Interior Designers of the West: Creating Feeling
by Cassidy Mantor
Interior design is an ethereal and complex art. At the most basic level, an interior designer produces the end-product of a room accessorized with tastefully appointed furnishings. A more sophisticated aspect of interior design involves the intentional mood-setting of a space. Designers frequently reference the idea that good design is not a particular style or object, but it is instead identified when one enters a room or building and it feels good. There isn’t one specific element that can be pinpointed but in its totality, the vibe is right. The space flows with joy.
That intangible essence of “just feeling good” was too elusive for WHJ. We wanted to get a better understanding of what exactly makes for good interior design. As such, we interviewed four designers who work throughout the West to get a closer look at how they approach their projects. From fashion to the natural environment, learn more about these designers’ methodologies and how they craft unique spaces for their clients:
1- Michele Wheeler, Design Collective West, Park City, Utah
“The built environment gives off energy that people respond to and can feel. We thoughtfully create spaces that radiate positive energy. As interior designers, we’re artists who cultivate and prepare uniquely customized spaces.”
2- Anne Buresh, Anne Buresh Interior Design, Jackson, Wyoming, & Charlotte, North Carolina
“Design is about the mood and how a room makes you feel. We seek a duality between soft and bold, between yin and yang. We strive to design spaces where people feel comfortable and relaxed – where you can kick your feet up, enjoy each other’s company, and share a toast to the beauty of life.”
3- William Peace, Peace Design, Bozeman, Montana, & Atlanta, Georgia
“Design in the American West didn’t originate in a vacuum; it evolved over hundreds of years with disparate influences. Native Americans knew the raw materials of the land and the power of nature. Their wisdom and worldview influence how things are in harmony with the land.”
4- The Picket Fence Interior Design, Ketchum, Idaho
“Our area is geared toward experiences, and whether it’s outdoor adventures, concerts, or art exhibits, we have a little bit for everyone to enjoy, and we allow our interior design to reflect that, coordinating with local galleries to source art, and providing materials and stain-resistant fabrics that allow our clients to live as hard as they play.”
1- Michele Wheeler
Michele Wheeler, principal designer at Design Collective West, Inc., is a licensed architect who also practices throughout the West. Her goal is to create spaces that elicit emotions in people, specifically moments of joy and fond memories. The process is seamless when Design Collective West is hired to do a project as both its architect and interior designer. When the firm is hired to be either the architect or the interior designer, Michele’s unique background allows for outstanding collaboration.
Michele is creatively minded and also possesses the technical knowledge of math and laws of nature to understand what can actually be built. She speaks the same languages as architects and designers and interprets concepts to unite perspectives. “The built environment gives off energy that people respond to and can feel,” Michele explains. “We thoughtfully create spaces that radiate positive energy. As interior designers, we’re artists who cultivate and prepare uniquely customized spaces. Even in commercial spaces like a lodge or clubhouse, I liken what we do to abstract artwork where everyone sees things a little differently but they still feel something. I love that there’s a tangible result that we can experience when the project is complete.”
One of Design Collective West’s specialties is residential legacy properties, a niche that coincides well with Michele’s talent for joyful design. Creating a beautiful space is always a core focus for her team, but legacy projects involve additional considerations when the home will stay in the family for generations. She says, “In these projects, the purpose of the home is spending time with family and friends, so that becomes a primary goal.”
A recently completed legacy project is an 8,000-square-foot slopeside home at Montana’s Moonlight Basin that took four years to complete from design through construction. “Every ceiling and wall treatment, piece of art, and furniture was thoroughly considered down to the last detail, and it is so meaningful to the owners,” Michele says. “The most stunning thing about this home – like many of our projects – is the landscape. We love floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall window walls that capture the amazing views.”
“I love the relationship aspect of our work.”
–Michele Wheeler, Design Collective West
Being both an interior designer and an architect means that Michele has an exceptional ability to strike a balance between the home and its environment. Modern furniture and art with subtle lines complement a home’s spectacular views without competing with them. “The art that is most prominent is the landscape that can be seen through the windows,” Michele shares.
