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HOMEOWNERS - Richard and Shelley Bermont

LOCATION - Big Sky, Montana

BUILT - 1999

BUILDERS - Doug and Jodean Bing

LIVING SPACE - 5,200 square feet with five bedrooms, four baths, and garage apartment

PROPERTY - 20 acres near Yellowstone National Park

STYLE - Log facade, reminiscent of the prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright

FAVORITE ROOM - Living room overlooking the North Fork Trail, where they enjoy watching hikers go by in summer, skiers in winter

HER FAVORITE PASTIMES - Hiking, craft projects, cooking, informal entertaining

HIS FAVORITE PASTIMES - Skiing, horseback riding, reading, watching movies

HOUSE-BUILDING TIP - "The key is choosing the right people right at the start."

WHY FRONTGATE? - "If we need something really good, something we'll use on a regular basis, we always get it from Frontgate because we know we'll still have it ten years from now."

A Busy Game Room

A Quiet Retreat

Big Sky, Montana — "There isn’t any place you go that doesn’t take your breath away," say Richard and Shelley Bermont, speaking of the mountains and rolling hills, the meadows and river valley near their home here in Montana. "We’re very close to Yellowstone National Park and Gallitan National Forest."

So how did these Miami residents wind up building a beautiful mountain retreat in a state whose entire population is only a fraction of Miami's?

"It started this way," says Richard. "We wanted to take a family vacation one summer, and our five-year-old son thought a dude ranch would be fun. A guide to dude ranches led us to the Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, where we went horseback riding, fly fishing, and hiking. We also did some porch sitting and relaxing. We kept going back, and the third year, we met the manager of the ranch, who told us about some property the ranch was selling off."

This beautiful mountain retreat is close to Yellowstone National Park and Gallitan National Forest. Shop Outdoor Décor & Accessories.

Though the Bermonts purchased one of the 20-acre parcels along the North Fork Trail, they didn't realize at the time just how fortuitous their decision had been. "Mind you," says Richard, "we had never been to Montana in the winter time. So that fourth year we came back to go skiing — and it was absolutely fantastic."


So it was with fresh appreciation that he and Shelley set about designing a house to suit the setting. Over the course of a year, they collected photographs from Western log-home magazines and put a good deal of thought into determining what they needed and wanted, such as the number and size of the rooms.

"The initial requirement, according to the deed restrictions, was that it be a log home," explains Richard. "But we were concerned with the complications of a log home's interior." Shelley explains: "The reason we didn't want a real log house was that I’d heard horror stories about mice coming in through the chinking. I wanted the interior to be a little more secure."

The solution? A framed house with a log facade. They took all the ideas and information they'd gathered to local Montana architect Jerry Locati, who turned it into a floor plan that ultimately got built. "We worked very well with him," says Richard. "His style was reminiscent of the prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright. It worked very well with our contemporary needs."

Festive lighting and greenery give the Bermonts' entryway a warm,
inviting look. Shop Indoor Décor & Furnishings.

Next, they hired builders Doug and Jodean Bing, started construction in May, and rented a house in the vicinity that would serve as "home base" when they flew out every six or eight weeks to check on progress. In the meantime, the associate architect, Eric Boswell, carried the ball, visiting the property every week and sending digital photos back to Miami. "He and the foreman, Kyle Barner, did a very compatible job of executing the plan at the high level of quality we expected but never thought we’d achieve," says Richard.

It was no small undertaking. "There was a huge amount of earthwork, and a lot of poured concrete." Though many of the boulders excavated from the site were later used to build stone walls, others — some the size of Volkswagens — were rolled down the hill and left lying where they slowed to a stop. "Do you like that boulder over there in the meadow?" Boswell would ask Shelley. "Because that's where it’s staying!"


If they had it to do all over again, including all the challenges of building from a distance, would they? You bet.

"It’s a wonderfully creative experience that my wife and I found very satisfying as we were going through the process — and remarkably satisfying when it was completed because we got exactly what we wanted. We wouldn’t change anything — and that’s kudos to our builder and architect and all of the people who worked on the project. The end result is extremely gratifying.

"The key is choosing the right people right at the start. We got very lucky. We always had open communication with everyone on the job. When we had questions, we trusted the judgment of the professionals, and it worked out. We had 100% agreement and cooperation on everything." He pauses, then concludes, "In the big city, building is very different than in a community like Big Sky."


