04 Aug Designing the West: Natural Sanctuaries
Interior design might not be the first career choice people associate with a master’s degree in psychology, but Elisa Chambers says the two disciplines are an ideal match. “Great homes begin with communication,” says Chambers, principal and founder of Snake River Interiors in Jackson, Wyoming. “I say to my clients, ‘Talk to me about what you love.’ Then I try to really understand their lifestyle and passions, explore what they would like to see in their home and help them bring their vision to reality.”
The oldest of six children, Chambers found early design inspiration from her mother, a national horticultural judge. “My mother let me accompany her to flower shows, and when she wasn’t working we spent a lot of time in antique stores,” says Chambers. “She has a great eye for color, and she was always enamored with hunting for special objects — which clearly rubbed off on me.”
Chambers was initially interested in shoe design when she enrolled at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. She later moved to California and shifted educational gears, getting both nursing and psychology degrees. The first time she visited Jackson Hole for a vacation, Chambers says she was smitten. “I said to myself, ‘I have to figure out a way to live here.’”
Her dream became a reality in 1992, when she made the move and took a nursing job in the hospital’s operating room. After starting a private psychology practice, she began buying, fixing up and selling houses on the side. Chambers enjoyed the creative process so much that in 1998, she decided to return to her artistic roots and open her own design firm.
Named for the famed waterway that winds through Jackson Hole, Snake River Interiors is a full-service interior architecture and design firm housed in a spacious showroom a block from downtown. Chambers, Creative Director Saxon Koch and a team of interior designers provide services for projects ranging from the lobby of the historic Wort Hotel to numerous residences in Wyoming and beyond. While much of the firm’s work is centered in the Rocky Mountain states, Chambers has designed projects across the country, from California to Texas to Florida. “My clients and I develop long relationships and lasting friendships, and I typically do more than one home for them,” she says. “When I’m designing second and third homes, my philosophy is that your retreat home should have all the comforts of your primary residence.”
The Snake River Interiors team uses varied approaches to communicate design concepts. “I’m very three-dimensional, and we try to make the process of visualization as easy as possible,” Chambers says. “Depending on how the client best processes information, sometimes we’ll go through inspirational photos and pull out pieces they like. We might create a montage of styles, colors and textures, or show them CAD drawings. We help our clients develop their ideas, and in our showroom we have a whole floor of fabrics and textual things that they can see and touch. We keep thousands of sources here so they don’t have to go to Los Angeles or Denver to the design center.”
In 2012 Chambers decided to expand her company, opening a retail store — Twenty Two Home — in a prime location on Jackson’s downtown square. “If Snake River Interiors is our couture line, then Twenty Two Home is our ready-to-wear,” she says. “You can furnish your whole home here, and we work with many interior designers who come in to find one-of-a-kind furnishings for their clients. We offer beautiful art, accessories and furniture — some European, but much of it made by artisans from the United States — as well as many sustainably sourced products.”
When a certain piece or style she envisions isn’t available, Chambers designs it herself. “I create a lot of custom furniture and lighting pieces,” she says. “Sometimes we’ll take a typically Western motif like antlers or twigs and mix it up. For instance, we created a branch chandelier out of stainless steel — what I call ‘an irreverent take on nature.’ We always tell our clients, ‘we really can do anything you want.’”
Chambers’ interiors often have a peaceful, timeless quality. “The quieter and simpler your home is, the more you can focus on what’s outside,” she says. “We follow design trends, but we’re also inspired by traditional architecture. Our interiors are respectful of the past, and at the same time we always try to anticipate our clients’ future needs.”
It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out why Chambers and her dual design companies have achieved such lasting success.