Design Collective West uses many natural woods and stones that are intentionally selected to not compete with the outdoors. Although they are preferred, sometimes natural materials are not always the most practical. Limestone and marble can be beautiful but they may not be suitable for high-traffic surfaces like kitchens because they’re also soft and porous. The firm strikes a balance between a thoughtful visual aesthetic involving vibrant texture and pattern with responsible design.
“Personally, I lean toward a transitional style with simple, clean lines and some elements of modernity but that is still cozy, welcoming, and comforting,” Michele reflects. She finds herself gravitating toward the mountain transitional architecture and design seen in Utah, Montana, Idaho, and throughout the West. The use of earthy materials that are expressive of the outside landscape is appropriate to the region and particularly resonant for Michele. Even if the home is designed to be modern, the materials give it a timeless feel. She adds, “These materials are not only timeless, they get better with age.”
Michele reflects upon how the span of her career has also enriched her process. “In my younger years, I just wanted to say, ‘Yes,’ because that makes people happy and I love making people happy. Now, I take a more thoughtful approach as I evaluate whether elements or ideas work together.” That honest communication is why clients entrust Design Collective West with the ultimate creative freedom on their homes.
“I love the relationship aspect of our work,” Michele says. “For the most part, we create family legacy buildings. Family and friends are one of the most important things in life. I feel grateful that I can be a part of that.”
2- Anne Buresh
Anne Buresh, owner of Anne Buresh Interior Design, transforms spaces into well-appointed retreats for gathering. Anne’s signature style blends a sophisticated color palette influenced by the environment with a global aesthetic sensibility. With decades of experience designing from coast to coast, Anne’s designs are functional, warm, and elegant.
“Design is about the mood and how a room makes you feel,” she says. That mood was something she was introduced to at an early age. Design runs in her family – her grandmother was a decorator who grew up and lived in a historical home that once belonged to William R. Davie, North Carolina’s 10th governor and one of the founders of the University of North Carolina. As a child, Buresh remembers visiting her grandmother and flipping through her design books of wallpaper and fabrics.
“My grandmother would travel to New York or Paris and bring pieces back for her home at a time when people didn’t do that. I grew up with antiques. When my father built my childhood home, he repurposed mantels, floors, brick. I grew up knowing the fine foundations and the importance of architectural ‘good bones’ of a home. I always knew we could add moulding or a beautiful paint color to make a space elegant and inviting, giving it new life.”
Anne’s point of view as a designer today is rooted in the fond family memories and comfort of her childhood home. She creates spaces fit for both daily life and also special occasions. They are sophisticated and elegant and are authentic to her legacy of celebrating the relationship between the environment and the people who use the space.
Anne is a seasoned designer, and her spaces encourage guests to relax, escape, and connect with the beauty of the outdoors. Her design takes a different approach than what’s traditionally seen in Jackson but embodies touches that the locals here have.
She has a sophisticated eye for detail that results in a thoughtfully curated and refined look. She uses elements including hand-painted wallpaper and contrasting textures and traces of colors and tonality to tell the story of a well-traveled life.
“We seek a duality between soft and bold, between yin and yang,” Buresh says of her work. That perspective makes for a worldly and organic design statement. She blends artisanal handcrafted woven wood chairs with custom sofas with linear silhouettes upholstered in crisp, white silk-linen blends. Dark metal accents and accessories serve as a more rugged counterpoint to the softer elements and give a balance to the materials and textures. “We strive to design spaces where people feel comfortable and relaxed – where you can kick your feet up, enjoy each other’s company, and share a toast to the beauty of life,” she adds.
“One person’s life has so many layers. Travel opens doors and allows us to understand new ideas and become receptive to new inspiration. Designing from a worldly perspective is so important because it honors a person’s history, preferences, and influences.”
