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Mountain Chic Mixes Rustic Vermont with Modern Style


by Sarah Davin

Photo courtesy of Brenna B

Homes are more than mere places to eat, sleep, and store your things, they are almost living, breathing organisms that both reflect and are shaped by the spirit and life decisions of the owner. For interior designers like Stowe-based Brenna B Interiors and Montpelier-based Steeplechase Design+Build, the goal is to find the perfect marriage between the two. Often in Vermont, this is a challenge, as the demands of the weather (and weatherization) can influence the agenda, surrendering style for practicality, efficiency, and warmth.

Fortunately, talented designers and architects design firms in Vermont like Stowe-based Brenna B Interiors and Montpelier-based Steeplechase Design+Buildare are learning to bridge the gap, creating a “mountain chic” that blends New England traditions and stylistic pop. In other words, that classic cabin and farmhouse tucked away in the a lush Green Mountains now comes with slipper bathtubs, damask wallpaper, and pendant chandeliers—often all wrapped in a Scandinavian minimalist bow.

“People are blending a lot of things.” says Will Schebaum co-founder of Steeplechase Design+Build.  “My own particular house, I would say is modern rustic. The form of the structure is modern or contemporary, but there are rustic elements to it like barn board and exposed steel, maybe even an industrial element to it.” Some of the more classic elements are coming back into play, he also points out. “People are getting into wallpaper again, but with a more modern twist. It’s not the same kind of wallpaper you would see in your grandmother’s house.” Schebaum isn’t the only designer to notice the rise of popularity.

Brenna Brochhausen of Brenna B Interiors emphasized how this shift reflects a lifestyle and philosophy, “This whole Scandinavian, clean lines, white, black, and grey, is coming back. It’s a way of life in Sweden. Things are going back to simplistic roots. People are looking for something more timeless than the shock value of trends.”

This desire for simplicity and practicality found in the Scandinavian style is also reflected in the values Brochhausen described that are inherent to the “mountain chic” style of Vermont. She said, “People want to be comfortable in their homes, be cozy, and feel that kind of lushness, to be able to come home and relax. We try to complement the comfort with livability and practicality. Between families, kids, pets, and things of that nature, we need things that are going to be timeless and also last.”

Designers now have new tools to assist in achieving that timeless look. Brochhausen shared how advancements in fabrics are making that blend of rugged mountain and posh comfort more possible. “We have fabrics now that are just incredible,” she explains. “The term for them is ‘Krypton,’ like in Superman. They are super lucious and soft and just impermeable to everything.”

New fabric isn’t the only reason to be excited. Schebaum discussed how changes in wood treatments have provided him and his clients with new options. “A lot of the kitchens I’ve been working on recently have had very standard frame and panel kitchen cabinets, but with more of a whitewashed look as opposed to a natural oak finish. In the past, maple cabinets would look like maple cabinets, and oak cabinets would look like oak cabinets. Doing treatments on certain woods get more of a modern look.”

While these new fabrics and wood finishes are exciting, it is still not the best part of designing in Vermont. When asked what the best thing about being an interior designer in Vermont was, Brenna Brochhausen responded, “I love working with all these craftsmen. One of my favorite parts about this job is working one on one with someone. It’s a one of a kind piece, and it will last forever. Working and collaborating with artists, which is really what they are, is one of the amazing beauties of working here.”