OPENING SPREAD: This sunken media room is designed for cozy connection with a plush wool shag rug, a comfy custom sofa covered in Kravet fabric, a custom stone masonry fireplace, and reclaimed wood on the ceiling (Montana Reclaimed Lumber Co.). The artwork adds a sense of playfulness, including a big buffalo piece commissioned by Stan Natchez and a wire deer mount by Ben Roth. Photo by Gibeon Photography
Have you ever seen a stunning room in a Western home and wondered how on earth you could possibly create an equally spectacular space of your own? It can be an overwhelming proposition, but COWGIRL is here to help. We have expert insight and inspo from some of the country’s hottest designers who have a keen sense for Western living interiors.
The good news, according to our pros, is that design trends are leaning toward what feels comfortable and tasteful, no matter the style in which your room is grounded. Designer Jennifer Ashton from Santa Fe says it’s all about the “art of the mix.” “Coming out of COVID, we want to feel good in our homes, and nostalgia is making a comeback,” she says. “Breaking a few rules feels freeing, and that means we’re seeing more creativity in designs that focus on artwork and décor that works in our homes while also making us feel comforted.”
Courtney St. John, Courtney St. John Studio
Mountain homes are often vacation properties located in resort communities where the design reflects the natural surroundings. The use of “living” materials such as natural stone, reclaimed wood, wrought iron, and masonry combined with earthy textures and a neutral color palette are characteristics of this style. It is also about bringing the mountain vistas in while making the interiors cozy and inviting for four-season gathering.
The stone wall in the guest bathroom is the perfect backdrop for the fine art photograph by Ali Darvish called “Sable Island Horses.” The luxurious freestanding cast iron tub is Candide by Waterworks, which sits atop natural travertine tile flooring. Photo by Gibeon Photography
Vail designer Courtney St. John says honing in on the feeling you want your mountain home to evoke is a great place to look for inspiration for your design. “What is the intent for your home? Is there a certain energy you want the space to have—tranquility, liveliness, minimalism, maximalism, rustic, modern? Do you want the space to be infused with the feeling of the outdoors? These questions are a really good place to start when designing a home that will support your lifestyle.”
From there, St. John suggests letting your heart and intuition guide your choices. “It’s really all about what feels right to you. If you love it, then go for it! When combining the elements of design, there really is no right and wrong when using the things you love,” she states.
St. John is a fan of antiquing for unique finds that can be upcycled and repurposed. “Antiques can often add uniqueness and character to a space,” she says. For a recent project in Vail, for instance, St. John shopped with the client at the twice-a-year antique fair in Round Top, Texas, where they bought a number of items for the home including an old covered wagon that sits outside and is decorated seasonally. Another go-to for St. John is Scott Antique Market in Atlanta, which is the world’s largest monthly indoor antique market.
For original art, St. John suggests following artists on social media and perusing local art galleries to find pieces you love. “Instagram has made original art more accessible in the sense that you can follow artists and find works you love, even if you are not near a local gallery. It also can provide a space to connect directly with the artist and gallery,” she says. St. John also sources from local artisans and smaller craftspeople as much as possible to supplement the purchases she makes at trade design centers in LA, NYC, Atlanta, and Denver.
Amanda Heys, Locati Interiors
Reclaimed Montana timbers on the ceiling and floor combine with the locally sourced stone to provide a rich backdrop for fun in this timeless game room with a Maitland-Smith shuffle board table and a pool table by Monarch Billiards. The richly upholstered sofa and ottomans were custom-made to fit the space. Artwork is by Jerry Locati (Locati Fine Art). Photo by Roger Wade
Rustic elegance is the name of the game with ranch homes that typically utilize big timbers, roughhewn flooring, ironwork, stone that stretches from exterior to interior, and a configuration that captures the views of the property’s own landscape and beyond. “There tends to be more custom detail in a ranch home that’s your forever home, and ranch styling tends to be timeless and classic,” explains Amanda Heys of Locati Interiors. “It’s a style that stands the test of time.”