Above all, Shelley wanted their home to be warm and welcoming. Decorating was a labor of love. "I did most of the house myself," she says. "And then my best friend, Ronni Smulian, tweaked it. She's a decorator back in Miami, and she'd fly out to help me make decisions. She'd look at the whole house and say something like, 'Let’s move this out of the bedroom and into the living room.' We tried to make every room tranquil."

Though the dining room chair and kitchen stools were designed by Peruvian architect Miguel Rodrigo-Mazure along the lines of prairie-style design, much of the furniture was designed and built right there in Montana. Richard and Shelley point out the fine craftsmanship of things around the house built by woodworker Eric Nellis: the entryway table and chair, front door, the master bedroom's bed frame and nightstand. He also made the table in front of the game-room sofas using old bridge trestles; a table in the living room was fashioned from antlers found in Ennis and fitted with a locally quarried natural-stone top.

"It’s a wonderfully creative experience... and remarkably satisfying when it was completed because we got exactly what we wanted."

"Every time I come here, I decorate a little more," says Shelley. "I’m always looking for projects. I've made suede pillows, upholstered my desk chair and bar-stool cushions using leftover fabric, whip-stitched lamp shades, put together little patchwork quilts. I make Indian fetishes to hang on the walls using beads, feathers, a deer skull, whatever we find. The house is a work in motion: I’m constantly adding and doing. If my son finds a rock, we find a place to put it. Whatever we find, we do something with it. This is a very casual place, so it’s very easy to do arts and crafts."


Nestled into a hill overlooking Bucks Ridge, the Bermont place is one of only nine homes in a 700-acre area. "There can be no more," says Richard. "It gives us the seclusion we were looking for, as opposed to Miami, where we have less than half an acre." Yet they also have ready access to conveniences. There's superb downhill skiing and snowboarding just five miles away at Big Sky resort, grocery stores a mile beyond that, and it's only a 30-minute drive to the airport in Bozeman. "We can leave Miami at 8:00 in the morning and be at our home by 1:30."

Though they relish their seclusion, the Bermonts also delight in filling the house with friends, family, and neighbors. "We have a lot of visitors," says Richard. "They say that here in Montana, it's nine months of winter and three months of house guests." When the family goes to the mountain each day, they try to make sure that guests come along to go hiking or horseback riding. "The beauty is unbelievable," says Shelley. "You miss so much if you don’t get out and see it."

An avid cook, she loves nothing better than throwing huge dinner parties. Most of them are spur-of-the-moment affairs, "a hodgepodge group" made up of people living in the area or folks she and her neighbor, a fellow hiker, meet on the trail. "We'll say, 'Everyone come to dinner!' We go to her house or ours, throw something together, create a meal. It’s much more fun that way, very informal and relaxed." Shelley specifically included a place in her own kitchen where friends could sip a glass of wine and chat with her while she slices and dices. "Better still, I make them come into the kitchen and work. Even if they can’t cook, I give them a job! Our dinner parties in Miami are more formal; this is more casual and inclusive."


The Bermonts make their home here four months out of the year. Richard tends to business early in the morning so he’s available by ten o’clock for the family’s daily outing to the mountain for hiking, horseback riding, skiing, fishing — whatever the season and their mood call for.

As for snowboarding, Richard and Shelley leave that to their 14-year-old son, Bradley, dubbed "Mr. Everything." Richard is also content sitting in the living room and watching hikers, walkers, and skiers go by down North Fork Trail. As for Shelley, Richard claims that all she needs to be happy is "a good pair of hiking boots and a sweatshirt."

"We'll say, 'Everyone come to dinner!' We ... throw something together, create a meal. It’s much more fun that way, very informal and relaxed."

This past summer, the Bermonts bought two quarter horses and one Arabian horse, Beau, Leo, and Newt, boarded at the dude ranch. "When we’re not riding, the wranglers are able to use them to take out the guests," says Richard. The Bermont menagerie also includes a Jack Russell terrier named Jane Russell, who spends the summer chasing marmots and chipmunks, then spends the winter chasing tennis balls in the snow.

Indispensable to the smooth running of the place is their caretaker and housekeeper, Misty Castle. "She's wonderful," says Shelley. "She treats it like her own. She cleans up after guests, organizes drawers, even stocks the refrigerator so everything is ready to go when we get there. Richard wants this to be a vacation for me, too, and Misty really makes that work. She’s one in a million."

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