High & Mighty
The first time Collie Daily set out to furnish a home top to bottom, she was a newly married 29-year-old, a Texan transplanted to Nashville, Tennessee. Her taste at the time (along with much of her furniture and art) was inherited from her mother and grandmother, which is to say heavy on the swags, in the grand ol’ Southern tradition. “We did the Old World look in Nashville, with old paintings everywhere,” Daily says. “By the time we got to Montana, we wanted a New World look.” Almost 15 years had passed in the interim—a period in which she and her husband, Greg, raised a family of three boys, Austin, Grayson, and Chase, and a daughter, Courtney. But with the children grown and scattered across the country, the Dailys knew they would need a powerful lure to draw their far-flung family together. For this athletic tribe, the solution was to build a ski house. They purchased land in the Yellowstone Club, a private ski and golf community in Big Sky, Montana. The property came with its own trout pond, guest cottage, and a ski hill right outside the front door.
In addition to its picturesque location and amenities, the Big Sky property also came with a set of approved house plans designed by Locati Architects in Bozeman, Montana. The couple were satisfied with the basic design: The handsome exterior, clad in local stone, would blend nicely into the mountain setting, while the spacious interior, including four guest suites and a bunk room that sleeps 16, was ample for their family and friends. “We did ask to flip-flop the dining room and the kitchen, where we spend more time,” she says.
But for Daily, that was just the start. She envisioned a home filled with such creature comforts as a fireplace in almost every room, and a large kitchen where the family could cook together. More than that, she viewed the Montana house as a vehicle for self-expression. “Who you are at 30 is not who you are at 50,” she says. “I realized I like contemporary art, clean lines, simple design, and not a lot of clutter. This time I didn’t have to work around my grandmother’s sofa.”
Her first move was to contact Ray Booth, a partner in the design firm of McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors. Booth, an Alabaman who began his career with the legendary decorator John Saladino, has an aesthetic that layers contemporary design with classical elements and an intuitive sense of place. He had never designed a ski house, but no matter. “Having seen his work in Alabama and Nashville,” Daily says, “I knew he was the only choice.”
She told him that she wanted a showcase for the contemporary art she’d been collecting—edgy pieces by painters and photographers such as Damien Hirst, Julian Opie, and Noah Sheldon, and Pop Art classics by Robert Indiana and Andy Warhol. What the couple decidely did not want, she said, was cliché ski-house decor with “a moose head on the wall, howling coyote paintings, and fly-fishing memorabilia.”
Booth began by refining and rethinking the interior finishes. In the great room, a soaring space with an 18-foot cathedral ceiling, he installed an elegant mantel in limestone instead of the chunky boulders called for in the original design. Where the exterior is made of coarser rock, inside Booth had walls covered in honed local fieldstone. He added horizontal planking in painted poplar to quietly evoke traditional cabin architecture. “You can’t go to this place and not bow your head to the landscape,” he says. “The challenge was how to do what is appropriate to the location while paring it back.”
For the same reason, he kept his decorating palette neutral, employing luxurious materials—from hand-sewn hide rugs to perforated leather curtains—that reference the home’s western setting. A master bedroom is in cream and gray, while a sitting room is in white, charcoal, and gold. “We let the art serve as our pops and crashes of color,” Booth says.
The modern furnishings are mixed with vintage pieces, industrial antiques, and assorted curios. These finds include the great room’s ratchet-back chair (“It’s like an antique La-Z-Boy,” Booth says), a pair of chairs designed by the French Art Deco master Jacques Adnet in the home’s entry, and the dining room table, with its top cut from an old dance floor. “I like to add things with character, which have lived and have a story to tell,” Booth says.
In the family room, on the lower level, an antique lectern holds a book of works by the artist Robert Indiana (a nearby corridor is lined with a dozen of his iconic “Love” prints), an old wagon wheel is displayed like sculpture, and a large games table is the setting for evening rounds of Texas Hold’em.
The family is so thrilled with how the Montana house turned out that Daily has lately felt emboldened to import its playful spirit into the more serious decor of her Nashville home. There, a large Tom Sachs sculpture of Hello Kitty has now found its place next to her grandmother’s collection of porcelain miniatures. “And I hung a Damien Hirst ‘Spot’ painting,” she adds, “beside a portrait of Greg in a suit.”