Mountain Contemporary Design: Rustic and Modern Notes in Harmony

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If you’ve ever tried to photograph a sunset, you understand well the challenge of capturing nature’s raw beauty. So when your home sits along a mountainside, why compete?

Mountain contemporary design strives to emulate the grandiosity and elegance of mountain landscapes. The style incorporates pummeled stone and towering pines with organic elements like slab fireplaces and weathered beams. Mountain Contemporary homes often feature walls of windows, substituting artwork with views of nature.

We spoke to a Colorado interior designer with an eye-catching portfolio to provide you with the essential elements of mountain contemporary interior design. Follow our guide to designing a stunning interior, seamlessly integrated with the Great Outdoors.

Two chairs in a home that uses a mountain contemporary design.
Source: (Maisie Knowles)

What is mountain contemporary design?

Mountain contemporary design blends key components of two contrasting styles: rustic and modern.

Rustic interior design features heavy, worn materials such as reclaimed wood and weathered steel. The style incorporates wildlife-inspired accents, such as cowhide and antlers, and warm, earthy colors reminiscent of a pine forest or desert canyon. Modern design, by contrast, is minimal and chic. Think angular furniture, bare surfaces, and sleek metallic finishes.

“If you want to [produce a] mountain contemporary design, I think you need to have a good balance of both design elements in the space,” says Colorado interior designer Maisie Knowles.

Mountain contemporary overlaps rustic and modern themes, marrying warm and weathered with cool and clean. Fewer rustic elements paired with modern decor allow these features to shine.

Here are the principal style notes for mountain contemporary design:

  • A warm, neutral color palette (soft whites, grays, beiges, etc.)
  • Generous use of natural materials like reclaimed wood and stone
  • Layered, cozy textures — think furs, knits, velvet, and leather
  • Matte black or silver hardware and fixtures
  • Modern, statement lighting overhead paired with soft table and floor lamps
  • Minimal decor and clutter-free counters
  • Open-concept floor plan
  • A balance of luxury and leisure

Your home’s architectural style influences how to style a mountain contemporary interior

As its name suggests, mountain contemporary interior design is most prominent in mountainous regions, says Knowles, especially in more remote areas.

Mountain contemporary interior design suits a wide range of architectural styles, so homeowners can pursue this design direction, whether they live in a grand lodge or a standard track home.

According to Knowles, the architecture of your home will help inform your design, whether you lean more modern or more rustic. “For example, I’m working on a timber-framed house, [and] the direction I took was … a lot of modern, clean lines and then some more modern finishes like brass and matte black, and then I blended that with the rustic elements in the timber-framed house,” Knowles explains.

On the flip side, if your home leans more modern, warm up the space with rustic decor like this Anton Solid Wood Buffet from West Elm or this set of Metal Asher Candleholders from Magnolia Market.

A room in the mountain contemporary style.
Source: (Spacejoy / Unsplash)

Achieve mountain contemporary interior design in every room with these tips

As you begin designing your mountain retreat, consider how your color combos, furniture sets, and decor will complement your home’s architecture and surrounding scenery.

“You really are looking to bring some of the outside in,” says Knowles. “You’re kind of giving a nod to the evergreens … outside the window and bringing those types of pieces and colors into the space.”

Living room

Bring on the textures

When decorating modern mountain homes, designers like Knowles select ample textures to soften the cool, clean lines indicative of modern style.

“In mountain contemporary design, you have more of those textural pieces, whether it’s… from woods or those cozy fabrics, heavy knits, or furs,” Knowles explains.

Consider a modern sofa, like this Sloan sectional from Interior Define, then layer on a chunky knit blanket and throw pillows in linen and leather.

Curate a warm, neutral color palette

To balance modern and rustic, you’ll want a color palette that’s both warm and neutral, so prioritize soft creams, beiges, and grays. Earth tones are also trending and mix well in mountain contemporary design, but before you add a new color, consider another texture first. You want your color palette to complement the outdoors, not compete with it.

Anchor the room with a statement coffee table

Mountain contemporary living rooms often feature a large, heavy coffee table at the center of the room. If your living room features a grand, stone fireplace, consider a reclaimed wood table, like this elegant cocktail table from Tommy Bahama or this solid teak table by Burke Decor.

An oversized ottoman in cream or gray can provide a more modern influence, doubling as a table and added textural element.

Elevate the space with leather accent chairs

In a rustic cabin, you’d likely find chunky weathered recliners. But for your mountain contemporary retreat, you should select armchairs with modern flair.

Today’s “recliner” is sleek and simple, like this leather accent chair by Lulu & Georgina, which pairs a plush leather cushion with a modern metal base. For an unexpected, elevated twist, choose an armchair with an acrylic base, like this Tobacco Leather Chair by CB2.

Kitchen and dining rooms

Install modern lighting fixtures

Among today’s trending design styles are Art Deco and mid century modern, aspects of which mesh well with mountain contemporary design. In your kitchen and dining room, let these styles influence your lighting selection. Consider pieces that mix vintage and modern details, featuring gold and silver finishes, as well as geometric shapes.

