WHEN TALENTED PROFESSIONALS TALK, WE LISTEN.
Homes are designed from the outside in and the inside out. WHJ profiles two firms in this issue; one focuses on the interior and the other on the exterior. Both gain inspiration from the expansive Montana landscape and both create spaces where families congregate, individuals can find solitude, the architecture is revered, and nature flows between the indoors and the outdoors. Meet McNeal & Friends and Solstice Landscaping.
Solstice Landscaping: Landscape Architects, Design, and Installation
Geoff Hammond, Co-owner and Errol Schumann, Professional Landscape Designer and Operations Manager
Based in the Gallatin Valley since 2002, Solstice Landscaping is and environmentally conscious landscape company in southwest Montana. Meet two of its senior members, co-owner and founder Geoff Hammond and operations manager Errol Schumann. They share their passion for landscaping, approaches to projects, and joys of working with their crews.
Share a little bit about your business.
s one of the most trusted and respected landscaping firms in Montana. For two decades, we have been transforming our clients’ ideas and visions into award-winning projects. We design with the intention of exceeding our clients’ expectations for creativity, quality, functionality, and aesthetics and we deliver highly-crafted landscaping solutions that stand the test of time. Solstice has a professional team of garden service professionals who have a knack for maintaining the living compositions we create so that their potential remains fulfilled.
What services do you offer?
Landscape installation, garden services, and container garden design and care.
What is your educational and professional background?
Geoff: I have 20 years of experience in landscape design, landscape construction, business management, and project management. I’m originally from Southern California, and came to Bozeman to attend Montana State University. I founded Solstice in 2002.
Errol: I’ve been in the landscaping profession for 25 years with roles ranging from landscape construction foreman, landscape maintenance foreman, landscape designer, and landscape architect. I earned a B.S. in Landscape Architecture in 2004 from Colorado State University. I’ve been a professor of Landscape Design at Montana State University. Since moving to Bozeman in 2008, I have worked with a few design-build firms and several landscape architecture firms and designers. I’ve been happily a leader at Solstice Landscaping for eight seasons now and have helped our business and team evolve into the company that I am so proud to be a part of.
What about landscape design inspires you?
for outdoor living spaces that are “within the garden.” Natural environments, be they wild or cultivated, should be inspiring and beautiful and provide respite and nourishment for people’s souls. We are inspired to design landscapes that honor people, architecture, community, and environment.
Describe a unique and interesting project.
For a project in north Bozeman, we are crafting an outdoor space that is very well-conceived, taking into consideration site, materials, lighting, wildlife, and the owner’s use of the space. The composition of space includes strong elements of steel, modern concrete paver expressions, outdoor lighting, and native plantings. The project is inspired by the modern/Tuscan/solar architectural style of the home. The composition also includes a canopy of overhead lighting, sun sails, a modern patio for dining, hobby gardens, and more. The outdoor living space frames Bridger Mountain views with wetlands in the foreground. I know the family will be gardening, spending time together, entertaining, and connecting with friends and loved ones for years and years to come.
What do folks say about your business?
We get the privilege of crafting some very thoughtful, innovative, and environmentally sustainable landscaping solutions. Every day we are working on several landscaping projects that make people stop and say, “Wow!” Whether it is a downtown Bozeman Craftsman-style home, a rustic rural ranch with trout ponds and streams, or a modern Big Sky mountainside oasis, we are always working on exciting projects
How do you create fun on the job?
Errol: Fun begins with hiring and training awesome managers, crew leaders, and team members. People are core to any business and fun people make for fun projects. I’m pretty sure they have the most fun when I’m not at the jobsite. I have a lot of praise for the crew and their hard work. I strive to be a boss who shows appreciation, teaches throughout the process, and has fun along with the crew. We are blessed with a very diverse team of people from all walks of life who love what we create together.
Describe your process.
Listen to the client. Listen to the architecture. Listen to the environment. Then imagine, craft, design, propose, listen some more, re-propose, listen some more. Once we’ve landed on the design solution, it is time to see it to fruition. We orchestrate a team of talented people and vendors. Then we have to acquire the plants, stone, steel, and other materials to craft the vision.
