Imagine taking your family on vacation to a place where towering pines, gorgeous mountain vistas, shimmering lakes, and a myriad of recreational activities were part of your everyday life. Now imagine building your own luxury cabin in just such a setting, where you could get away from it all whenever you liked. This was the dream of one couple with three young boys who decided it was time to create the retreat they’d always envisioned.
Located just north of Lake Tahoe, in the exclusive mountain community of Martis Camp, their 4,800-square-foot house was designed as a second home. “They wanted a heritage property for the family, a place where the kids could come back and enjoy it with their kids,” says Scottsdale architect John Sather, of Swaback Partners, PLLC, the land planner and architect for the community as well as this house.
A stunning architectural achievement, the two-story residence stands out in a forest of evergreens, with its richly stained cedar boards, corten steel panels and roofing, cantilevered beams and extensive stone work. “We layered different widths of cedar with steel for the sides of the house for visual effect,” Sather says. “This is very durable, maintenance-free, high-quality architecture.”
Designed with an open floor plan the five-bedroom house is full of unexpected elements, from the great room ceiling with its architectural panels, to the slabs of oak in the stair tower that appear to float on an invisible steel stringer. Floor-to-ceiling glass along the living and dining areas keeps these rooms flooded with sunlight and opens them up to breathtaking views. At the top of the stairs, a tucked-away space looks down to the exterior entry and opens to a covered porch, creating the feel of a treehouse.
“The home has a spectacular barn door at the top of the stairs made of pieced, reclaimed wood and operated by a giant iron pulley system that travels up and over the large doorway to a massive wheel on the opposite side,” says interior designer Kimberly Anderson, of Arcadia Design Group, who worked on the project. “It’s quite impressive!”
The homeowners wanted a comfortable, family-friendly, and warm contemporary aesthetic. Creamy-colored finishes throughout complement limestone tiles and white oak flooring. “We studied buildings both residential and commercial that had a strong connection to the land, and pulled earthy hues from the exterior stone to dictate the interior palette,” she remarks. “I designed it to be clean and uncluttered, but not austere.”
Unfussy furnishings, soft lighting and simple lines keep the space cozy. Stone from the exterior was duplicated inside for the massive fireplace, mixing it with reclaimed timbers and steel. “The timbers create a wonderful balance to the smooth, contemporary architectural plywood-clad ceiling, reinforcing the casual mountain feel,” Anderson points out. “Our biggest concern was keeping the house warm and inviting so it didn’t lose its sense of place. The spaces are generous, and we wanted the home to feel like a place you could kick off your shoes and get comfortable.”
While the home’s public spaces are flanked by the master bedroom, guest suites and a media room, the second level features two additional guest suites and a bunk room with cantilevered bunk beds, study carrels for doing homework, and a play space. “The home has an understated sophistication that renders it timeless,” says Anderson. “It has a modern sensibility to the furnishings that makes it both great for entertaining and immensely livable for a family.”
Designed for a casual lifestyle, with amenities that include a Tom Fazio golf course and private access to ski hills, this family retreat offers an organic, natural mountain vibe without feeling like a traditional mountain home.
Photos by Vance Fox Photography