We asked 25 interiors experts to share their approaches to designing successful spaces.

A home,” Nate Berkus says, “should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love.” What keeps it from becoming a hodgepodge of cluttered self-expression? Design. Great design is as individual as it is transformative. It breaks as many rules as it follows. It isn’t always easy to describe, but you know it when you see it. We asked some of the top tastemakers in the Western design world about their approaches to the spaces and things they create, whether they’re crafting a cowhide chair, envisioning a makeover for a historic hotel, or making a house into a feel-good home.

1. Cheryl Frey | Alley Modern & More | Jackson, Wyoming

“Great design to me has to be visually stimulating, with thoughtfully placed and orchestrated objects that are personal by nature and moving to those who view them. Like great art or a great song, the composition, if done well, will stand the test of time. I love graphic and organic designs together, pieces that have simple lines and are straightforward — functional yet personal. Living in the West has given me the opportunity to explore more freely the integration between modern and ethnographic art and objects. I have a fondness for midcentury modern’s cutting-edge use of materials and simplistic forms combined with graphic and colorful Native American art and objects, allowing each to have their own dialogue when put together. Great design does not compete with the architecture. It complements it in a cohesive blend that is pleasing to the environment.”

Great Design
Photography: Jeffrey Kaphan/Courtesy Alley Modern & More

2. Gina D’Amore Bauerle | D’Amore Interiors | Denver

“Almost 98 percent of my design philosophy revolves around area rugs. That’s how I draw my overall colors and balance. Without that, I feel like you’re making every decision blindly. When you start with a rug, it makes sense why you would choose accent colors and colors on walls. I don’t like making any decision before I know what the accent rug is going to be.”

Great Design
Photography: Ron Ruscio/Courtesy D'Amore Interiors

3. Donnie Volkart | Box Road | Albuquerque

“To achieve an eclectic but harmonious and inviting look, we strive to put together functional, stylish, and beautiful objects sourced from both today’s visionaries and the diverse and creative craftsmen of years gone by.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Box Road

4. Jenny Kimball | La Fonda | Santa Fe

“When the Santa Fe Railroad and Harvey Hotel ran La Fonda in the 1920s, they bought and commissioned fabulous pieces of art — Gerald Cassidys are the most well-known ones throughout the hotel. Since then, we have continued to buy art, mainly from Native American artists, and to keep the collection current. I think the impact of the art is what makes La Fonda different. We own our art, and every chance we get, we try to hire local artisans — whether to paint headboards or guest-room numbers, or to buy art to hang in the hotel. Paying attention to the details of the design at every step of the way is key. [It starts at the entrance.] The design surrounding the door is a pattern for a Pueblo rain cloud; the door numbers are hand-punched tin and combed tile. Surrounding yourself with art, besides being beautiful and unique, helps you absorb the local culture. It gives a richer experience.”

Great Design
Photography: Kerry Sherck/Courtesy La Fonda

5. Katherine Snedeker | The Arrangement | Dallas and Houston

“Bedrooms should always be a sanctuary — a place away from the world. Additional seating is important because it allows you to have a space to relax and review the day. A home is about living and using the space; it’s not just a place to pass through.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy The Arrangement

6. Ja’Nae Adkins | Western Passion | Dallas

“Good Western design should be sophisticated and versatile enough to mix and match for any lifestyle, yet be comfortable enough to relax with family and friends — a nice leather sofa you can sink into after a long day. Comfort always has to be in play.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Western Passion

7. Jim Rimelspach | Wilson Associates | Dallas

“[In redoing the Inn of the Anasazi hotel in Santa Fe], we didn’t want to take away from the architecture, which is traditional and classic. We didn’t want to paint all the vigas white, so the best way to update the interior was through the furnishings. We found by adding more contemporary pieces, people focused back on the architecture, so it gave them a new perspective on the space. Before, it was colorful and cluttered and kind of heavy. Now you can relax and enjoy the architecture and the spaces in a more usable and functional way.”

Great Design
Photography: Don Riddle/Courtesy Wilson Associates

8. Elizabeth Brumbaugh | Brumbaugh’s Fine Home Furnishings | Fort Worth, Texas

“Western design should transcend time and place. The overall feel should envelop your senses and encompass style. Every aspect should exude the lore of the West.”

Great Design
Photography: Jeremy Enlow/Courtesy Brumbaugh's Fine Home Furnishings

9. Agnes Bourne | Agnes Bourne Studio | Jackson, Wyoming

“Design is a means of maintaining an inspired community by improving the quality of life, supporting creative self-expression, and fostering conservation.”

Great Design
Photography: David Duncan Livingston/Courtesy Agnes Bourne Studio

10. Cheryl Schulke | Stash and Curate | Houston and Round Top, Texas

“My design mantra: rustic minimalist elegance. Design should feature the natural beauty of the elements being used. Whether I am designing a bag or furniture or a space, I like to include elements that have a story, a uniqueness, an inherent soul. My take on minimalist design is to offer a lack of clutter so there is a space to breathe.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Cheryl Schulke

11. Diana Vincent | High Camp Home | Truckee, California

“Everything old is new again. I love that adage. It reflects Western design and the elements we use to create the mix of style. Using found objects and old reclaimed materials in a modern way brings new life to materials that have been around forever and allows for a calmness in an otherwise sterile modern world.”