Select a dramatic pendant or chandelier for the dining room. This Bolle Pendant Light balances a cluster of circles and sleek gold lines, offering an elegant focal point. West Elm’s Hayes Chandelier is another show-stopping option.

Maximize your storage

Mountain contemporary homes are minimal and uncluttered, so stow away your appliances, utensils, and such to keep your countertops clear. Consider leaving out a single decorative element, such as a slender glass vase filled with twisted Manzanita branches, or this Millye Ivory Serving Bowl from CB2 full of limes.

Skip the hardware and hide the appliances

In keeping with your minimal aesthetic, aim for clean lines in your cabinetry and appliances.

Select simple, flat faces in a white or walnut. Designer Emily Henderson used light reclaimed woods on the cabinetry and the floors in this stunning mountain kitchen. If your home has more rustic architecture, consider a contemporary finish like this Crested Butte kitchen, which features white painted uppers and a dark stain on the lower cabinets.

For a modern effect, opt for hardware-free cabinets. The Segmento option from Mod Cabinetry’s Euro line, for example, has a metal channel groove along the base of the cabinets, eliminating the need for hardware.

Once you’ve chosen the cabinets, move on to appliances. Paneled appliances, also called integrated appliances, are designed to match your surrounding cabinetry for a seamless design. Leading brands like Bosch produce custom panel-ready appliances to match your cabinets. However, panel-ready appliances are typically more expensive than their freestanding cousins, so consider a blend of the two to accommodate your budget and design.


Adorn the room with furs

“If you’re in a track house or … really rustic architecture, [bring] in textures like heavy knits and furs,” Knowles shares. “Texture is huge in the bedroom.”

In a rustic lodge, it’s not uncommon to find a deer head over the mantle or even a bearskin rug; but if you want to modernize your mountain retreat, consider a twist on these cabin classics.

Toss a faux fur throw at the foot of your bed, like this ruched throw from Pottery Barn. Or, drape furs over a cozy chair or chaise, like this tufted leather armchair from Joybird. You can also incorporate furs and hides on the floor layer fur over jute, or lean more rustic with a neutral cowhide.

Channel a hygge vibe

The people of Denmark coined a term that encompasses all things cozy, warm, simple, and peaceful. “Hygge” (pronounced like “hue-gah” or “hoo-gah”) is a lifestyle at its core, which sheds some light on why Denmark is ranked the second happiest place in the world-place ranking. Hygge is also a home design sensation, one that mountain contemporary bedrooms should embrace.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Eliminate clutter: Keep the top of your dresser clear, hide the laundry, and minimize decor.
  • Coat the walls in a calming shade: Behr’s 2021 Color Trends includes many soothing, neutral tones, like Smoky White and Almond Wisp.
  • Layer on textures: Like the living area, your bedroom design should play with plush pillows, silky blankets, and, as we’ve noted, plenty of furs. Designer Emily Henderson suggests the following formula to stage your bed like a pro: “One fluffy component, plus one flat component, plus one extra throw.”
  • Splurge on a fireplace: For the ultimate mountain contemporary bedroom, build a stone face fireplace featuring a reclaimed wood mantle.
  • Designate a cozy reading corner: Design a reading nook for your final moments before curling up under the covers. Start with an ultra-cozy chair, like this Performance Round Sofa by Kathy Kuo Home. Add an ottoman and accent table for your coffee, a table lamp, and a captivating novel.
A bathroom in the mountain contemporary style.
Source: (Maisie Knowles)


Go for the double-sink vanity

Clean, open countertops are an essential component of modern design, but in your bathroom, our Top Agent Insights Report reveals dual sinks trump added counter space in 2021.

A contemporary home should feature today’s top bathroom trends: double sink vanities and dual showerheads. Our survey reveals 68% of homebuyers in the country’s Mountain Region want a double-sink vanity more than any other bathroom update. And 42% of homebuyers hope for matching dual showerheads as well.

Don’t skimp on the tub

The best mountain contemporary bathroom includes a luxurious bathtub with views of the surrounding nature.

Whether your bathroom has magnificent views or not, you can create a relaxing bathing experience with this freestanding bathtub from Signature Hardware. Pair the tub with a luxurious bath pillow and a modern side table, where you can set a candle and a glass of wine.

Fill the shower with floor-to-ceiling stone tiles

Artisan tile work made the cut as one of the top five bathroom upgrades buyers want most in HomeLight’s Q4 2020 Top Agent Insights Report.

“River rock stone is appropriate in a modern contemporary bathroom,” Knowles says, “like a sliced pebble or a geometric stone.” In a recent mountain home Knowles designed, she opted for a geometric tile resembling cut stone in the shower. “The geometric shape plays into the modern design, but the stone still speaks of that rustic material.” On the vanity backsplash, Knowles chose a slate tile to match the shower, similar to this option from Overstock.

Mountain contemporary design for a chic and cozy home

Mountain contemporary is truly a balanced interior design style. It’s rustic, yet modern; elevated, yet liveable. To get the look at home, consider how your architecture influences your styling choices. Your interior can lean more organic or contemporary, depending on your preferences.

Header Image Source: (Zastolskiy Victor / Shutterstock)