In the field, we are often fine-tuning plant placement, angles of a boulder, listening to the team’s ideas, and crafting the composition to meet the site’s full potential. Design is not done until it is in the ground, and then sometimes it still isn’t done. Ideally, once we have completed crafting the implementation, our garden services team then gets to care for the environment we created and maintain plant health, prune and shape shrubs, and keep the landscape performing and evolving as intended.
When should someone start the landscaping process?
Commit to the designer and process at least a year ahead of intended implementation. The process has the best results when there is time for design development. Give yourself (and our team as well) plenty of time to analyze and mull over proposals and ideas.
McNeal & Friends
Sydney Fritz & Kendra Steffes: Principal Interior Designers, Gerrie Musicco: Retail Sales Associate & Contract Interior Designer, Kendall Neal: Owner & President
With a showroom and design studio in Big Sky’s Meadow Village, McNeal & Friends offers both a retail shopping experience and a creative space for inspiration and contemplation. A team of interior designers work with an array of aesthetics to tailor each project—be it finding that perfect original art piece or designing the interiors for an entire house—to that client’s particular taste and style.
What services do you offer?
Kendall: McNeal & Friends offers full-service design and has done interior design projects from the Southeast to the West Coast; we primarily serve the Big Sky community and surrounding areas. Our principal designers can assist from the start by red-lining the plans to finishing up the project with a comprehensive furniture package. Kendra and Sydney can meet with clients in the studio, meet remotely, or arrange a site visit.
What inspires you?
Kendra & Sydney: As a team, we are deeply inspired by the natural surroundings of each project’s geographical location. We are fortunate enough to be based in such an inspiring location here in Big Sky. Our material selections are influenced by the outdoors and our color palettes complement the ever-changing seasons of Montana. The location of each home drives the project, and every single one
is specific and unique.
What other specialties do you have in-house?
Kendall: Aside from our full-service design firm, we have a retail brick-and-mortar store located right in Big Sky. For both interior design clients as well as people who are just out shopping, the showroom is intended to get people inspired and excited about enhancing their homes. We carry over 200 different manufacturers ranging from countertops to custom upholstery.
Do you have favorite materials, fabrics, patterns, or design principles?
Kendra & Sydney: McNeal & Friends is known for creating timeless and handsome interiors. We take pride in the details. We help homeowners distill their visions and make selections. For example, finding a slab of Quartzite to create the perfect picture-frame countertop for a kitchen that complements that cabinetry and hardware. We guide clients through that process. Each client values certain aspects of design and it’s our job to tailor to just that.
What makes the difference between good design and great design?
Kendra & Sydney: Great design means telling our clients’ stories through our selections. Cutting corners and making quick decisions doesn’t lead to great design. Better design results from taking the time to hone in on the minute details and make thoughtful decisions. Great design is cohesive throughout while still letting each space have its charm.
What do you enjoy most about helping people create a home or business that reflects their lifestyle?
Kendra & Sydney: Getting to know our clients and building lasting relationships is so fulfilling. Every client lives and works differently, so design also has to be practical and functional. Through the onboarding process, we love learning about our clients and how they envision using and living in each space.
How did you get your start?
Kendall Neal: McNeal & Friends began as a dream of two sisters with a passion for design, space, and service. In 2010, they opened their first showroom and full-service design studio in Fargo, North Dakota. Vacationing and skiing in Big Sky while growing up, it was a second home. Years later, I have come to find out that work brought me back to my roots. With repeat clients who have purchased second homes in Big Sky, McNeal & Friends began to build a business out here. I thought, what better place and community to live and work in and decided to open a second location in beautiful Big Sky.
What is your favorite season and why?
Winter is our favorite season. When the snow starts to fall, we get excited for skiing and the holidays. Winter is a time for gathering and many vacationers and second homeowners return to enjoy the outdoors and the community of Big Sky. When you’re curled up on your sofa watching the snowflakes fall out your window, all seems very quiet and relaxing. All while family and friends are brought together to enjoy all that Big Sky has to offer.
What do you enjoy most about living and working where you do?
Being involved in the growing, close-knit community of Big Sky brings us joy. Big Sky has a lot to offer—both professionally and personally. As young professionals working in a town that is so robust, we are thrilled to be in the heart of it all. We are surrounded by so many talented architects and builders that offer so many resources; we feel lucky to collaborate with them and be a part of creating that Big Sky dream home