The cabin's front porch is inviting not only to guests but also deer. “Deer sun on the front lawn,” says homeowner Marylee Syme. “They mow down anything we plant and will come right on the deck. They do the trimming for us.” The antiqued red and yellow Adirondack-style chairs were created by a custom furniture builder in Bigfork.
What happens when an interior designer marries a builder? To start, the creation of some beautiful homes.
Doug and Marylee Syme’s 5-year-old Montanta getaway showcases the couple’s talent for creating pure rustic beauty. Situated about 25 miles from their main home on Flathead Lake, the Symes’ riverside cabin features the Orvis “Minocqua” design, inspired by sportsman’s cabins with generous porches to celebrate natural surroundings, and handcrafted logs provided by Rocky Mountain Log Homes in Hamilton, Montana.
Doug worked with architect Kevin McKee to turn out a stunning retreat replete with 10-inch logs crafted from dead-standing timber. “We wanted to be sure to go with hand-peeled [logs],” explains Marylee, noting their handcrafted appeal.
The couple mostly adhered to the plan, but chose to create a garage and an additional bedroom to maximize space. “We added a garage floor plan
, which was not part of the initial design,” says Marylee. “That way we could build a studio bedroom — about 700 square feet — above the garage for more space because that particular home design called for only two bedrooms.”
The studio/loft comes in handy for the friends, family, grandkids and dogs who gather on various weekends from spring through fall to bask in Swan River and the great outdoors. Guests enjoy such pastimes as fishing for trout, hiking, or simply relaxing on the front porch in Marylee’s distressed yellow and red Adirondack-style chairs, and soaking up nature via striking groves of birch, firs, tamarack and lodgepole pines.
“We left a good portion of the grounds natural,” says Marylee, noting the cabin’s proximity to Glacier National Park. “If you look to the east you see the Swan Mountains — gorgeous at sunrise.”
Modern Construction, Traditional Look
Marylee loves the bronze hood, which she designed and had custom-built. The kitchen also features granite counters and tile backsplash. Bar chairs create a casual eating setup at the island. “The chairs’ style is very traditional, sturdy and multi-generational. If you’ve been to Yellowstone or Glacier national parks, that type of furniture is everywhere,” Marylee observes.
Opting for beavertail-style log ends on the exterior and contemporary chinking throughout, the cabin offers the best of both worlds.
“Modern chinking allows the structure to move with heat and cold, which prevents cracking,” Marylee explains. “So the construction is modern; the look is traditional.”
Also traditional: the roof’s cedar shingles. These particular shingles are referred to as “rejected” shingles, Marylee notes, “as they’re made from rejected cedar, and are very unusual and erratic.”
Inside, Marylee’s log cabin interior design
goal was to infuse the cabin with authentic, rustic appeal. Case in point: vintage-inspired light fixtures such as the chandelier above the dining table, various sconces and lanterns.
“I chose pieces that are made of heavy iron and look as if they were created at the turn of the century by perhaps a nearby blacksmith,” Marylee states.
She and the designers decided to forgo large windows for the same reason. “Log cabins didn’t have big expensive windows, so we don’t have big expensive windows,” she says, adding that plenty of light streams through the glass door off the kitchen.
Most of the main-level flooring is skip-sawn hickory, with earth-toned slate in the kitchen, laundry and baths — all very durable.
“When you have a fishing house, and kids, dogs, etc., constantly are in and out, you have to design for that,” Marylee explains. “Between the slate and the hickory flooring, it’s indestructible.”
Growing up overseas, Marylee has always had a traditional, classically trained eye.
“Copper accents go well with this style,” she observes, “as does my Blue Willow dishware pattern. The accent colors that look best with logs are red, green, black and blue. Yellow doesn’t accent the wood well.”
The logs were treated with a slightly dark log home stain
, “rather than the lighter and washed colors that you saw in the 1970s through the 1990s,” notes Marylee. “This is very traditional and looks like something you’d see in the early 1900s.”
Marylee adorned various spaces with wicker chairs and tables to complement that authentic appearance.
“Not only does wicker give lightness, but it’s considered very traditional for second homes for that early 1900s period,” she states.
Plaids, wickers and a great big fireplace maintain the traditional log-cabin vibe. Made by an artisan in nearby Bigfork, the handcrafted hat rack provides an "entryway feel," says Marylee. "Traditional cabins don't really have entryways, per se, so that little piece allows you to hang a hat or jacket, take off your boots, etc."
The overall look stays true to the cabin’s character and design.
“I’m historical in my studies. I purchased furniture specifically for this house,” Marylee adds, noting that it’s close to “Montana style,” but less heavy and more in tune with a Western fishing/hunting camp’s plaids and leathers.
“Our vision was to create something small, cozy and family-oriented,” recalls Marylee, “and that’s exactly what we did.”
1,934 as shown (plus bonus room over garage, including studio and full bath)
Kevin McKee (208-866-6592)
Automated lighting system:
Lutron (888- 588-7661; lutron.com
Bathroom light fixtures; dining room chandelier; sconces:
Visual Comfort & Co. (713-686-5999; visualcomfort.com
Syme & Syme (406-837-4363)
Exterior doors; windows:
Weather Shield (877-452-5535; weathershield.com)
Exterior lighting; kitchen pendant lights:
customlightstyles (707-547-9909; customlightstyles.com)
Rohl (800-777-9762; rohlhome.com)
Marylee R. Syme
Electrolux – Icon series (877-435-3287; electroluxicon.com)
Kitchen bar chairs:
Old Hickory Furniture Co. (800-232-2275; oldhickory.com)
Rocky Mountain Log Homes (406-363-5680; rmlh.com)
Gainey Ceramics Tile (800-451-8155; gaineyceramics.com)