Inge Cahill is a versatile Montana designer

By DAVE REESE, Montana's Finest Homes


In a mountain basin cupped by tall, rolling mountains 20 miles west of Kalispell sits a pristine, turquoise-colored lake where only a few residents live year-round.

Here, with this rich natural surrounding, interior designer Inge Cahill has created two works of art ... two home designs that are nearly complete opposites of each other.

The two interiors she designed on Ashley Lake are two examples of striking design, from traditional rock-and-log “Montana,” to a home with contemporary, urban influence and splashes of art-deco flair.

Each home represents the spectrum in which Inge works. Both homes required a completely different set of design ideas; one with rustic Montana log finishes, the other with modern, stylistic appeal. But both homes have this in common: they're a direct reflection of the owners' tastes and living styles, and it was Inge who translated their ideas into something cohesive and uniform. They're both examples of design that works.

Take, for instance, the traditional lodge look that Inge created for one family. The true-log home with timber frame accents was built in a style that reflects the grandeur and ruggedness of northwest Montana. While the home was built for a California family of five, this is the house they come home to in Montana. "There's nothing really pretentious about the house," says Inge. "It's how they live."

The house features quarter-sawn white oak flooring from a mill in Arlee, Mont. The wood comes from the best cut of the tree, and it highlights the wood's beautiful full grain texture. It's used throughout the home, from the bedrooms to the breakfast room overlooking the lake, where branch-wood chairs in a green tea finish and fitted with deep cushions beckon you to come, sit down and relax. In this quaint room, only the sounds of the trees sighing outside can be heard. For the kitchen cabinetry, Inge used authentic barn wood that lends a rustic, earthy appeal. Native stone helped create the tall fireplace that anchors a corner of the great room.

All of these individual elements from her choice of wood flooring to barn wood cabinetry and custom drawer pulls combine to create a home that is at once spacious and airy, warm and inviting.

Her design at another home nearby represents Inge's use of an entirely different thought process. While this home has touches of lodge and Montana appeal, the overriding design gives you a sense of art-deco appeal. Glass tile is used liberally in powder rooms and bathrooms, to give you the feeling of light and also to bring a contemporary feel to the home.

The home is a break from the traditional "Montana design” something that Inge says is often overdone. 'There are too many bears, mooses and pinecones, in home designs,' she says. However, she's seeing more contemporary looks in the design ideas that her clients bring her. Clients are also demanding homes that are more environmentally friendly. She's happy to oblige and says she is very much interested in the green construction.

Having grown up in the oldest town in Germany, she has roots in traditional design and the use of natural materials. She grew up making her own clothes with her mother, so she's deeply connected to how to use fabric in a home. She likes to use stone and natural colors in her designs, but she marries that traditional sense with a well-versed knowledge of modern materials, like glass and steel. 

Getting the design right comes down to homework for the client, says Inge, who will sometimes review several hundred magazine tear sheets of a homeowner’s ideas before she gets a complete picture of what the client wants. 

She studies constantly to stay up on her trade. She is often the eyes and ears of her clients, many of whom live out of state, so she's usually found on the job site, going over job specs with the builder and mucking around in work boots.

"There's more to being a designer than fluffing a pillow or knowing how to hang a curtain on a rod," says Inge, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers.

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