By Michael Somerby
You might think folks stop into 23 W. Babcock St. for an oil change. Maybe a tire rotation, and with a little haggling on the price—the joint, after all, looks old school.
No one would blame you for the blunder. The building’s painted-on façade advertises “Montana Motor Supply Inc.” in faded powder blue and black lettering, and save for a sandwich board marquee outside reading “Architect’s Wife,” very little would hint at its contents.
But a step through the doorway is not unlike plunging into a designer’s dream, where a delightful assembly of furniture and fixtures, bespoke knick knacks and decor in every color and shape rush toward you, severing any memory of the mundane parking lot to your back.
Better still, a speakeasy, a place hidden away but with ample opportunity to indulge on uncommon luxuries and joys.
Perhaps, such is the charm of Architect’s Wife, challenging its orthodox predecessors with an eccentric yet curiously understated approach to design that will certainly rewrite the book on what mountain style can be.
Long gone are the days where a few lacquered tree bark armchairs and a moose head mounted to the wall was enough to call it good—though, there is a reverence for nostalgia present in the curated selection found at Architect’s Wife, where a team of discerning interior designers has managed to achieve a fine balance between cutting edge and traditional, urban and rustic. What it presents are new paths to frame the concept of a mountain home, where distance from traditional centers of culture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t forge your own.
Led by the veteran hand of Abby Hetherington, owner and founder of Architect’s Wife and the eponymous Abby Hetherington Design firm integrated into the backend of the space, to walk through Architect’s Wife’s maze of décor is simply thrilling. Italian furniture of rich color, textures and textiles are juxtaposed by American- made and found items—such as upmarket puzzles and board games and devilish coffee table books—provoking dreams of nights spent by a fire, the kiddos playing Dog Bingo in its warmth while the adults in the room relax muscles sore from a day skiing on green velvet ottomans, chatting just quietly enough to hear the crackling timber.
There is no shortage of imagination tinder found within those post-industrial walls. Each corner of the building has been transformed into a room, of sorts, complete with their own palettes and themes.
Pop into a giant canvas tent for a taste of cabin hideaway, complete with tin signs of old, beaver pelt stools with elk antler legs, Native-print rugs and life-size wooden artillery shells—there is no doubt, with no one watching, you might be compelled to steal a nap there.
“A step through the doorway is not unlike plunging into a designer’s dream, where a delightful assembly of furniture and fixtures, bespoke knick knacks and decor in every color and shape rush toward you, severing any memory of the mundane parking lot to your back.”
Just on the other side of the fabric, an urban aerie space of white, where tonal couches and artwork bask in light from a chandelier made of cooking utensils that expand from a universe of filament bulbs. Think curling up for cappuccinos after supper.
A spin around the corner is where earthy and fruitlike colors collide in living room and den arrangements, fit for warm brie spread on crisp Washington apples, where the only company necessary are the bookshelves baring your favorite works of fiction from the likes of Norman MacLean, Cormac McCarthy and John Steinbeck.
But you will never see these beautiful arrangements, like I did. Your experience will be all your own, a unique brush with the most cutting-edge shop in the region, as nothing in Architect’s Wife stays put for long. The room is a breathing and evolving entity, complex and charismatic, just like the sensible buyers of each unique item.