taracea; casual dining – Harley-skirted suede head chairs by John Saladino, custom slab dining table with metal legs by RL Dorn, Bond two-tier wrought iron shelving with inset leather tops at columns by Kevin Cherry from New Room; living room – woven leather lounge chairs from PT Evata Eastern Furniture, Rollerboy polished concrete tables on casters from Oso Industries; child's bedroom – custom driftwood bed by Deadwood Creations
Feature lighting Living room – New Growth custom branch chandelier by CP Lighting; master bedroom – Lumiere chandelier by Jean de Merry