Design Trends—Using Nature Elements & Relics


When it comes to designing the interior of a home, the ideas tend to be dually rooted in the homeowner’s personal tastes and the surrounding landscape. In Big Sky, Montana, we’re treated to views of high mountain peaks, wildlife, wildflowers, and trees as far as they eye can see. We also happen to be in close proximity to the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park and tied into the Montana ski culture. These are the very elements that draw many people here, so it’s not surprising that many interior designers in the Big Sky area tend to incorporate natural elements into home designs.

But where antlers, cowboy hats, and skis used to be commonplace in décor, over the last couple of years, a couple of  new design trends have hit Big Sky mountain homes, explains Erika Jennings, Principle Designer and Owner of Big Sky’s Carol Sisson Designs.

Trend #1: The use of natural elements with a twist.

“We are still doing a lot of mountain design, but we’re not seeing as much cowboy-Western,” Jennings explains. “I’m using a lot of natural materials—reclaimed wood, stone, and traditional mountain building materials—but not in a cowboy sense, in a modern-natural sense.”

One example Jennings gives is painted antlers for a more modern and funky twist.  She might take an old cowboy hat and shellac it, use an animal hide or fur on chairs or as a wall treatment, hang a funky piece of reclaimed wood on a wall, or take natural, organic materials and add a little sparkle, such as a thin shiny thread throughout.

“What we’re really doing is taking materials we’ve used in a more Western and traditional sense and tweaking them a little bit to be more funky and fun,” Jennings says.

Trend #2: The re-use of relics with a twist.

When you’re cleaning out the attic or the garage, keep your eye out for classic relics that can be turned into decorative treasures. For a client with a cabin in the Spanish Peaks community, Jennings recently painted an old pair of skis and snowshoes a shimmery bronze color and hung them on the wall to spice up a chocolate brown-colored bedroom.

“Always be open minded when looking at old things,” Jennings says. “There are so many ways to re-use things by painting them or finding a totally new use for them.”

For inspiration, Jennings likes to keep up on trends, but she also looks at her client’s particular tastes and what they already have on hand.  These design trends, with natural elements and the use of relics, still seem to accomplish a Western feel that brings nature indoors along with some of the characteristics of a Montana, ski town lifestyle.

“These trends are less traditional,” Jennings says, “but you get to be a little bit more creative and still add character and warmth to a home.”

Spring Landscaping Tips


In Big Sky, Montana, as the snow melts, the days get longer, and fresh, little buds start to pop, area green thumbs can’t wait to get their hands in the dirt. At higher elevations, ranging from 6,200 feet in the Meadow Village to 7,500 feet in the Mountain Village, we tend to have to wait a bit longer to dig in than other flatlanders. The nights are typically frosty, and the soil may still be wet from the snowmelt.

But alas, there’s a lot that you can do right now to get ahead in the landscaping game.

San Schwalbe of Big Sky’s Wildwood Nursery says that spring is a great time to prep your gardens, flowerbeds, and lawns. “It’s good to get started early,” she says. “You want to clean up shrubs and trees and cut back perennials before they grow, otherwise you’re fighting new growth while getting rid of last year’s.”

After 34 years of landscaping in Big Sky, San has become familiar with the best techniques for the area. Here are some of her top tips:

Start where you can: “In Big Sky everyone’s usually so anxious to get started,” San says. “You may have a sunny side of the home that’s ready to work on, while the other side may be covered in snow.” She says to just work around your yard as the ground permits. However, she warns that the soil must be dry before doing so, which leads us to the next…

Don’t manipulate the mud: You may be anxious, but if you try to work in muddy soil, you’re not doing your lawn or gardens any favors. “Do not manipulate soils or gardens when it’s muddy,” San says. “It brings out all the clay aspects in the soil and creates rock hard clods.” If there’s a sunny, warm week the soil might dry out, giving you a window to work the soil before the next rain (or snow!) comes. If it’s taking a while to dry, you can still work the perimeters to clean out the dead.

Out with the old: San explains that by getting rid of last year’s dead, you are creating a healthier environment for the new growth to thrive and flourish. For perennials, she recommends cutting them back to about 1 to 2 inches from ground level. Ornamental grasses can be cut back to about 2 to 5 inches from the ground.

Lawn prep: Most likely, when the snow melts your lawn is still home to some dead leaves leftover from fall. It’s also most likely home to vole tunnels, as this mouse-like rodent digs and feeds on the juicy stems of grass throughout the winter. San recommends raking up all of this debris to clear the way for healthy new growth.

Flowers for frost: Dying to have some color in your garden in the spring? Go for Pansies, which hold up incredibly well to frost. “Pansies stand up to snow and frost,” San says. “They might get tinged on a leaf, but it won’t kill them.” For most other annuals, San recommends waiting to plant until the first week of June, but says to always watch the weather and be prepared to “cover up” if the temperatures drop below freezing.

Cover up: Dragging your flowerpots and garden starts in and out can get old and also cause serious damage to the plants. Instead, San recommends using a real frost blanket. “Once people realize how well these work, it can save time,” San says. “And they are reusable.”

