5 Ways to Get the Mountain Modern Look
When Collective Design Group’ lead designer Lisa Yates was recently hired to reimagine a penthouse at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Avon, she experienced a case of déjà vu. It didn’t take her long to realize why the project felt familiar: She had helped design the same space for the same client more than 10 years earlier—a coincidence that both Yates and the homeowner chalk up to fate.
“The penthouse was very traditional, and she wanted to update everything to a more modern and fresh, bright look,” says Yates, who achieved that goal with small tweaks, like reupholstering some high-quality pieces and opening up the space with smart furniture placement. When the homeowner wanted to sell 10 to 12 pieces of fine art back to a gallery because she didn’t think they matched the new décor, Yates simply reframed them to fit the new design.
The request to modernize, whether it’s a remodel or new construction, continues to grow as homeowners let go of the thought that mountain homes should be traditional and dark, trends that dominated the ’90s. That’s how Collective lead designer Brianna Rasmussen found herself redesigning 800 square feet of a home in Beaver Creek. Wanting to update their vacation spot of 20 years in time for Thanksgiving—and for the potential resale value down the line—the clients are refreshing key areas across three stories that will deliver the most impact. This includes gutting the kitchen, installing new countertops in the bathrooms, and selecting new furnishings and light fixtures.
“I think homeowners like the fluidity that having a more mountain-modern, cleaner look gives you,” Yates explains. “You walk in, and someone wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, my gosh. We’re totally in a mountain house.’ We can do that in a modern way, but I think people kind of want that balance between the mountain look and more of that city, urban feel.”
But you don’t have to live Upvalley—or anywhere in the Rocky Mountain range, for that matter—to get this mountain-modern look. While Vail homes truly are “custom homes for custom people,” as Yates says, there are some overarching trends and strategies you can use to mimic this aesthetic in your home.
Color palette. Gone are the days of forest greens and deep reds that scream “mountain cabin” as homeowners gravitate toward soothing hues like grays, whites, and taupes. “I think for a long time, the reds and golds were really big, just because there was so much white outside with the snow, and those colors would bring life into the home,” says Rasmussen. “People are gearing away from that and bringing in pops of color in different ways.” Color swaps—like a fresh coat of paint, or switching out pillows and rugs—are an easy, inexpensive way to give your home a mountain-modern facelift.
Wood finishes. Nothing says “rustic” more than weathered wood, and while that aesthetic remains strong for mountain homes, it is evolving to give homeowners more choices than ever before. “When the whole barn wood trend started, everyone wanted red, because everyone thinks barns are red,” says Yates. “Now, it’s brown tones and gray tones and the mixes of all of that.” Overall, the style is pointing toward lighter stains for everything from cabinets to floors, and even accent walls. “Everything is shifting from the dark tones that we’ve been used to seeing for the last 15, 20 years to a lighter, brighter, fresher look,” she adds. Bonus: With so many companies offering barn wood that’s not reclaimed, you can now incorporate the trend at a much more affordable price point.
Intentional decorating. It’s time to pack away the plaid and antler décor—kitsch is out, personal is in. “When I started in this industry in 2005, everything was overly designed and overly accessorized, and now I feel like people are pulling back away from that a little bit, and their accessories mean more to them,” says Yates. “It’s not just something on a table to fill the space.” Meaning, infuse your home with family heirlooms or sentimental relics that tell your story. And if you can’t bare the thought of completely scrapping all cabin emblems from your decorating scheme, go for subtle on-trend touches like agate coasters, petrified wood end tables, and lots of greenery and florals. They still deliver the nature-centric punch, without being too over-the-top.
Light fixtures. Often referred to as the jewelry on a home, light fixtures are getting the “less is more” treatment as homeowners opt for modern, airy designs, with black be a particularly popular finish choice. “I’m seeing less and less of the heavy iron fixtures with detailed scrollwork and lots of shades covering every bulb,” Yates says. “Even the real antler chandeliers that were once so popular in our area are being replaced with cleaner-lined, simpler fixtures, or even faux antler fixtures that are made out of metal.”
Open concept. Vail Valley may be known for its high-end real estate, but that doesn’t translate to stuffy design. Whether it’s to accommodate big families or parties, designers are noticing a trend toward floor plans that favor an open concept, where the kitchen, dining room, and living room are located in one wall-less area. “They want it to feel less formal,” says Yates. “They want it to be more comfortable and inviting and cozy.”