The Great American Lodge

Few home styles are as inextricably tied to cold weather as the rustic mountain lodge. And the colder the weather turns, the more appealing the aesthetic becomes. It’s intuitive—a lodge is by nature a refuge from the elements in which we can warm up, rest up and fill up. A lack of timber frames or location at a mountain base doesn’t exclude a home from embodying this sheltered charm. There’s plenty to borrow from classic cabin style that can transform any space into a cozy respite.

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Fundamental Trappings

mountain lodge

Pre-existing wood beams were the inspiration for the lodge-style decor image: ric marder for New Age Interiors

In a home that lacks the traditional structural details of a lodge—rough-hewn log walls, soaring stone fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking mountain peaks—create ambience with retrofitted elements. “The breadth of materials available to emulate a lodge look are endless,” said Lisa Kanning, whose eponymous New York City interior design firm has decorated mountain-style homes around the country. “Adding panels of birch or pine bark to a wall or ceiling can immediately transform a space. Wall coverings that mimic wood, whether paper or vinyl, are extremely popular and easy to find.”

For a simpler solution, set out to frame each room in rich color and texture, advised Sara Bengur, an interior designer in New York City. This works to achieve the warmth with the essence of the style. Bengur suggested choosing a saturated paint color on the walls that could simulate wood, large-scale art to help establish a sense of grandeur and warm-toned rugs and upholstery to create a cozy foundation.

Stick with matte finishes on furniture and décor, recommended Melissa Fenigstein, owner of New Age Interiors in Syosset. “Matte textures absorb light and create a cozy feel. Make sure everything you select is rich in texture and low luster. Instead of velvet, opt for mohair or suede,” Fenigstein said. Other befitting textiles include leather, faux fur, cowhide and chunky wool knits. Metallics, shimmer and sheen characteristic of a contemporary home should be avoided in favor of warmer tones. “Anything in the room that is glitzy or metallic will fight the look you’re trying to create.”

Nature Leads

Wood floors and faux horn armchairs are reflective of elements found in nature image: ric marder

Wood floors and faux horn armchairs are reflective of elements found in nature image: ric marder for New Age Interiors

Lodge homes are surrounded by nature and strive to bring the outdoors in. Executing this can be as simple as arranging furniture around windows to make the landscape a part of the design. Work earthy elements into furniture and décor. Untreated or live edge wood, leather, stone and matte metals (like iron) are all considered cabin essentials.

“I love to use colors and motifs from the environment and natural landscape of the state and country the home is in,” Bengur said. “For one lodge house I did, the colors of the interior were inspired by the wildflowers from spring, summer and fall. By staying true to the location, the house becomes an extension of its environment and feels more fluid and comfortable as a result.”

Kanning is also prone to picking a color palette inspired by the great outdoors. “While I tend to rely on an overall neutral palette, I add accents of color in art and accessories,” she explained. “The accent colors I use tend to reflect those found in nature.”

Against the Grain

The table, from Century Furniture's Mesa Collection, has a chunky, wooden tabletop sitting on rustic iron legs.

The table, from Century Furniture’s Mesa Collection, has a chunky, wooden tabletop sitting on rustic iron legs. ric marder for New Age Interiors

Themed décor (in any style designation) can quickly become kitschy. Use a light hand to balance a literal take on the motif. “People tend to use pieces that are too known or overused within a style, which can cause a room to feel cliché,” Bengur said. “Most people design lodge homes with too much mission furniture and leather. The trick is in approaching décor with an edited eye and mixing periods and styles to keep it chic.”

In a hunting lodge Bengur designed in the Hudson River Valley, she was tasked with creating an eclectic rendition of the style. “Our client wanted an exotic feel so we used ethnic fabrics and materials as well as antique textiles and oriental and Moroccan rugs,” she said. “We did it in a way that was not cliché but one that blended well with mid-century French antiques, rustic furniture and more modern accessories. A home like this feels more refined because the rustic quality is expressed through gestural patterns, fabrics, colors and objects.”

Search for a twist in a ubiquitous motif. “People tend to immediately associate certain decorative items like wildlife mounts or antique skis and snowshoes with lodge style,” Kanning noted. “While these types of accents certainly exemplify lodge décor, there are lots of ways to bring these traditional elements into the current era of design by using non-typical materials.” A modern take could include hanging a gloss white ceramic antler chandelier or elk head mounts wrapped in brightly woven yarn. “Adding modern influences in artwork keeps the look from feeling overdone,” Fenigstein said. 


Into the Wilderness

The lodge-style originated from one of the most primitive examples of American architecture: the log cabin. It has since become synonymous with recreation, outdoor exploration and even luxury. Resort lodges were popularized in the early 20th century when tycoon and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. declared a ranch in the Wyoming’s Teton Mountains his summer retreat—encouraging Americans to trade European holidays in favor of stateside accommodations with rustic appeal. Lodge destinations remain popular vacation spots around the country. These five are worth the trip.

Mohonk Mountain House. New Paltz, NY

image: mohonk mountain house

image: mohonk mountain house

This sprawling lodge was named one of the top 100 hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure. Set in a Victorian castle overlooking upstate New York’s Lake Mohonk, it remains a pristine example of the Adirondack aesthetic. The lodge began as a 10-room inn and now boasts rooms, suites and cottages furnished in turn-of-the-20th century décor. An 18-hole golf course, spa, indoor pool and a handful of fine dining establishments keep guests coming back.

Whiteface Lodge, Lake Placid, NY

image: whiteface lodge

image: whiteface lodge

Judging by Whiteface Lodge’s authentic incarnation of traditional lodge style, it would be difficult to tell it was built only 12 years ago. The resort features a rustic wood beam exterior, multiple cast iron fireplaces and handcrafted Adirondack style furnishings. Modern-day extras that include a spa, movie theater and full-size tennis court take the mountainous luxury to even greater heights.