Get plant ready: When the ground is dry, and you have cleaned up from last year, spring is a great time to replenish flower and garden beds with compost and fresh mulch. Then you’re ready to plant, and once the plants begin to grow, you can use an organic fertilizer. San recommends only organic fertilizer to protect the Gallatin watershed from pollution. “Big Sky is so beautiful, we all need to protect its natural infrastructure,” she says.

For more landscaping questions or tips, along with information about organic fertilizers, contact Wildwood Nursery at 406-995-4818, or check out

Some Like it Hot: Big Sky Area Hot Springs

Big Sky, MT Area Hot Springs

Springtime…that flowery (and muddy) interlude between Montana’s incomparable ski seasons and its stunningly beautiful summers. And it’s the perfect time to rest your weary winter ski bones in some hot water.

Southwest Montana boasts an abundance of natural hot springs, and they’re the ideal springtime recreational activity. After all, what’s better than a little hydrotherapy coupled with great views? Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly way to spend a Saturday or an unconventional date idea for a Friday night, any one of these hot springs may fit the bill. Soak away winter’s lingering chill and prepare your body for all of summer’s outdoor exploits in one or more of these enticingly warm pools:

Norris Hot Springs ~

With its emphasis on an ever-inspiring lineup of outdoor live music performances through the spring and summer, Norris Hot Springs, famously known by its nickname “Water of the Gods,” provides a truly unique hot spring experience. Bring a group of friends or a date, enjoy great, all-local food and refreshing drinks, and listen to the band while you soak. Music starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. There are a few RV and tent sites available to campers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mon., Thurs., Fri.: 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sat. & Sun.: Noon-10 p.m.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids under $12, and $7 to enjoy a live music show.

Bozeman Hot Springs

This beloved Bozeman hotspot, located just minutes from downtown, is family friendly and features indoor pools of varying temperatures ranging from frigid to super-hot. It also features a comfortably warm outdoor pool, a dry sauna, a steam room, and a snack bar. Visit in the middle of a weekday to avoid the weekend and evening crowds.

Monday-Thursday: 5:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday: 5:30 a.m. – Sundown
Saturday: Sundown – 11 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Admission: $8.50 for swimmers 12 and over, with discounts available for seniors, kids, and MSU students

Chico Hot Springs

Truly an iconic Montana institution in the heart beautiful Paradise Valley, Chico Hot Springs is a hotel that date back to the turn of the 20th century with vintage charm intact. The hot springs consists of one large, comfortably warm pool for soakers of all ages, and one smaller, hotter pool for those who prefer a higher temperatures. The pools are outside and soakers can enjoy gorgeous views of the valley’s spring-green hills and crystal blue sky while enjoying beverages from the Chico bar. Make a reservation to have a delectable dinner in the Chico dining room after your swim.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Admission: $7.50 for adults, $3.50 for kids and seniors, babies 2 and under are free.

Boiling River ~

Though this particular hot spring is closed in the springtime due to high water levels caused by snowmelt, it’s definitely one to keep in mind for a summer visit. Adjacent to the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park, the Boiling River is divided from the Gardner River by elaborate rock walls. Of all the hot springs experiences Southwest Montana has to offer, this one is truly the most “natural,” and perhaps the most satisfying. There’s nothing quiet like sitting outside in wonderfully warm pools of water with the river rushing by, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Yellowstone. Park your vehicle in the designated lot and hike a scenic half-mile to the springs.

Admission: Plan to pay the National Park entry fee. There is no additional fee to use the Boiling River.
Hours: The Boiling River is open during daylight hours in the summer.

Crawfish and Cornbread: Fund-Raiser for the Arts in Big Sky


March 28th, 2014

Please join the Arts Council of Big Sky as we bring New Orleans to Big Sky for second annual fundraiser gala on Friday, March 28, at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. This will be truly a magical night of food, art and music, graciously sponsored by Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty!

The evening begins at 5 p.m., when six Montana artists will grace the WMPAC stage while they “quick finish” their work. Confirmed artists include painters Todd Connor , Tom Gilleon , Shirley Wempner ,Laurie Stevens , Tom English , as well as sculptor Greg Woodard . They will complete their work and then it will be auctioned off in an exciting live auction with acclaimed auctioneer Emory Sanders.

New Orleans cajun food will be provided by Buck’s T-4 from 5-7 p.m., at which time the auction will start. After the auction you can enjoy live jazz from renowned singer Eden Atwood and the Glen Johnston Swing Band–a nine-piece band that will fill the theater with jazz standards and originals. Eden has performed all over the world sharing bills with Gene Harris, Joshua Redman and the Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band. She has been featured on NPR’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland and Ms. McPartland appears on three tracks of Eden’s CD There Again. Starbucks Coffee, Eddie Bauer and Brooks Brothers have all put tracks of Eden’s on their compilation CDs along side Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Nancy Wilson.

Last year we sold more than $23,000 in artwork, of which half was donated to the Arts Council to help offset the costs of our programming and administration costs of doing more than 15 events throughout the year–many of them free!

This event could not be possible without the help of the Creighton Block Gallery and the Gallatin River Gallery , both located in the Big Sky Town Center. Tickets for this event are $75 each and by reservation only. Ticket price includes food catered by Buck’s T-4. Drinks will be available from a no-host bar. Please call the ACBS office at (406) 995-2742 for reservations.