2023 Hotel Design Award: Montage Big Sky by BraytonHughes Design Studios


Designing any building in an awe-inspiring setting requires finding a delicate balance between making a statement and expressing a proper deference to the locale. BraytonHughes Design Studios has executed such a feat at the Montage Big Sky resort, located northwest of Yellowstone National Park and within view of the Spanish Peaks mountains.

The resort’s public spaces are outfitted in warm, earthy tones and materials (think: stone, leather and hammered metal) and give guests opportunities to gather in areas such as the lobby lounge and bar, which boasts a large central fireplace.
Photos by Durston Saylor and Christian Horan.

An historically informed approach that balances natural and built environments is key to this accomplishment. “One of our main concepts was a contemporary take on traditional North American National Park lodges that weaves in aesthetic cues from Montana’s past and current history,” says San Francisco-based BraytonHughes principal Joel Villalon. The grand public spaces, framed with visible timbers and complemented by neutral shades, envelop guests with a sense of quiet drama and capture expansive views of the rugged landscape beyond.

The 39 turnkey residences at Montage Big Sky range in size from approximately 2,300 to 8,100 square feet and continue the highly- refined-meets-rugged vibe, including lighting by Hubbardton Forge. Photos by Durston Saylor and Christian Horan.

Within the resort, which opened in December 2021 and includes 100 guest rooms and suites and 39 spacious condominium residences, guests can curate their own experience that marries comfort with adventure. Six food and beverage venues run the gamut, from the family-friendly Beartooth Pub
and Rec to the sophisticated Cortina Italian restaurant, and other gatherings take place in meeting spaces and the 5,080-square-foot ballroom. Whether it’s spa treatments at the state-of-the-art Spa Montage or skiing at the nearby Big Sky Resort, Montage Big Sky caters to all interests with equal attention to detail articulated through its architecture and design.

The resort contains 100 guest rooms and suites, all appointed with earthy textures that contain subtle references to Montana’s western heritage. Montage Big Sky is equally well suited to be a retreat destination or as a base to engage in the area’s many outdoor activities. Photos by Durston Saylor and Christian Horan.
Luxurious bathrooms feature fixtures and products from Brizo, Kohler, Toto and MunnWorks. Select black finishes and other metal details are a nod to the region’s ranching and blacksmithing traditions. Photos by Durston Saylor and Christian Horan.

Evoking a rugged Western aesthetic and cultural touchstones within the context of a sprawling five-star resort is a specific type of design exercise. The BraytonHughes team collaborated with architect of record Hart Howerton to establish a palette of wood, metal and stone that references local materials and building heritage, as well as the area ties to agriculture and mining. The combination of sophisticated applications of these materials “with really luxurious fabrics on lounge chairs and sofas and then accessories and the art program” creates the building blocks, Villalon explains. Then when the hotel is operated by a top-tier hospitality group known for its elevated service and amenities, “you begin to create a language that takes it up to that level of luxury that [guests] expect, and they get the sense that their experience is a little more special,” he observes.

Stone and millwork in Spa Montage further reference Montana’s singular landscape and natural resources within this sanctuary designed for relaxation and rejuvenation. Photos by Durston Saylor and Christian Horan.

Black-finish plumbing fixtures and dark granite countertops with a leathered textured finish, for example, demonstrate how rusticity and refinement merge. All guest rooms contain fireplaces to bring in an additional earthy element. Farmboy Fine Arts advisory collaborated with the team to curate original works on view throughout the property, including an installation by emerging Montana-based Indigenous artist Monica Gilles-Brings Yellow, and examples of landscape photography that honor the remarkable surroundings. All these gestures speak to the designers’ original project concept and narratives. Ultimately, the aesthetic coherence that leads to memorable experiences at Montage Big Sky is about “completing the story,” Villalon says.