According to Heys, nailing down the style story for a ranch starts with understanding how your spaces will be utilized. “Ranches are hubs for family, friends, hunters, and ranch hands, so while you may want more formality in the living room where you will be entertaining, for example, you will also want to create more casual spaces where you can sit back and enjoy yourself,” she notes.
Heys says these principles played into the design of the Double Arrow Ranch in Montana, which Locati fashioned with family in mind. The living room exudes a more formal feel with richly upholstered furniture and traditional rugs. The game room, on the other hand, is designed for fun and feels like an old Western saloon with embossed leather, gun displays, a custom bar, and an antique pool table. “This room is created to be a space like you’ve never been in before,” Heys describes.
Heys advises those styling a ranch home to shop local resources and look for custom-made furnishings, as well as pieces that have a lot of detail. “Find images you gravitate toward and identify the details that are important to you, and then build your room from there,” she recommends.
Emily Janak, Emily Janak Interiors
This room is a mix of lots of family furniture and mementos – including the skis and a banjo to add a pop of personality—and eclectic textiles. The green-and-white pillow fabric is Christopher Farr Cloth, and the blue-and-white fabric is from Ottoline. The artwork is B Shawn Cox, represented by Eastin Creative. Janak uses green as a neutral and likes mixing in books to give her designs a homey feel. Photo by Lisa Flood
Western Eclectic is a collected, worldly design style that is curated over time, resulting in a mash-up of interesting textures, colors, and patterns. But Jackson Hole designer Emily Janak says the real key to success is taking it a step further. “It’s also about mixing eras and things from all different ilks. So you really only need a few things that are ‘of place’ and Western.” She adds, “What I love to do is mix in something that’s mid-century with something that’s classic and traditional. These things can all very much work together.”
So where do you start when designing an eclectic space? Janak says to begin by picking your “hero” for the room. “Decide what’s going to be your focal point. Is it a piece of art? An unusual chair? A fabric where you go ‘more-is-more’ and have it featured multiple places?” She says by focusing on the hero you can then layer in additional elements that are quieter so they don’t compete with the centerpiece of your space.
If you are working on a budget, Janak says you can maximize your hero find by utilizing it in smaller, yet impactful ways. “If you fall in love with a fabric but upholstering your entire sofa exceeds your budget, use it for the pillows instead,” she suggests.
A true mix master, Janak turns to many different places to source her looks. “COVID has really changed the sourcing landscape, and I’m always surfing Instagram to procure antiques. I also love using classic fabric houses like Soane Britain, and I shop locally at Mountain Dandy and Fighting Bear Antiques in Jackson Hole for one-of-a-kinds.”
Janak suggests using travel to help inform your eye about what’s really unique. “When you really get out and explore, you will start to realize what feels a little more common and that will help the unusual things stand out more. Pay attention to what feels interesting to you, and then build your room around that.”
Southwestern Pueblo Style
Jennifer Ashton, Jennifer Ashton Interiors
An artful mix in this media lounge is both sophisticated and fun-filled. The gorgeous corner kiva fireplace with a built-in banco has soft lines that flow with the modern sofa. A play on a saddle, the leather ottoman offers a “kick-up-your-heels-and-chill” vibe. Disc artwork by Christopher Martin was installed at a high level for visual interest. Photo by Laurie Allegretti
The Southwestern Pueblo aesthetic takes its cues from nature with rich, earthy tones, indigenous patterns on textiles and accessories, wooden elements, smooth walls and soft edges everywhere. Other architectural calling cards for this style are nichos, little alcoves for art and pottery, rounded ceiling trusses called vigas, and beehive-shaped kiva fireplaces.
As a Santa Fe interior designer with an art-centric perspective, Jennifer Ashton focuses her process on what honors a home’s history, style, and function. She recently designed a living room for ShowHouse Santa Fe that is indicative of her take on Pueblo design. The room revolves around amazing disc artwork by Christopher Martin in bold colors that is installed at a high line in the room for playful interest. “This home has great traditional Pueblo-style bones, and this design honors the ceilings, the kiva, and the original terra cotta flooring. We painted the walls a soothing, natural shade of taupe that would let the art be the star. It’s my take on old meeting new.”
Ashton says when sourcing items for your own room, start with what you already own. “You may be surprised with what you can do with what you already have if you’re just creative about it and willing to give it new life, if needed, with new paint or a different top, for example.”
