Learn how to adapt designer Travis Mileti's winning strategies to create a nature-inspired getaway home.
Robert Martin

When it comes to creating a great getaway home, Travis Mileti and his firm, Mountainworks, are well-versed in the subject. Find out how he made Cow Rock Cottage such a nature-inspired refuge so that you, too, can accomplish the same in your own neck of the woods.

Q:  Travis, when a lot of people hear the word “rustic,” they automatically think of homes that, while cozy and quaint, may not have all the amenities and space that a primary residence has. What’s your take on the matter?
A:  “You’re right; ‘rustic’ can indicate both a stylish mountain home as well as a polite way of describing a bare-bones hunting cabin with no indoor plumbing. While it’s true that generally a getaway has less square footage than a full-time residence, that doesn’t mean that you have to forfeit any amenities. In fact, I’ve found that such projects involve more creative uses of space.
For instance, retreats can have more of what you typically find in a primary residence, without the need for large bedrooms, closets, and separate baths. It’s not uncommon in our designs to allow for a bunk room, instead of individual bedrooms, to accommodate multiple children or guests. We often see the need to create many transitional spaces that convert into additional sleeping areas for events like big holiday gatherings. By day, they may contain a day bed, a bay window that doubles as a reading area, or a bunk that’s built into a recess. When the need arises, these spots can put up two or more overnight guests.”

Q:  How much of a role do materials, both inside and outside, play in conveying a rustic look?
A:  “The correct selection of materials is very important for establishing any style, whether it’s rustic, classic, or a host of other aesthetics. But if the overall design doesn’t fit the environment and purpose of the style, the outcome can look gimmicky at best. The success of any getaway―as well as any good design, for that matter―doesn’t come about from a few applied details. A home’s true intent, or style, begins with the bones of its structure. As in the case of Cow Rock Cottage, we strove to not only work with the land, but also to find local materials that readily identified with the area.”

Q:  Are there certain design elements that you and/or your clients frequently like to use in a retreat that promote a casual ambience?
A:
 “We often employ features like stacked stone fireplaces, structural timber trusses, and even large porches (which we often call ‘outdoor living rooms’) in our designs for that purpose. But, as with selecting the right materials, the manner in which they relate to the surrounding environment is what really makes a home successful. When designing a place like Cow Rock Cottage, my approach is to incorporate a lot of commonsense things that have worked for a hundred years or more. Seemingly straightforward practices―like properly siting a home to capitalize upon its surroundings and sun angles―have dramatic effects upon keeping energy costs down.”

Q:  Lastly, are there any pointers or design tips you could give our readers so that they can bring some of Cow Rock Cottage’s appeal into their own homes?
A:
 “I think the most important thing a person can do when creating a retreat feel is not to overdo it. Frequently, I see clients and other designers try to incorporate too many ideas into one space or structure. When designing a mountain-style home, for instance, simplicity and consistency are crucial. Secondly, if you’re remodeling, don’t force your home into something it’s not. If you have a brick split-level, but want a rustic cabin―you may need to reconsider.”