–Anne Buresh, Anne Buresh Interior Design
Celebrating authentic relationships and creating community is critical to Buresh’s work. “The relationships we’ve formed working from the East Coast to Jackson have opened our eyes to many new perspectives that we incorporate into our designs,” she reflects. “We work with local artists and artisans, such as Kauffman Company in Charlotte, North Carolina. Being able to expand our radius exponentially grows our frame of reference and lets us work, in a sense, outside the box. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received and value our relationships as we expand and continue to bring our vision to life.”
Buresh’s global design perspective reflects a greater awareness that our lives are not linear. “One person’s life has so many layers,” she articulates. “Travel opens doors and allows us to understand new ideas and become receptive to new inspiration. Designing from a worldly perspective is so important because it honors a person’s history, preferences, and influences.”
Accordingly, Buresh’s interior design celebrates the disparate parts and pieces that make up an individual’s life and ties them together for a unified and authentic story. Her spaces cultivate emotions and feelings that resonate when one’s life experiences are expressed through design.
ABID has studios in both Jackson and Charlotte, North Carolina. The firm designs for a lifestyle that celebrates a global perspective, community, and the outdoor environment.
3- William Peace
For decades, William Peace and his firm Peace Design have been serving clients across the country. Their offices in Atlanta and Bozeman allow the team to take a regionally appropriate approach while also considering broader design principles for each project. Whether the property is a cosmopolitan pied-à-terre or a sprawling ranch residence, a coastal bungalow or a ski-in/ski-out alpine home, two guiding principles remain fundamental for Peace Design: authenticity and environment.
A native of the South, Bill grew up in the crossroads of the bluegrass horse country of Lexington and his roots in eastern Kentucky. After studying architecture, design, and fine arts at the University of Kentucky, he began his career working in Atlanta. In the 1990s, he began to put down roots in the West. Peace says, “Though I thrive in a city and I’m inspired by urban design, the Rocky Mountain West is where I’m most grounded.”
Peace Design creates elegant and harmonious environments by prioritizing authentic relationships between people and the land. Bill’s design considers the history and culture of the West that evolved over hundreds of years, from early European influences and local building resources to agrarian lifestyles. He draws from a global perspective combined with a regional sensitivity that bridges the traditional and the modern.
Peace reflects, “Design in the American West didn’t originate in a vacuum; it evolved over hundreds of years with disparate influences. Native Americans knew the raw materials of the land and the power of nature. Their wisdom and worldview influence how things are in harmony with the land. Europeans via the East Coast arrived as explorers and homesteaders, bringing their own influences of building techniques. As a designer, I am charged with how to honor the diverse cultures that comprise Western history in a meaningful expression today. The combinations are endless. We start with the location and the client’s vision.”
The Peace Design team members continually seek out new artisans and artists to work with them. Bill inspires fabricators—such as furniture builders, lighting designers, sculptors, rug makers—to create custom pieces that are destined for a specific home for a specific client. He designs environments in the same way a painter works on a canvas, incorporating visual elements of art—line, shape, tone, color, pattern, texture, and form.
“Though I thrive in a city and I’m inspired by urban design, the Rocky Mountain West is where I’m most grounded.”
–William Peace, Peace Design
For projects throughout the West, Peace pays particular attention to the environment. With the wide diversity of landscapes within the region, the site’s specific location and how a client relates to it is core to his process. Among his Montana portfolio are sportsmen’s lodges, ski homes, saloons, restaurants, and guest ranches. Peace says, “Interiors are contextual—true to people and their environments.” As he begins a project, he asks, “What is the essential nature of this particular property? What is true for the client and what is authentic for the location?”
Having studied fine art in college, Peace has a deep appreciation for how great art can elevate a space. In one Big Sky area residence, the owners desired a home that was “true Montana” and “classic ranch.” Peace says, “Traditional Western design originated from practicality. Exposed logs in buildings became standard because homesteaders didn’t have many other options. They filled in gaps in between the logs with various types of chinking, depending on what was available. After a while, this became not just the go-to building technique, but the aesthetic, and eventually became established Western vernacular. Even in a more contemporary rustic home, this still influences the design.”