Great Design
Photography: Kat Alves/Courtesy High Camp Home

12. Ginger Barber | Ginger Barber Interior Design | Houston

“Indoor-outdoor spaces are a particular favorite of mine because inspiration can be pulled from both the home and natural surroundings. My design preference is always to keep it simple — classic woods, blends of neutral tones, and personal pieces can easily create a balanced oasis.”

Great Design
Photography: Michael Antique/Courtesy Ginger Barber Interior Design

13. Chandler Prewitt | Chandler Prewitt Design | Santa Fe

“Your home environment should be tailored to incorporate what you need to live and work to your highest potential. Design should reflect an extraordinary sensitivity to your lifestyle. Quality in materials and a real pride of excellence shown in the details of the work of artisans and craftspeople are paramount.”

Great Design
Photography: Amadeus Leitner/Courtesy Chandler Prewitt Design

14. Erika Jennings | Erika & Company Interior Design | Big Sky, Montana

“Successful design should always evoke emotion, and it’s my job as a designer to help my client figure out and create the atmosphere that makes them feel their very best. Layers of beautiful acoustic materials and sentimental artifacts are what we used to make this owner feel wrapped in a blanket at his desk.”

Great Design
Photography: Karl Neumann/Courtesy Erika & Company Interior Design

15. Carla Marley Ballinger | Rios Interiors | Fort Worth, Texas

“Art and design should elevate your space. Function and comfort should be your platform. Living with art and design fires your imagination.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Rios Interiors

16. Tonja Morrison | Hancock & Moore | Hickory, North Carolina

“My design mantra is always have one standout piece to either express a side of yourself that no one really knows or to just give people something to talk about.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Hancock & Moore

17. Kassie Sutter | Gemstone Tile | Kingman, Arizona

“Good design encompasses comfortable, meaningful, and cherished items in a home that have been displayed simply, so that upon entry, you feel as though you get to know the homeowner through the time spent in their home.”

Great Design
Photography: Gabor Ekecs/Courtesy Gemstone Tile

18. Heidi Jarski | Mountain Comfort Furnishings | Summit County, Colorado; and Lake Tahoe, California

“Three design elements we focus on are color, the shape of the piece, and the texture that’s integrated with the piece, whether it’s leather, hair hide, or sheepskin. Typically, we lean on neutrals with pops of color, such as blues, teals, and reds. You can go any direction with those. The shape of the piece sometimes resembles things in the Western world, but there’s a shift now to cleaner lines with integrated texture, nailheads, fringe, and fur.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Mountain Comfort Furnishings

19. John Proffitt | John Proffitt Home | Fort Worth, Texas

“I’m inspired by the textures of the Southwest. I like the contrast of putting rich cowhides on classic chair designs because it’s a little risky — it’s unexpected.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy John Proffitt Home

20. Tricia Dabney | High Cotton Home & Design | Austin, Texas

“For me, interior design is all about mixing the rustic with the refined, the old with the new. A home should be a soft place to fall. If everything is pristine, it’s not relaxed. But if you can mix the old and rustic with things that are really beautiful, it keeps the eye interested and allows people to be more relaxed in the environment.”

Great Design
Stacy Berg for Foto Hogg/Courtesy High Cotton Home & Design

21. Tim Ferguson | Dennards | Whitesboro, Pilot Point, and Sherman, Texas

“We design spaces that celebrate a love of farm and ranch — comfortable, livable, and luxurious, while holding on to our Western heritage by incorporating rich leathers, unique fabrics, natural woods, and a pop of color.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Dennards

22. Tanner Dipple | Adobe Interiors | Fort Worth, Texas

“It’s important to step out of the box and try things that nobody’s done. That might be mixing Western elements with different styles, elements that you might not ordinarily think of, such as pairing wood-edge tabletops with a modern base — incorporating modern elements into the rustic look.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Adobe Interiors

23. Jeremiah Young | Kibler & Kirch | Billings and Red Lodge, Montana

“Nothing draws you into a room more than seeing many different ways to relax, have conversations, or find a place of one’s own. How comfortable a room feels is directly proportionate to the number of places to sit in that room. ... Try to create rooms that make people immediately want to sit instead of stand.”

Great Design
Photography: Roger Wade Studio Inc./Courtesy Kibler & Kirch

24. Laura Hannah | Cowhide Western Furniture Co. | Denton, Texas

“One of our main objectives is to combine a mix of beautiful fabrics and top grain leathers, but, most important, to allow a beautiful, unique hide to be the focal point. Attention to detail is important, [especially in] the selection, balance of color, and placement of the hide. We hand-select each hide to make sure that our furniture stands out as one-of-a kind. The perfect hide can take an average design and turn it into a stunning showpiece.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Western Furniture Co.

25. Christina Rossi | Dunton Hot Springs | Dolores, Colorado

“We take a ‘not trying too hard’ approach to design. We also take inspiration from our beautiful surroundings. We want things to feel genuine and authentic, make sense, but also be somewhat surprising. Whether it is creatively using objects for something other than their originally intended use or hanging a stunning piece of art in an unexpected location, we want guests to feel as if they are visiting a friend’s gorgeous, well-thought-out home.”

Great Design
Photography: Courtesy Dunton Hot Springs

From the January 2018 issue. Click here to order the magazine. 

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