5 Defining Characteristics of Mountain Modern Architecture

Imagine a home where contemporary design meets rugged mountain landscapes. This fusion, known as Mountain Modern architecture, offers a refreshing take on traditional mountain homes by integrating modernist elements with the natural environment. These homes are not just buildings; they are a statement of art, blending seamlessly with their surroundings while offering a striking visual contrast.

Angular structures, expansive glass walls, and natural materials like wood and stone characterize modern mountain architecture. These elements help to marry the indoors with the outdoors, creating a living space that feels expansive and intimately connected to nature. Incorporating aspects of ranch architecture, these homes often feature open floor plans that enhance the sense of space and connection to the surrounding landscape. Ideal for those looking to escape the city’s hustle or immerse themselves in tranquility, these homes provide a unique living experience that balances modern aesthetics with the timeless beauty of mountainous terrains.

Key Characteristics and Styles

Modern Mountain Architecture Enterior

This architectural style combines contemporary design principles with the ruggedness of mountain landscapes. It exhibits several distinct characteristics that make it practical and aesthetically appealing in mountain settings.

Integration with Nature

Mountain modern architecture is a design style that combines contemporary aesthetics with rustic mountain elements, creating luxurious homes that integrate seamlessly with nature. This style uses expansive windows and large operable glass doors, that serve as walls,  to maximize natural light and offer exquisite views of the surrounding landscape. The stunning vistas in each space make the outdoors central to the home’s interior experience. Architects select materials like wood, stone, and slate that reflect the local ecosystems and contribute to these homes’ sustainability and aesthetic appeal. The result is a sophisticated yet cozy living space that serves as both a private sanctuary and an embodiment of modern design adapted for mountainous environments.

Use of Natural Materials

By combining contemporary design with the natural ruggedness of mountainous environments, modern mountain homes use materials such as stone, wood, and metal to achieve both aesthetic appeal and structural integrity. These materials are selected for their durability and natural beauty, which align with the challenges posed by mountain climates, such as heavy snowfall and intense sun exposure. Stone provides exceptional durability and adds weight to structural supports, reinforcing exterior walls from the elements. Decorative wood features add warmth and a cozy texture to interiors while conveying its essential structure role.  Metal accents enhance the modern look with sleek and sharp lines. This architectural style results in homes resilient against harsh weather conditions and visually integrated with their natural surroundings, offering a seamless blend of functionality and scenic beauty.

Sustainable Features

Modern homes in mountainous areas are increasingly popular because they focus on aesthetics, sustainability, and energy efficiency. Embracing green building principles, these homes typically feature geothermal heating systems, passive solar water heating, and solar panels, leveraging stable underground temperatures and abundant high-altitude sunlight to minimize environmental impact. Each homeowner selects the systems supporting their lifestyle and values. Smart home technology is also critical in these designs, allowing homeowners to remotely control heating, lighting, windows, shades and appliances for enhanced energy conservation. Together, these features enable mountain modern homes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a self-sufficient lifestyle while maintaining high living standards.

Open Floor Plans

This modern architectural style features spacious and versatile living areas that serve multiple purposes, from hosting large gatherings to offering cozy retreats. Large windows and sliding glass doors allow for striking views and bring natural light into the home while facilitating a seamless transition to outdoor spaces like decks and patios. Using natural materials such as wood and stone alongside modern metals and glass ensures durability against harsh mountain climates and contributes to a warm, inviting interior that complements the rugged exterior landscape. 

Minimalist Aesthetics

Modern Mountain Bedroom Enterior

The interiors typically feature harmonious color palettes drawn from the environment, enhancing the connection to nature, with colors like browns, grays, blacks, and whites. These neutral tones complement large expanses of glass that provide remarkable views of the outdoors, making indoor spaces feel deeply connected to the external world. This architectural approach is popular in mountainous regions where it balances modern comforts with an immersive natural experience.

Challenges of Mountain Modern Construction

Mountain modern architecture merges the sleek lines of contemporary design with the rustic charm of natural landscapes. However, constructing these visually stunning homes presents unique challenges that architects and builders must navigate.

Environmental Considerations

Environmental preservation is a priority when building modern mountain homes. Large glass windows connect with the outdoors but require high-performance glazing, and high altitude know-how, to maintain energy efficiency in varying high altitude temperatures. Using small businesses with locally sourced materials like wood and stone supports the local economy and reduces transportation-related carbon emissions, aiding in eco-friendly construction practices. Sustainable features such as solar passive water heating or geothermal heating systems are integrated to utilize natural resources available in mountainous areas, reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources and increasing the home’s efficiency.

Building on Difficult Terrains

Construction in mountainous areas involves complex challenges such as steep inclines, limited site access, and problematic erosion and sediment control, requiring innovative engineering and staging solutions like pier foundations and tired retaining walls for stability. Building on a slope presents additional difficulties, necessitating careful planning to ensure proper drainage and prevent erosion. The remoteness of these sites adds logistical obstacles in transporting materials and equipment, making meticulous planning essential to avoid delays and cost overruns. Additionally, limited access to utilities necessitates using off-grid alternatives like well water, septic systems, geothermal heat, and solar power. Successfully addressing these issues allows builders and architects to create functional, sustainable, modern mountain homes that respect and enhance their natural surroundings.


Mountain modern architecture offers a unique opportunity to blend the comforts of contemporary living with the serenity of nature. By adopting strategic design practices and sustainable systems, homeowners can create spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally responsible. Choosing materials and colors is crucial in ensuring that these homes are in harmony with their natural surroundings while providing durability and sustainability. As this architectural style continues to evolve, it stands as a testament to the possibilities of innovative design in challenging environments. Embracing this modern mountain architecture means choosing a lifestyle that values both modernity and the timeless beauty of nature. For a modern mountain retreat tailored to your unique needs, SRI Architects offers personalized consultations and bespoke designs, ensuring your mountain home is precisely what you envision.



Emily Warren, AIA, NCARB

Emily is celebrated for her insightful commentary and technical expertise. As a licensed architect with over a decade of professional experience, Emily boasts a rich background that spans high-end design, historic documentation, and sustainable development. She honed her skills with the National Park Service’s Historic Documentation Programs, mastering complex projects completed to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Emily’s work is distinguished by meticulous attention to detail and a passion for advancing architectural knowledge. Her leadership and teaching capabilities, demonstrated by her guidance of interns and management of multimillion-dollar projects, underscore her commitment to fostering growth and excellence within the architectural community. Emily’s compelling narratives and technical prowess make her an invaluable voice in the field as she continues to inspire readers with her dedication and vision.

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Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal


After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle


As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.