Sense of Place: Montana modern

Kelcey Bingham, owner of Bear Mountain Builders in Whitefish, Montana, finds cowboy-themed log homes “really outdated.” Glass, steel, and high-tech features are balanced with wood, not to be cold.

Nostalgia, No Kitsch

He still uses beams with reference to Montana’s Western architecture. Only his beams are typically steel. In the Ski Chalet, a mountain retreat inspired by nostalgia for ski vacations in the seventies, Bingham takes this adaptation further yet, turning a steel I-beam into a powder-room sink.

“Keep it light and bright and airy, and keep it high-tech,” is one of Bingham’s principles. The other — “anything that is not so rustic.” The Ski Chalet has quickly become his most popular work, and he’s already been commissioned to build more homes of that style. On the exterior, Bingham applied his credos by setting geometrical form with über-expansive areas of glass. The window frames, again, are steel, as is the front door, which he treated to rust by design. The roof is shaped to hold snow as an extra insulating blanket. Inside, energy-efficient, controlled lighting creates geometrical shapes on the ceiling. “Throwback style with modern conveniences,” he calls it.

“ Keep it light and bright and airy, and keep it high-tech.”

Modern Montana mountain home designed by Bear Mountain Builders

Bingham, who considers himself part builder, part architect, part artist, balances the glass, steel, and high-tech features with just enough earthy elements not to be cold. Cabinets and doors are made from reclaimed wood. The rest of the furniture is light in color, and the wood thin, to get away from the typical heavy timber look of the area’s typical super-sized mountain homes.

Creating your own throwback style at home is personal, inspired by your own memories of childhood winter vacations. Blues and rust-orange in the Ski Chalet’s fabrics, rugs, and bedding, for example, evoke nostalgia of that era.

“Instead of big dead animal heads on the wall, you’ve got vibrant art,” Bingham continues. “You don’t want too many knickknacks around, but having an appropriate amount of art is important.” Vivid details, such as colorful vases and vintage treasures, brighten up Big Sky Country’s many foggy winter days. “For us in the ski mountains, we try to find vintage ski posters,” Bingham says. Don’t be afraid to use shinier, mirrored pieces. Be selective in curating pieces from the past. “You want that nostalgic look of a seventies ski chalet, without being too kitschy.” He likes to keep a home current with vintage-inspired high-tech gadgets. “Rega out of Great Britain, for example, makes new turntables to look like they’re from the seventies.”

Bingham refurbished an old-time ski lift seat, a rare find, to give the Ski Chalet a vintage cool feel upon entry

Recreating the Ski Chalet’s most unique decor will require a lot of luck, unless you already have an old-time ski lift seat sitting around, like Bingham had. Years back, a local ski resort was selling them off. He brought one home and was just waiting for the right use. The funky find now sets the stage inside the entry to the Ski Chalet. Not only does the seat swing like it once did high above the slopes, but it also has a purpose. “We installed an infrared heater above it, so you can sit down to take your ski boots off and warm up,” Bingham says. △