How to Combine Rustic and Modern Design

Achieving an unexpected yet cohesive design is something we strive for, especially after our clients go through our proprietary envisioning process and detail their expectations for what their home will look like inside and out. In this harmonious Steamboat Springs home, we used contrasting materials to combine rustic and modern design, all while keeping the stunning views of the surrounding landscape in mind. 

The newly constructed dwelling is a study in contrasts, mixing modern and mountain styles. With features like a glass façade, a soaring gabled roof anchored by hefty timber tresses, and accents of rustic stone and blackened steel, you could call it a contemporary ski chalet that takes its interior cues from a Brooklyn loft. Highlighting the view was the driving force behind our architectural design. 


“We wanted to create a very transparent home, from front to back,” says Vertical Arts Principal and Founder Brandt Vanderbosch. “It has a glass house feel, yet it uses timbers associated with mountain style.” 

The great room’s vaulted roofline flies the length of the house, floating over the structure to give it a sense of airiness. It dips down in the kitchen, but then rises again in the dining room to draw the eye up and out toward the mountains. The lower ceiling of the kitchen makes way for the higher vantage point of the upper-level bedrooms, giving them spectacular views of the wooded valley behind the home. Douglas-fir timbers and a soaring pine ceiling give the home its modern mountain ethos, while a fireplace surrounded by waxed steel lends an industrial element.


Even the great room furnishings were chosen with the scenery in mind. 

“Everything has a low profile because they didn’t want to block the view to the mountain or to the trees in the back,” explains Tiedeken O’Brien. 

Structured gray sofas and a pair of minimalist white chairs with slender metal frames hint at the owners’ modern tastes, but custom pieces like the chunky wood block end tables warm the space. A stone wall holds the fireplace and acts as a grounding element, balancing the floor-to-ceiling windows.


The color palette for the residence was inspired by artwork owned by the clients, featuring bronze and black with olive green, brick red and warm brown hues. 

“It’s not what you consider a typically modern palette,” says Tiedeken O’Brien. That element of the unexpected is a theme throughout the whole home.

This sleek-yet-rustic aesthetic is also embraced in the kitchen, where the chosen color palette is especially evident. The painting that inspired the palette hangs nearby in the great room on a charred wood wall burnt in the Japanese style of shou sugi ban. This feature wall wraps a corner and continues into the kitchen, where, working with Paul Anderson of Exquisite Kitchen Design and Sarah Fox of Fox Construction, the team meticulously designed a wall of cabinetry so the pronounced grain flows in a continuous line. 


The tawny brown hue of the wood ties in with the sandy taupe and caramel shades of the stone in the great room, connecting the two spaces, while playing off the kitchen’s more industrial elements: darker, wire-brushed walnut cabinetry designed to match the ceiling timbers, a blackened I-beam shelf that morphs into a custom range hood, and razor-thin steel floating shelves that pierce the gray tile backsplash. 

“We layered in the bespoke elements to make it feel really detailed and tactile,” says Tiedeken O’Brien.

While the great room is certainly the heart of the home, the layout of the house holds more than the open living space suggests. Telluride Gold natural stone grounds the home and connects it to the surrounding landscape. The warm taupe and caramel shades of the stone and a Douglas-fir beam are juxtaposed against blackened steel.

“It has some unique ins and outs with hidden spaces,” says Vanderbosch. “Those don’t immediately reveal themselves in this open plan.”


Across from the stairs, a sliding door leads to the mudroom— designed as a luxury locker room for ski equipment—but walk just beyond and you’ll find a bedroom suite. The kitchen extends back to a small nook, where there’s a pantry and office, with the powder room folded in. The guest suites are tucked away on the lower level, with a secondary living area for a mini retreat. It’s a design that makes the home feel both expansive and intimate. 

Even when they’re not entertaining, the owners actively use all the main spaces, but they can also escape just up the stairs to a private loft where a plush lounge chair looks out over the treetops. It’s as chic and cozy as a townhouse library, but with endless sky and greenery just outside the window.

“You feel like you’re in a tree house,” Tiedeken O’Brien observes.


In the end, the strategy of using disparate elements paid off. 

“We brought together contrasting materials such as glass and timber, steel and stone,” Vanderbosch says. “The result is mountain modern harmony.”

The Thunderhead Ski In Ski Out was featured in the September/October 2021 issue of Luxe Interiors + Design. For more photos of the home, check out the project feature on our website. Be sure to follow all Vertical Arts updates on our website, Houzz, Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram. To learn more about how we can help you design your dream mountain home, contact us.