When looking for new items, Ashton says to be selective. “Look for incredible pieces to add to your collection and remember that quality counts. So invest money on quality items like sofas that you will be spending a lot of time in and using for years to come.” Ashton says DIY designers should also be open to shopping antique and consignment stores. “Mix it up, and your room will have a lot more character.” Lastly, she suggests weaving a thread of simplicity throughout your space. “You want personality, and you also want to feel good in the space. Finding a balance between styles and between simplicity and personality is important.”
Hotel Drover, Texas
Kayla Wilkie, Majestic Realty Co.’s Director of Design and Development for Lifestyle and Hospitality
Large windows in the lobby of the Hotel Drover flood the space in natural light. The room is layered with details including a hand-forged chandelier (Hans Duus Blacksmith), leather-wrapped columns, Pendleton chairs and shearling-detailed sofas from Brumbaugh’s Fine Home Furnishings. Photos by Dixie Dixon
The Hotel Drover sits on two acres at the end of South Mule Alley in Fort Worth, Texas, and is the crown jewel of the reimagined Fort Worth Stockyards. The hotel is named after the men and women who led cattle down the Chisolm Trail into the stockyards—drovers—and inspired by the pioneering spirit of the West.
Kayla Wilkie, Stockyard Heritage Development Co.’s Director of Design and Development for Lifestyle and Hospitality, styled the interiors that invite guests to immerse themselves in the heritage of the stockyard’s legacy. Majestic had hired a design team from New York that provided the architectural elements and black and white drawings that served as a “shell” for the design. When the pandemic hit, the designers stopped traveling, so Wilkie teamed up with Craig Cavileer, Managing Partner at Stockyard Heritage Development Co., to take the project over the finish line.
“I didn’t go to school for interior design; I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” says Wilkie. She says she likes to refer to Drover as a 180,000-square foot custom home. “We wanted the Drover to feel residential so people feel welcome here. There are so many elements that truly do make it look and feel residential. That’s because that was the only way we knew how to do it,” she laughs.
Wilkie relied heavily on local shops—and an amazing procurement agency, Project Dynamics—to source the furnishings for the Drover. “We went into the local showrooms and took pictures of everything we liked. Then we put it on a floor plan and built it from scratch with so much help from these local stores.”
Rios Interiors, based right in the Stockyards, did every piece of furniture in the hotel guest rooms. Jason Lenox with Anteks in Dallas furnished the bridal suite, and Brumbaugh’s Furnishings sourced accent chairs and couches in the common areas. “Fort Worth is the epicenter of the Western lifestyle so we really had a lot of resources, and it was just so much fun to work with locals in that way. They were just so willing to help us!” Wilkie says it’s also nice to be able to refer guests who fall in love with something at the Drover to the local stores where they can purchase the items for their own home.
The lobby library is stocked with a variety of Western- and Texas-themed books for guests to use. A Picasso painting alludes to the incredible arts and culture that Fort Worth is known for internationally, and the 30,000 pounds of steel that accents the cat walk is a nod to the industrial past of the Fort Worth Stockyards. Vintage Stetson hats line the floor-to-ceiling cove shelving and the pottery is from Matthew Gilley Ceramics.
To procure the artwork, Wilkie traveled to amazing art galleries of the West. “I tried to be so organized with a spreadsheet about what I needed to fill the wall space, but that’s not how you shop for art when you’re buying for a residence. You’re really just buying what you love, so that’s what I started doing instead.” As a result, the Drover is filled with a unique blend of Western pieces that range from contemporary to traditional and everything in between.
“Looking back it feels incredible what we were able to accomplish. There is such a big spotlight on the Stockyards and I think we hit the nail on the head.”
Wilkie’s experience of being thrust into a potentially overwhelming design role is not unlike what you might be experiencing as you tackle your own space. So what is her biggest take-away? “My best advice would be to layer—add different fabrics, materials, textures, tones, and accessories. Don’t be afraid to do a little bit of everything. Have a point of view for a space and layer upon that point of view until it feels like a sense of place and you understand what the room is saying.”