Western Focus: Earth Elements Design Center

When imagining mountain homes, images of log cabins, lodges, chalets and A-frames come to mind. There are steep rooflines to handle snow load and small windows to retain heat. Rustic, natural materials are pervasive. Antlers may hang over a stone fireplace and a red plaid pillow may provide a pop of color in an otherwise neutral interior pallette.

But the design of today’s mountain home is shifting, and many Northern Rockies residences are reflecting a contemporary sensibility — the presence of clean, modern lines in rugged environments. This less-is-more, “mountain modern” aesthetic demands that the details are not overlooked.

It was this style that Steve Taylor sought for his residence located at Big Sky’s Yellowstone Club. After overseeing the design and build of his cutting-edge mountain contemporary home, he recognized the need for a design center that provided resources for architectural projects.

“We noticed that especially with contemporary style, we were having to find the materials from all over the world and no one here was selling them,” said Ben Jones, Taylor’s contractor at the time. “We just wanted to bring something new to the area, because no one is really doing this outside of Denver.”

To meet the demand, Taylor and Jones opened Earth Elements Design Center, located just outside of Bozeman in Four Corners, Montana, in the summer of 2013. Sourcing materials from across the globe, the company offers a 7,000-square-foot showroom filled with stone, tile, wood, bath and kitchen fixtures, hardware and cabinetry for a one-stop high-quality architectural supply store. While their emphasis is contemporary, the diversity of products ensures that Earth Elements can help with any style of home, be it rustic, colonial, neoclassic or Mediterranean.

“It’s always refreshing to have multiple options at your disposal, especially up here in the Rocky Mountains,” said Tim Rote, co-founder of Dovetail Construction located in Bozeman. “We’re not necessarily near a major urban center and sometimes we’ll travel long distances to view wonderful selections. But [Earth Elements has] done a really, really good job of bringing in diverse products and things we are fond of or things we never knew about, and to have that here in the local Montana market is fabulous.”

The design center recently added 3,000 square feet, which tripled their tile display and doubled their wood flooring display. Add to that the 15,000 square feet of warehouse space (some of which is filled with stone slabs) and a new kitchen and cabinetry line that launched in February, and the design possibilities seem endless. Taylor and Jones hand-picked a professional staff, each specializing in a different area, to help clients narrow down their selections.

“There’s so much [in the showroom] it’s almost overwhelming, so being able to focus on what clients want — the size, the color, a contemporary or traditional approach — getting a feel for the home in their head and then guiding them through all the different options is our forte,” said Ashley Hertz, tile and stone manager.

In the showroom you’ll find semiprecious slabs of vivid green jasper and cool blue agate for countertops. There are rarities such as ancient black petrified wood formed in a fire that burned millions of years ago in a swampy African marsh, along with a more common, but no less beautiful selection of marble, granite, quartzite, onyx, limestone, travertine, Caesar stone and Santa Margerita. There are specialty wall coverings made from poplar, pine or birch bark. Mosaic, patterned and textured titles in a multitude of colors line display walls. Carefully curated fixtures and fittings, unique options for flooring and even lines of handmade wall papers with textured surfaces, hand-painted touches or made entirely out of peacock feathers are available to view. Earth Elements also provides free samples so that clients can explore how different colors, patterns or textures will fit into their home.

“You walk in the door and you think, ‘oh this place is going to be really expensive,’ but we’re not,” Jones said. “We are bringing in really high-quality materials, but we can hit any price point across the board.”

The combination of diverse offerings, flexibility in pricing and professionalism has produced many happy clients thus far. “In southwest Montana we have a very sophisticated clientele and sophisticated building community,” said John Seeyle, president and founder of Big Sky Build. “These high-end homes that we are building require a lot of attention to detail … and to have a storefront and facility that allows easy viewing of materials is very important for us. And the coordination and installation of materials we purchase with them is also seamless.”

In the future, the company may open other satellite showrooms, grow their cabinetry line and expand from eight to 20 employees within a year or two. They also recently purchased a 10,000-square-foot-building in Gallatin Gateway to help expand their operation.

“We are really dedicated to the area,” said Jones. “And we see there is plenty of growth and opportunity in Big Sky and Bozeman. It’s just somewhere people want to be with a really high quality of life, and we just want to help them by bring beautiful materials from around the world into their home.”

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