ART + ARCHITECTURE: Custom Integration

Custom architecture considers client's art collection.

Integrating art early into the architectural design process makes for a truly intimate, authentic experience of creativity. Consider the immaculate cabin partners Paul Bertelli and Logan Leachman imagined for a client outside Livingston, Montana. Seeking refuge from his nearby ranch house—a mecca for guests—the client commissioned JLF Architects to create a sanctuary for him and his Western-inspired collection of art, antiques and photography.

The goal: Sculpt a space of privacy, peace and aesthetic immersion.

Our charge: Pair the material simplicity of early stone structures built by early immigrants to the Rocky Mountain West with the clean refinement of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The result: A 2,000 sq.ft. space, divided over two levels, defined by Montana moss rock walls, exposed ceiling timbers (repurposed from nearby corrals) and reclaimed floorboards with the original circular saw marks still visible.

The lesson: Let art inform the architecture. “As our client slowly brought in more and more pieces, each of them found its own space,” Paul says. “In his head, he knew all along that his vision for his art and antiques would work with what we are doing.”

Throughout the home, Paul and Logan peppered architectural invitations to display art, such as steel picture ledges set at multiple levels along a hallway, allowing for a gallery-style salon, and the embankment of large quarry stones along the driveway, upon which sculptures now stand. Every room allows for a layered experience of art and architecture; for instance, in the master bedroom, wood paneling provides a prime backdrop for a large-format limited-edition print by landscape photographer Norman Maier. On the adjacent wall, the paneling continues as a frame for an assortment of vintage team photos. Through careful calculation, the artwork feels at home in the forms we designed.

Reflecting on the success of the project, Paul distilled the art-shaped process into four key tips for integrating art into architecture:

Discuss before designing

When working with architects, clients should pick the key pieces they want to display and share them with their design team. Oftentimes, early discussions about a wonderful antique piece or work of art inform the direction of the home’s design.

Keep it simple

Don’t overdo the design: remember that the architecture serves as the canvas for everything else. Simple forms and materials with great and timeless character pair well with statement pieces. In the Montana cabin, the natural stone and sheetrock used on the interior walls proved to be the perfect neutral background for large framed artworks.

Let there be light

Never underestimate the power of natural light, even when a sophisticated schema of lighting is at play. Light is critical to viewing art, so find ways to bring daylight into the building whenever possible.

Keep rays at bay

And yet, too much sun can harm art. In the Montana sanctuary, every window features specially manufactured two-layer glass that filters out 98% of ultraviolet rays, making the panes art-friendly.

This post was based on an August 2014 feature in Mountain Living magazine.

ABOUT JLF ARCHITECTS: Building timeless structures rooted in eloquence and elegance, Jackson- and Bozeman-based JLF Architects sources authentic materials and regional solutions to create place-based houses reflective of their contexts, whether that be the Rocky Mountains or the Eastern Seaboard. Our award-winning portfolio features inspired custom designs achieved through a genuine alliance with Big-D Signature, built over 17 years of collaboration. Our streamlined process unites passionate architects with dedicated builders to enable the collective imagination of visionary artisans working with visionary clients. For more information, visit www.JLFArchitects.com.
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