Peace Design delivers a professional design experience without any pretense or ego. Working with architects, builders, artists, and artisans, Bill and his team engage their clients in a hands-on, and sometimes delightfully fun, collaboration. His focus is always on human relationships and facilitating the connection between people and their environment. Peace says, “At the end of the day, it is not only about how a room looks but how it feels. And the process of getting there is just as important.”
4- The Picket Fence
The Picket Fence Interior Design Studio, located in the Galleria Building in downtown Ketchum, is an extension of The Picket Fence home décor and furniture store nestled in northeast Ketchum. The firm is known for its ability to couple mountain modern design with transitional elements to bring a home to life. The team takes the project from the construction and planning stages to selections, procurement, and installation.
The Design Studio is made up of three talented designers and a project manager with diverse design backgrounds and experiences. Designer Erika Blank says, “We love working with clients, whether they are designing a dream home that they will live in year-round and be inspired by on an ongoing basis, or creating a second home that will become a mountain retreat.”
Together, the team works with clients to explore their individual tastes and lifestyle needs to create tailored designs for beautiful and functional spaces. They routinely design fresh and modern homes with classic elements that never go out of style. Through their interior design training in Utah, New York City, Idaho, and Dallas, they have become masters at introducing new vendors and styles to the mountain community. Every project is unique while still feeling like home. In the last couple of years, their projects have been taken to a new level through 3D renderings and visualization.
Many of The Picket Fence Interior Design Studio’s clients rely on remote design to complete their projects. Accordingly, they offer creative presentations that give their clients the same understanding as they would have with an in-person experience. When Designer Lexy Jones joined the team in 2020, she began doing 3D renderings for the firm. “The 3D visualization really helps our clients see the materials and finishes on a larger scale, not just on tiny sample,” she says. In the past year, her talents have been utilized beyond remote design. Many local clients are using the 3D renderings to feel more confident when making decisions on flooring, tile, kitchen layout, and furniture.
Not all of the studio’s projects are new construction or remodels. Project Manager Killarney Loufek explains, “Many clients are looking to update their homes with livable yet welcoming furnishings. A typical day in Sun Valley includes an outdoor activity such as skiing, hiking, mountain biking, or fly fishing along with an evening entertaining friends or having a glass of wine with the family. Creating a home that feels comfortable enough to relax in after a day in the outdoors and polished enough to entertain is top of mind for us.”
“Creating a home that feels comfortable enough to relax in after a day in the outdoors and polished enough to entertain is top of mind for us.”
–Erika Blank, The Picket Fence Interior Design
The Picket Fence Interior Design Studio accomplishes this balance by partnering with high-quality furniture designers and constantly sourcing the newest fabrics. Most of the furniture pieces in their projects are made in the United States from real, sustainable, and handmade materials, customized with performance fabrics. Performance fabric technology has come a long way in the past few years, and they have curated selections of fabrics that can withstand the Sun Valley lifestyle while still having the welcoming look and feel of a mountain home.
Erika adds, “Our area is geared toward experiences, and whether it’s outdoor adventures, concerts, or art exhibits, we have a little bit for everyone to enjoy, and we allow our interior design to reflect that, coordinating with local galleries to source art, and providing materials and stain-resistant fabrics that allow our clients to live as hard as they play. After all, it’s not just about a beautiful space, it’s how you live in it.”
Design in the American West remains an ever-evolving open palette, where its influences are as eclectic as its people. WHJ has introduced you to four top interior designers who borrow, blend, select, and distill from all that inspires us—from indigenous crafts to Old World prints, from the log cabins built on the frontier to the sleek offices for the remote tech worker, and from the sandy bottoms of fly fishing streams to the jagged tips of the Rocky Mountains. One size doesn’t fit all and each designer creates spaces that, in their totality, result in a feeling, vibe, and mood desired by the people who inhabit them.