Summer, winter, spring, or fall, a mountain home is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the everyday where you can live your best life: breathing the crisp air, gathering with friends and family, getting up with the sun (or staying out with the stars). Here’s how to put together an alpine retreat you’ll never want to leave.
A Breathtaking View
When you live in the mountains, the scenery is the star of the show. To avoid blocking the view, some people make the mistake of skipping window treatments. But curtains and shades are imperative to giving the soaring peaks the platform they deserve. They also make a room feel finished. For large homes with high ceilings and massive windows, austere alpine views can come across as cold and uninviting, specially during the winter. Curtains add softness, warmth, and texture. In smaller and more intimate spaces, minimalist shades that tuck away into the ceiling maximize vistas. “Solar shades can help with sun protection,” says Susan Nowakowski, principal of interior design at Zehren & Associates. “Meanwhile, sheers provide a layer of privacy without hiding the landscape.”
Where People Gather
For interior designer Kim Deetjen, of Burlington-based TruexCullins Architecture & Interior Design, fond memories of family ski trips inform her design for mountain homes. Her family would travel to her grandparents’ Swiss chalet-style home in New Hampshire, where she describes feeling a world away from her everyday life, and the pleasure of simply being in each other’s company. “It was about playing games, planning meals, après-ski, watching movies,” Deetjen says. To foster this kind of convivial environment for clients, Deetjen chooses furniture thoughtfully, to encourage connection. In living rooms, she’ll place a large sectional rather than a sofa and chairs, so that people can squeeze together if necessary or sprawl in smaller groups. There’s always a good-sized coffee table for playing games or sharing informal meals, and a fireplace is a must. In a spacious room with high-volume ceilings, a rough stone hearth reminiscent of mountaintop terrain is a natural place for people to come together. In smaller spaces, within a multi-home building, for example, modern electric options provide
an elegant and efficient alternative to gas. The Treehouse at Spruce Peak residences have a stunning, minimalist electric
fireplace that seems to float above the floor right by the widow. “You’re looking at the view, but you’ve also got this beautiful element in front of it, providing warmth and a sense of gathering by the fire,” Deetjen says. Another piece that facilitates gathering is a farmhouse table or kitchen island made of local wood. For après-ski snacks with friends or a holiday get-together, it’s the perfect place to pass heirloom dishes, share stories, and laugh for hours. Dimmable pendant lights highlight the table’s craftsmanship and set an intimate, jovial mood. While the adults sip wine late into the evening, send the kids off to the bunkroom—a tried-and-true space-saving feature often seen in mountain homes that allows you to pile in visiting family and friends. Built-in bunks, which are crafted to fit into one side of a bedroom, help maximize floor space and offer customized options, like a staircase to climb into the top bunk or built-in storage underneath the bed.
Connecting with the Land
To truly capture the spirit of the mountains, integrating natural, local materials blurs the boundaries between the outdoors and your family’s sanctuary. For example, in the Treehouse homes, Vermont white oak flooring lends a light and airy openness to the space, and optional furnishings come in matching oak or contrasting local walnut. Stone is another go-to. “It provides lots of different colors, believe it or not,” Nowakowski says. “We typically associate it with gray, but you can also use it to introduce browns, golds, and variations of white.” Its durability makes it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas like mudrooms and entryways, which take a beating from hiking boots and skiing equipment. And because stone is often used on the exterior, sprinkling it through interior spaces as well creates cohesion, grounding the home in the surrounding landscape. Finally, consider the character of the town or region. Before designing in a new location, Nowakowski gets to know the community by talking to locals and exploring the area. “The drive up to Stowe is wide open, with lots of farmland, cute
little homes, and ponds tucked between,” she says. She incorporates the colors and textures she observes, using blues and greens to reference the sky and trees, and natural fibers like chunky wool as a nod to Vermont’s farming culture. Many of Deetjen’s designs pay homage to Stowe’s alpine ski culture. Sleek features reference contemporary European aesthetics, while the use of local, natural materials keeps the homes distinctly Vermont. Stone and steel evoke the austere beauty of the mountains; wood, wool, leather, and sheepskin bring warmth and comfort. What’s more, she meticulously researches all furnishings and finishing touches to find unique, handmade accessories. The furnished Treehouse residences feature butcher block-style tables by Burlington- based Vermont Farm Table, candlesticks from Farmhouse Pottery in Woodstock, and artwork by local artists. “That’s what it means to be of Vermont, of Spruce Peak,” she says. “We’re surrounded by all these incredible craftsmen.” Whether it’s a custom designed residence with cathedral ceilings or a ski lodge-style apartment at the center of Spruce Peak village, a mountain home is more than the sum of its parts. Nestled in this stunning landscape, it brings you closer to nature and encourages families and friends to come together, making memories that will last a lifetime.