Bringing the Big Sky Inside
Furnishing the interior of your mountain home is an opportunity to capture Montana’s strong landscape and make your home’s interior livable and luxurious. Choosing the right furniture will balance, complement, and enhance the raw beauty of Montana. Western Home Journal is proud to feature two Bozeman-based furniture icons that will provide inspiration for both small and large pieces.
Black Timber Furniture Company began as a built-to-order furniture manufacturer of primarily custom bedroom, dining room, and wood cabinetry. The company celebrated its 10th year in business by launching a full line of quality upholstered furniture and is preparing to launch a Craftsman-inspired line next.
Montana Expressions has been owned for the past 19 years by Ralph McHenry. McHenry is a former antique dealer and brings an innate sense of style to the company’s offerings, which he hopes will provide design inspiration to both the Montana native as well as those who are new to the area.
Black Timber Furniture
Expansive, Custom-Built Design Solutions
“We started out as a furniture maker with basic designs, and have since grown into a builder of a variety of styles as well as extensive custom work.”
–Todd Fullerton, Owner, Black Timber Furniture
After a decade in business, Black Timber Furniture Company has evolved to provide a niche market in furniture and design. Based in Bozeman, Montana, they have developed a national presence. A local built-to-order furniture manufacturer, Black Timber offers their clients the ability to customize or adapt existing collections to fit their unique needs. “We started out as a furniture maker with basic designs,” says owner Todd Fullerton, “and have since grown into a builder of a variety of styles as well as extensive custom work. It is difficult to organize all we do into a comprehensive package. Just look at our website, which features old and new pieces along with photos snapped at deliveries and installations before the space is finished. We work to simplify, but our offering continues to expand. We consistently come up with new ideas and designs.” The Black Timber showroom is constantly in flux, and often the jumping-off point for many of their clients who are seeking inspiration.
“Let us be your design solution” is the company’s motto. Whether it is a piece of furniture or a whole home, this motto is applicable throughout the entire process. “Our goal is to help people create what they want beyond their expectations, but also keep it grounded,” says lead designer Kris Nunn. “People often come to us after not finding exactly what they’re looking for. Others know what they want and ask that we build it for them. It’s our goal to work with clients to build a collection or a piece that works for them now, while also offering timeless style.”
Black Timber is a brand of its own. Their craftsmen make products for clients, from individual furniture pieces to architectural pieces such as built-in cabinets and bookcases, elaborate hall trees, ski lockers, kitchen islands, and vanities. The design team recently created an electric fireplace unit of reclaimed lumber for a client in Jackson Hole who had initially sought out BTF for a freestanding cabinet to place under their wall-mounted TV. In conversations between the client and the design team, the need for warmth and ambience became apparent, so an electric fireplace with a reclaimed lumber surround was proposed to match other rustic pieces in the room. The evolution of a simple modification made a big difference. “You aren’t able to make a custom change like that at a typical furniture store,” says designer Marye Virginia Sanctuary. “You’d spend hours or days sourcing the right piece, while we are able to accommodate that change in a single design meeting.”
“It’s our goal to work with clients to build a collection or a piece that works for them now, while also offering timeless style.”
–Kris Nunn, Lead Designer, Black Timber Furniture
Known for custom bedroom, dining room, and occasional furniture, BTF also builds the unusual: fly rod cabinets, TV-lift cabinets, and custom bar cabinets. Furniture items their customers request are live-edge executive office suite pieces, headboards with floating nightstands, and reclaimed kitchen islands with specific layouts. Customers come into the furniture showroom for a variety of styles—Craftsman, live edge, rustic, modern, and even with their own ideas. Each experience is as unique as the client’s personality.
“We’re also sought-after because of the incredible depth of our Bridger Mission and Gallatin Classics collections and the variations we can offer with it,” says Todd. “People are drawn to them because they are grounded in natural form, and stem from the historic Craftsman movement that embraced the artistic value of hand-crafted furniture. That is what we do; the core of our company is that we make handcrafted furniture.” In a time of mass-produced goods and collections that come from overseas, BTF clients often comment on how refreshing it is to work with local craftsmen who are still building with their hands.
BTF is in the process of adding a curated Mission area to feature all things Craftsman, from traditional pieces made of oak to more streamlined pieces for the modern home. Their Morris chair can be built out of any of their wood selections and finishes to fit any style. As a complement to this collection, they also offer a line of fabrics with a nod to William Morris as well as performance fabrics and leathers. Up next is the goal of providing a full line of accessories and lighting to complement the Craftsman style.
In celebration of the company’s 10th year, BTF has expanded its offering to provide a full line of quality upholstered furniture. “Many of Black Timber Furniture’s clients were asking for seating pieces and soft goods to complement our case goods and wood furniture,” says Nunn. Partnering with an upholsterer, they are fulfilling their clients’ needs, offering a wide variety of textures and fabrics to complete any space. The addition of a dedicated design team in the last two years has also allowed BTF to bring their design solutions full circle by helping clients finish out a room or their entire home.
“We’re also sought-after because of the incredible depth of our Bridger Mission and Gallatin Classics collections and the variations we can offer with it. People are drawn to them because they are grounded in natural form, and stem from the historic Craftsman movement that embraced the artistic value of hand-crafted furniture.”
