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Home design: Envisioning the next generation of ski-country style

A star of hospitality design shows Mountain West dwellers how to embrace a fresh wave of snow-country style

By Sally Kilbridge
For Steamboat Homefinder
Handblown crystals dripping from a light fixture add depth and character to a small half-bath.

Close your eyes and picture a quintessential mountain lodge. Chances are you’re thinking of oversize leather armchairs, antler accessories and a palette of warm, earthy hues. That look has been the mainstay of ski-country style for the past few decades, especially in high-end resorts where guests crave a luxurious cocoon after a day outdoors.

Ten years ago, Linda Snyder, principal at her eponymous firm in Los Angeles, fully embraced that aesthetic. The designer, who’s created coddling interiors coast to coast, went full-on lodge when she was hired to create the interiors for the St. Regis Deer Valley in 2009. The results — a blend of “rich furnishings and rugged undertones” — became a benchmark for high-end interiors from the Sierras to the Rocky Mountains.   

Fast-forward to 2020. Aesthetics develop, trends come and go, and what was once the pinnacle of mountain posh seems just a little out of date. As she puts the finishing touches on a remodel of the St. Regis, Snyder shares her vision for the next generation of ski-country style. If your own pad is feeling a bit tired, it’s a great blueprint for a contemporary Western refresh.

Bring in the blues

“Our first challenge was to step away from what we did 10 years ago and re-envision the space,” says Snyder. “We thought it would be difficult, but it came together quickly. Largely, that was a result of going away from the really warm colors — the beet reds, the browns — and going into cool blues.” She says incorporating a palette of blues, from deep cobalt to the coolest ice, brought in a fresh ambiance while being true to the location. 

Snyder thought primarily about two very different blue tones: First was the intense sapphire-blue sky you see from a chairlift, surrounded by white snow. Second, and perhaps more exquisite, was the elusive ice-crystal hue of a shimmery slope or frosted window. Ice crystals didn’t just lend their crisp, clean tonality to Snyder’s design, but to patterns, as well. “Crystalline formations inspire local artisans and jewelers, who use their shapes as influences,” she says. She incorporated the form into the geometric design of a carpet, the snowburst pattern on fabrics, and the handblown crystals dripping from a light fixture.   

Dig into history 

Snyder’s design process starts with researching an area, which can lead to some inspired decisions. “All of our designs start by developing a narrative, and creating a storyline that elicits an emotional response,” she says.

Metallics might sound out of place in such a rugged landscape, and certainly a chrome coffee table might strike an odd note. But mining and Western mountain towns go hand-in-hand, and that history informed a good part of Snyder’s 2020 redesign. 

Throughout the Mountain West, boomtowns sprung up when silver, gold and copper were discovered, and precious metals and minerals figure throughout the property, often in raw, industrial formats. It appears in the console tables with their silver bases, deep bronze-colored fireplace screens and silverleaf worked into cork wall covering. One grand statement is a wall of bronze tubing behind the front desk; another is a massive hanging light fixture crafted from steel and mesh. 

Historic references inform surfaces throughout the resort. Indigenous peoples’ patterns are woven into fabrics, and rugged braiding borrowed from horse blankets and winter wear was used in upholstery. Some pieces, such as the asymmetrical bedside tables perched on three hand-forged legs, call to mind the early days of railway workers and blacksmiths. 

Respect good bones

Refreshing a design doesn’t mean starting from scratch. It’s something the hospitality industry understands, and homeowners should as well: Keep a building’s good bones and rely on soft goods and accessories to transition into a more current look. Not only does it preserve quality work meant to stand the test of time, it helps you stay on budget. 

“The original project’s rugged woods, the strength of the bronze, the colors that come right from natural surroundings — none of that changed,” Synder says. “We felt it was all still successful and appropriate.” The bathrooms remain clad in their original travertine and woven tile, and the millwork and wood floors remained intact.

One hard surface she did jettison was granite. The old countertops made way for quartzite — the natural rock, not the manmade material — which created a sleeker, contemporary finish. “It’s the densest natural stone available, and we found a beautiful one with grey veining.” Sometimes, a designer’s most difficult decision is when to say goodbye to an old friend and adopt a fresh perspective.

(Photos courtesy St. Regis Deer Valley)

Sidebar: Tips from Romick’s Into the West

For a few more hints on nailing ski-country style, we tapped Kim Romick of Romick’s Into the West (romicksintothewest.com). Here’s the local designer’s thoughts on dialing into today’s mountain style. 

KimRomick

1 Take advantage of your views. Ours are spectacular here in Steamboat — including mountains, trees and streams — and they all make fantastic art. I like to keep a room with a sweeping mountain view connected to nature by cutting down the distractions that block you from seeing outside. Less is more. Think about editing down the number of pieces of furniture and accessories to quiet your eyes as they travel around the room. Keep nature’s color palette in mind, too, to further enhance the connection with the outside. Warm neutrals, in tones of gray, and camel and cream are soothing against nature’s backdrop.

2 Use organic materials and finishes. I love working in rustic wooden walls, beams and countertops. Pairing wood with unexpected sleek and contemporary materials such as steel and marble can create an exciting and warm juxtaposition. Nature’s natural materials will always have a classic mountain vibe.  

Embrace the fireplace. We all dream of a cold, midwinter night in front of the fire. Fireplaces are quintessential to Colorado. And they can be built in countless ways. Stone is still a favorite, but steel, tile and wood are also interesting ways to surround your warm fire. Mixing up these materials can be the cornerstone of a room and set the stage for the rest of your interior.  

Don’t be scared of going big. Bigger and fewer furniture pieces can keep a place calm. Too many furniture pieces lining the walls just makes a room cluttered and busy. Leathers, sheepskin, cowhides and trading blankets are among my favorite to bring in doses of a mountain flair. And don’t skimp on the rug; size matters. Too small of a rug will leave the room feeling unfinished. Layer up your rugs if you have a small one you love; try layering over a natural sisal or jute rug, or even a cowhide.  

Lighting is king. Try to spread your light around your room at various levels. All overheads can leave the room feeling cold; add light sources at your level as well. Use fixtures that are less of a statement and almost disappear into the space to keep your eyes on the views beyond. There’s also an art form to getting your bulb color to work with your interior. I cried when incandescent bulbs went extinct; I loved their warm glow (if I stick with a 2,700K bulb, I get a similar feel to my old favorite). In a more contemporary setting with whites, grays and cooler color palates, 3,000K bulbs are a good choice. Pet peeve: a bulb that’s too cold and almost appears blue. Nothing looks good in blue light.

6 Have fun with your mountain sports gear. Hang old sleds, skis, snowshoes and more — they all look great even in a more contemporary setting. A found antler on display on a coffee table nestled beside candles helps pull off a warm glow. Also try grouping your favorite family ski photos; print them in black and white and frame them with a generous white matte and simple black frame. They’ll make any dull hallway or stairwell an instant wall of fame.


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