Loving the Space
by Cynthia Logan
PHOTO ABOVE: CHRISTINA PRICE, SENIOR INTERIOR DESIGNER | SOPHIA COK, OWNER, PRINCIPAL DESIGNER | ALIVIA DUCUENNOIS | INTERIOR DESIGNER
Entering the newly remodeled building on the corner of Peach and Wallace Streets in Bozeman, you’re immediately embraced by natural light emanating from the south-facing windows that illuminate the new home of Sanctuary, a full-service interior design firm. The business was launched in 2014 and founder/owner Sophia Cok is reveling in the new space, a milestone for both the firm and Sophia personally. Starting out as a young mom, she briefly operated from the Bozeman Carnegie Building’s one-room library before she and her husband Jonathan, both fifth-generation Montanans, purchased the prime location (formerly Audrey’s Pizza) in 2019 and immediately set about remodeling, which took just over a year with Visser Architects.
“We pride ourselves on fluid, professional collaborations and relationships with outstanding architects, builders, and contractors.”
–Sophia Cok, Founder/Owner, Principal Designer ASID, NCIDQ Certified
“To have street recognition in our hometown is amazing; Bozeman is very special to us,” says Sophia. Though they recently finished a ‘rather large install’ at the Yellowstone Club, and currently have three out-of-state projects, Sanctuary is selective about work they accept in Big Sky. “We’ve had fabulous jobs in the Gallatin Valley,” she relates. “We really are a Bozeman-based firm that services this area.”
Designed by Sophia, the building’s interior is primarily black and white, but hardly stark. There’s a warmth in the simplicity, a quality she deliberately cultivates. “Simplicity is something I’m really drawn to, and I’m a lover of contrast between black and white,” she explains. Along with three of the other four women in the office, she is wearing all black: leather pants, a turtleneck sweater, and chic ankle boots. Even Pepper, the black and white English Setter curled up near Sophia’s desk, matches the décor.
The desk faces a ‘mood board’ pinned with fabric samples and creative ideas. Behind it, a glass door reveals a blanket of white; tree branches create a silhouette against the snow. Bozeman Creek, hushed now, will gurgle come spring. “This isn’t finished; it will be a little patio,” she gestures, then walks through the open communal space to the studio, which is clean and simple. “White keeps an open canvas,” she says, pointing to a ‘fabric wall’ comprising the entire west end of the studio. “I was going for an elevated space, so it’s been gratifying to have people comment that it feels like New York.”
A 2008 graduate of the New England School of Art and Design in Boston, Sophia received the American Society of Interior Design New England’s 20 Under 30 Award. During college, she studied interior design in Florence, Italy, an experience that formed many of her design concepts. “It was really powerful to live there, to see first-hand the principles that apply to masterpieces,” she says. “Here in the States, we see a building torn down after 40 years.” And, she notes, it’s an ‘American thing’ to worry about marring walls and countertops.
“Europeans use their countertops,” adds project coordinator Christina Price, glancing down from the ladder she’s perched on while selecting fabric swatches. “There is marble everywhere; marble is similar to skin in that it’s porous. It’s like a living piece of art; like wood and leather, it gets better the more you use it. It’s just functional, comfortable, and timeless.”
With almost daily deliveries from ‘to the trade only’ manufacturers, choices could be daunting. “I look for it to grab me,” says Christina. “I wait for something to call out to me. Paint colors, texture… you have an idea of what the project is but, for me, it’s when something speaks to me. It’s not a science, though there is the technical side, such as fiber content and layout. I believe in utility—form over function: it has to make sense.”
Specializing in turnkey design, Sophia says Sanctuary is also known for the ability to transform existing spaces. “I didn’t want the business to bear my name, because I always wanted it to grow,” she states. Sanctuary now employs three designers, an office manager, and an intern. “What we do is create sanctuaries for entertaining, resting, healing, unwinding, finding joy with family,” says Sophia.
“Spaces are sacred; what we do is pretty close to therapy. We do a lot of counseling. Some clients actually say, ‘I hope you have a background in psychology.’”
–Christina Price, Senior Interior Designer
“Spaces are sacred; what we do is pretty close to therapy,” notes Christina. “We do a lot of counseling. Some clients actually say, ‘I hope you have a background in psychology.’”
“What strikes people is that we really are a family,” says Sophia, who has created a positive and safe work environment for the women in the studio.
“I thought you all weren’t for real… you were just so nice—genuinely authentic, kind, thoughtful, and exceptional, even for Montanans,” says Christina, a Chicago native. “When things are hot and stressed, I remind everyone that we are not brain surgeons. We’re selecting a finish, designing a home. I’m proud of the community we have in this building. Our clients can feel that, as well as the respect we have for one another.”
The office is a haven for junior designer Alivia DuCuennois, whose black/white outfit is topped by an off-white, classy cowboy hat. The sixth-generation Montanan and MSU graduate glows as she says, “It just doesn’t feel like work.”
Sanctuary has fostered great relationships with vendors and showrooms in Denver and Seattle, at least one of which they visit each year to stay current in the field. “We really care and take pride in serving our clients above and beyond,” says Sophia. “We truly listen; we don’t have a niche style; it’s always been about what makes the client comfortable—what inspires them, how they envision their home. It can be an intrusion for a designer to put preferences on a client. My goal is to design for longevity with a classical flair—something that will be classic on its own.”
“It’s like chemistry,” says Christina. “You know when you walk into a space; it’s Feng Shui—flow. Humans are naturally trained on symmetry, but there’s an energy that even spatially-challenged clients can sense. It just feels right; people attune to energies and frequencies they enjoy.”
“It just doesn’t feel like work.”
–Alivia DuCuennois, Interior Designer
Sophia agrees, saying, “Here, we indulge in it, think about it, practice it. We’re sensitive to our surroundings. In this firm, being in touch, in tune, is an asset.”
“You need a designer who can add layers and textures, otherwise it can feel bare, even if it’s full of furniture,” says Christina. “Boutique hotels do that really well. It feels so good; there’s so much personality, even though it’s a hotel. The skill is in layers and textures, artwork and placement. Those are the most expensive hours we put in, but that’s when you get the wow.” Sanctuary’s ideal client? “Someone who trusts your experience and talent. Clients who are excited, not nervous, and, let’s be honest, those who have a little room in their budget,” she adds.
“I’ve never been in this industry for profit,” says Sophia. “It gives me fulfillment and joy.” Patrons at Tanglewood (where Sanctuary designed the interiors) find themselves lingering, which pleases her. “The atmosphere should make you want to linger—it’s about the food, the wine, the music, and all about the space.”
“You should love the space you’re in,” affirms Christina. “It should feel like you—delicious, comforting, inspiring.” In other words, like a Sanctuary.