–Todd Fullerton, Owner, Black Timber Furniture
Design typically adds value faster than it adds cost, particularly when the process is this streamlined. The Black Timber team helps homeowners understand a property’s potential. The showroom, which you can visit virtually or in person, acts as a source of inspiration, where you can tweak an existing model into the perfect breakfast nook table from the comfort of your living room couch. A single idea, wood type, or fabric can become the key to figuring out your aesthetic, or the spark that moves you to redesign an outdated room. Small details—flawless joinery, maple inlays, the grain of top-quality wood—make each piece personal, functional, and long-lasting. It’s their unique approach, the ability to design your own piece and have it locally handcrafted to your specifications, that sets Black Timber Furniture apart.
An Iconic Collection of Furniture & Lifestyle Décor
by Valerie Harms
Enter Montana Expressions’ showroom and you can’t help but be struck by the sensuous beauty of the colors, the selection of textures, and the variety of offerings. By the door, a profusion of white and peach flowers welcomes you. All the pieces on the showroom floor spell the “Montana” way of life. Walk farther into the nooks and find jewelry, scented lotions, and candles; plus dinnerware, antique books, and leather handbags. Montana Expressions specializes in things with emotional resonance.
“Be in love with your life, every inch of it.” That could be the store’s motto.
The store has been owned for the past 19 years by Ralph McHenry, whose family settled in Bozeman 74 years ago. Ralph moved away for a time but when he returned, he took over Montana Expressions, which was then on Huffine, and moved the store to the building at Four Corners, Bozeman. McHenry says, “I’ve always been a collector. I was an antique dealer for 28 years, and the business grew from that.
“I’ve always been a collector. I was an antique dealer for 28 years, and the business grew from that.”
–Ralph McHenry, Owner, Montana Expressions
As he sits at a dark wooden desk in his private office, he says, “Trends do drive the business, but for me it’s about having an innate sense of style. I look for pieces that are different and interesting with a sense of history. We search out vendors who can offer us items people can’t get anywhere else.” Across from McHenry’s desk is a photo of him with his lovely and beloved daughter.
Ralph brought in two designers, Kathy Koelzer and Barbara Diekman, to ground the store in design. Every year, they travel to the markets at High Point (North Carolina), Atlanta, New York City, and Las Vegas to check out the latest offerings. With the designers’ input, Ralph orders diverse pieces from all over the world, accessories, and handcrafted wood furniture. The camaraderie among the team is high. A kind man, Ralph enjoys making lunch for the women several times a week, which they eat together.
Walking around the showroom, you’ll see items that surprise in every corner. A linear chandelier made of crystal, moose antlers, cozy poufs covered with sheepskin, wool, and fur. A complete line of elegant bedding and rugs is available. One bed with a padded headboard soothes with gray and white linens and an alpaca throw; another with a gray padded back and buckles has a Peruvian quilt over it. Rugs, ranging from knotted wools to Native designs, hang from racks for easy browsing.
Not least of value are the dinnerware and stemware. For instance, etched glasses by a craftsman in Patzcuaro (Mexico) are not exactly the same height, rendering them unique.
“The process of meeting a new client and starting a project begins with a bit of fishing. I try to get a good read on what design aesthetic appeals to them. I’m often asked what my style is personally, to which I reply, ‘My style should not be rep-licated for you. My job is to guide you to your style.’”
–Kathy Koelzer, Interior Designer, Montana Expressions
Envision the store as a changing mosaic of tableaux—equal parts furniture, accessories, design. The prices range from moderate to high-end. Many customers have found their favorite pieces here, furnishings that last for generations.
If you have just moved to Montana and want your home to have the “last best place” look, Ralph and the designers are available to provide inspiration. The designers’ studio is spacious, modern, and comfortable; four black leather chairs surround a table made of live-edge acacia wood with a metal base. A large board has various fabrics pinned to it; it will be shown to a customer and creatively revised.
Kathy Koelzer, a seasoned interior designer, whose work has been featured in many magazines, strives to create environments that are meaningful to her clients. “The process of meeting a new client and starting a project begins with a bit of fishing. I try to get a good read on what design aesthetic appeals to them. I’m often asked what my style is personally, to which I reply, ‘My style should not be replicated for you. My job is to guide you to your style.’”
Barbara Diekman, also a Montana Expressions designer, began working with her husband in the log home construction business. With her knowledge of the building process, she has a gift for styles ranging from the rustic to the contemporary. Barbara’s favorite part of her job is working with her clients and creating lasting relationships. She makes people feel heard, comfortable, and confident that she can turn their dreams into reality. As she says, “The customer service at Montana Expressions sets us apart from the competition.”
The design studio is a place to discuss, collaborate, and develop ideas. Items in the showroom provide inspiration. If you come to them with new house plans, the team at Montana Expressions works with you on selecting unifying themes and styles—bathroom fixtures, lighting, kitchen counters, carpets, window treatments, even exterior color themes. Or, remodeling can be as simple as adding new pillows.
One end of the showroom opens onto a store selling tiles; it’s owned by Cate Luckay but if a customer is interested in a backsplash or tile, it’s available.
Each season brings a wealth of new ideas culled from partnerships with artisans. The store offers an array of possibilities. McHenry’s team has a knack for choosing what is elegant yet comfortable.
Montana Expressions is located at Four Corners behind Fin & Feathers’ green shop, 81811 Gallatin Road, easily accessible between Bozeman, Belgrade, and Big Sky.