Walk through the front door of this Martis Camp home and “Hirshy” will catch your eye. With tongue-in-cheek mountain humor, Doug and Chona Hirsch—whose last name means “stag”—mounted this acrylic deer head on the fireplace at their great room’s far end. There the deer sits in the light from a wall of south-facing windows and epitomizes what this Tahoe home is all about: a light- hearted, family-friendly environment showcasing a contemporary mountain style.
“We really wanted something both rustic and modern. We’ve rented a lot of places in Tahoe over the years, and I felt like I had stockpiled all these ideas for when we were ultimately able to fulfill our dreams,” Chona says.
The Los Angeles–based family’s home was completed in 2010 after a fun collaboration between the Hirsches, Truckee architect Jason Wooley and Truckee builder Mark Tanner. While the goal was to blend a family-friendly home with one ideal for entertaining, equally important to the team was to create exciting blends of styles and materials.
“This whole project inside and out is about blending a contemporary architectural aesthetic with a more mountain architectural aesthetic,” Wooley says.
The home often contrasts rustic reclaimed wood with contemporary elements such as steel detailing. Heavy granite, indigenous to Sierraville, surrounds the black metal garage doors. Mountain materials such as reclaimed picklewood, barnwood and ghostwood from a Montana reservation are mixed with pre-rusted corrugated Corten outside and exposed steel beams inside. A tin corrugated ceiling in the kitchen contrasts with modern stainless steel appliances.
“They really like a contemporary look, but they felt it wasn’t entirely appropriate for this environment,” Wooley explains. Traditional gables face the street, but in back, a modern roof covers the large great room to open up the scenic view.
The project began with Wooley suggesting Martis Camp, the 2,177-acre private community in Martis Valley, as a site for the Hirsches’ vacation home. Their kids, Kaya, 9, and Zade, 7, can hop on their bikes and ride around the fishing pond, go to the Family Barn for bowling or walk to the sports pavilion, Chona says. “It’s a great place to try out their independence mode. Having young kids and living in LA, we are not in a place where they can go down the street and get an ice cream.”
The Hirsches chose a long, skinny “challenge” lot, but it had expansive views and was south facing, Wooley adds.
Taking advantage of this exposure, the home was outfitted with Sierra Pacific Windows’ new bi-fold system that allows a wall of glass doors to completely open to the outside. In the Hirsch home, this connects the indoors with an outdoor fire pit and a heated dining area. They’ve sat by the fire pit and watched two bald eagles swoop into the pond, Chona says.
Within the great room is a variety of entertainment areas: a TV space, a game nook, a conversation pit by the fireplace, a large kitchen, an area with a 12-person expandable dining table and an office with panels that open to the great room. There’s a pantry off the kitchen as well as a covered barbecue area.
“The great room needed to be great,” Chona says. “For my husband’s 40th, we had 30 friends and it feels a lot more spacious than it is.”
A transitional space connects the great room to the entry and garage and includes a laundry room with a row of individual lockers for each family member ’s sports gear. There are high ceilings throughout the home with radiant heated floors to keep it cozy and warm.
The home fits 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths into 3,192 square feet, plus a two-car garage. The upstairs interiors are hardy and durable, with barnwood and contemporary furniture. Small bedrooms were intentional, Chona adds, to draw family and guests out of their rooms and downstairs. Each room has its own bath, however. The children’s room sleeps seven with a wall of bunk beds, including one cubby bunk reached by a rope ladder, a response to the Hirsches’ request to be able to accommodate three families at once.
“There’s not a lot of sleeping that goes on there,” Chona jokes. In the center of the bedrooms is a kids’ TV area. Throughout the upstairs, there’s a delightful array of nooks and crannies, steps to guest rooms, popped-out window seats and built-in, custom furniture and cabinetry milled or welded in Mark Tanner Construction’s in-house design shop.
“It was all done with a budget in mind, as well as a desire for easy upkeep,” Tanner says, “but the Hirshes allowed us to come across with different ideas and push the creativity.”
Chona says the home was built for less than $400 a square foot because Tanner ’s firm was able to create elements such as a stainless steel sink and reclaimed wood doors. The economy also lowered the cost of building, and Tanner had a knack for the serendipitous discovery of low cost, quality materials.
“So far, it has completely lived up to all the expectations,” says Chona. “There’s nothing we would change.”
Architect: Lot C Architecture
Builder: Mark Tanner Construction
interior: Chona Hirsch
Landscaping: Estate Landscape & Irrigation, Inc.
Square Feet: 3,192 ft