Living & Designing in Big Sky, Montana

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world

It is very hard for me to simply sit and take a moment to take a deep breath, relax and take in my surreal surroundings.   After 20 years of living here it is pretty easy to get into the work/school routine and forget we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  During the work week, I am often reminded to snap out of it when I am on a job site “alone” and have a moment to take in the view or exterior in some form.  Each dwelling site has its own individual beauty that calls to its owner.  Around here the views seem to be the most important part of the process of purchasing or building a home.  I personally love homes in the forest without views because they have that cozy, “there’s nobody else in the world” feel.  A woods home would also force me to hike for my views.  No matter where my clients or fellow Big Sky peeps choose to create their MT home, the reason we came is to “Get Lost” in our little quiet corner of the Rocky Mountains.

When I do take a moment, I realize that my surroundings affect me so much more than I am even conscious of.  Not only do my extracurricular and family activities revolve around mountain activities, my work life is almost always affected by our special region.  Designing here takes on a whole different path than I might imagine the process would be in a larger community.  We don’t have many of the resources that big city designers have at their fingertips.  Things like design showrooms and home furnishing stores are few and very far between. We are quite remote with only 1 highway in and out of town.  Our community is tiny and honestly, that is how we want to keep it.  Sure, we go to design market and get our hands on everything other designers can, but it is certainly not as convenient or cost effective.  Everything takes a little bit more work and costs a little bit more it seems.  However, the benefits of living and building here far outweigh the little annoyances.

It has been a long road to try to “keep up” with designing in larger places.  My team and I have spent years fine tuning our skills and gathering amenities to make working with a local design firm like us (the very first 1 in BS, I might add) the very best experience.  Not only do we have these inspiring big skies all around we also have wonderful indigenous building materials that are more specific to mountain regions.  Stone and wood are prolific in our area and take a lead role in most of our architecture and design.  I’m not sure I would have ever used birch bark to create bunk beds if I didn’t have birch forests to inspire me every day.  Montana moss rock is one of my very favorite “local” stones to use for fireplaces and/or accent walls. We use stone on, I’d say 98% of our fireplaces where in a different type of town I might be more inspired to use brick, or tile, or even ship lap on a fireplace façade.   Our winters are long and cold here, so fireplaces are very common and very used.  A stone fireplace is, in my opinion, one of the most romantic places to cozy in after a long day in the deep snow. 

We also have talented artisans who settled here because they share our same passion for the outdoors.  I am so proud that after 20 years of designing in Big Sky, Erika & Company has an arsenal of specialized sub-contractors, craftsmen and artists whose talents allow us to take creativity to the next level.  Steel and reclaimed wood are just a couple of materials we use to create custom bunk beds, wet bars, unique design features and awesome mountain details. 

If any of you out there entertain building or buying a home in Big Sky or even just want to visit, please look us up.  We love to talk to anybody about our area and why we love it so much.  If you do decide to have a home here and start the process of hiring an interior designer, consider working with a local firm instead of bringing your team from home.  We offer something above and beyond designers that aren’t here.  We have the same passionate love for this area that brought you here in the first place. 

Kiddo Art

Kiddo Art

For young families like mine, kiddo art is all over our lives.  Not only do they love to have their projects displayed, we love to praise them too.  Some of the art is even really good looking, wink wink.  Only problem is how do you keep the art from overtaking your entire house.  We spend a lifetime making our home a place that is inspiring and comforting then we scotch tape art and spelling tests all over our beautiful cabinets, furniture, and walls.  Whenever I get to work with a young family I like to give a design option for corralling their kiddo art.

My home employs several of my techniques.  Yesterday we picked a couple of new pieces from our favorite Bozeman framer, The Frugal Frame Shop.  We call these “Self-portrait” and “Bird”.  My boys and I choose only one or two pieces per year that really strike us and spend the money to frame them.  I have a wall in their bedroom where we add the new framed art each year.  It is so fun to watch it evolve and best thing is, it is all neat and tidy.  The wall is a work of art in and of itself.

I stole a great idea from a friend of mine and have used this in several of my family homes.  Hang wires or strings on a dedicated wall and clothespin art to them.  They sell systems that include the wire and brackets that hold the wire.  I found mine in the drapery section.  Or simply use whatever you have at home in the heavy string category and a couple of nails.  The art will be the focus, especially because it is an organized compilation. 

Another one of my kiddo art design suggestions is magnet anything.  Add sheet metal to a whole wall to gather all the art in one space.  Use fun magnets that you can collect anywhere.  The door to our garage is metal so we have painted it in chalkboard paint and have art all over it.  You can keep revolving art when you use magnets.

Pin board is probably better for older children but another great corral for school art.  Again, using pins means you can trade out art and put new in its place.  Cork comes in rolls that can be adhered to an accent wall in your play room or kid’s bedrooms.  We did it in our old mud room.  You can even frame the cork or sheet metal for an added design element.  If any of you Mom’s, Dad’s, and caregivers have kiddo art display ideas, please share.  I am always looking for a new, funky way to integrate little people art into my family home designs. 

Dear Family, Friends, and Design Enthusiasts

I am so happy and proud to introduce my rebranded and refreshed interior design firm and studio, Erika & Company Interior Design. My wonderful, energetic staff and I welcome new showroom and studio at 245 Town Center Ave., Big Sky, MT. 

So, why the change when the name Carole Sisson Designs has such longevity and trust associated with it? It wasn't easy, but at the end of the day, this new chapter honors our past and energizes and claims our future. It was a hard decision, but I'm thrilled I made it. For those of you that don't know the story, here's the short and sweet of it.

I started working with Carole Sisson in Bozeman 15 years ago as one of her designers. I was so excited as she was one of the most well-known and experienced designers in our region and had been for over 30 years. I was given the opportunity to design, open and operate a satellite office in Big Sky for Carole Sisson Designs. Carole invited me to join as a partner in 2007.

Carole and her husband Gary were amazing mentors to me on both a business and design level. They provided a stable business model for me to uphold through the ugly economic downturn. We weathered the storm and came out stronger on the other end. As a final buyout drew near, I always figured I would keep the Sisson name for its strong brand in our area. Of course, I would be dropping the Carole as I am in fact, Erika, contrary to popular belief. But, as I moved through the final stages with lots of reflection on my journey I realized something. The last ten years of designs, relationships, hardships, ins, outs, ups, and downs were mine. And although I will be forever honored to have worked under the Carole Sisson Designs Brand, I decided that my company and I are ready to make it our own—in name and style. 

Welcome, Erika & Company Interior Design established May 2017.

Cheers to so many people for being a part of this crazy awesome 15-year adventure. My husband Matt, my sons Matthew and Jack, my fantastic staff (past and present), my lovely clients and friends and to all my extended family and friends. You have all been my primary spirit and inspiration!