22 Apr Mountain Design, Cubed
Modern home requires detailed craftsmanship to pull off simple, elegant design
Snow drifts solved John Sather’s problem.
The Arizona-based Swaback Partners architect needed to soften the modern-style home Craig and Gina Jorasch wanted him to design in Truckee’s Martis Camp. Sather wanted to get away from the clinical straight lines and harsh, abstract look of many modern homes.
During a meeting with the Jorasches in Martis Camp, Sather noticed snow drifting against a window—piling on top of itself in elegant curves.
“I thought, ‘what if we play with curves like the drifting snow?’” Sather says. “How can we have a very contemporary, modern house that was softer?”
What Sather landed on was an overlapping curved-roof design—at once replicating those drifts and taking ample advantage of the views the lot has over the abutting Martis Camp golf course and further back to Northstar California’s slopes.
Exterior finishes like the rusted metal panels over the fireplace carry into the interior, photo by Vance Fox.
Built by Truckee’s Mark Tanner Construction, the Jorasch home combines the curves with one other unique aspect that immediately jumps out at the visitor—a rusted metal panel design resembling cubes flowing from the home’s exterior to its interior. It’s a stark contrast from the family’s European-style home in Palo Alto, Sather adds.
“They wanted to have a complete contrast in their second home so this truly is a retreat,” he says. “A bit of a trap some people fall into is copying their life wherever they live and bringing it to the mountains. This creates a whole new life by throwing away their preconceived notions about what a home is.”
The home was the first the family ever built, from scratch and Gina Jorasch was enamored by the process, she says.
“It was a really exciting process. I remember all the dreams we had about starting with a blank slate—anything was possible,” Gina says. “To end up with what we got—we absolutely love it.”
The home’s exterior is dominated by the curved rooflines, but also features western red cedar siding, steel shadow boxes around the windows, the aforementioned metal cube panels and stone pillars. From the road, it reads as a collection of geometric shapes—a tall vertical rectangle for a grand staircase, the curved roofs and the mass of cubes.
The cubes were a design feature from the outset, but Tanner’s crew had to find just the right look—alternating from a COR-TEN steel panel to a painted product to a hot-rolled steel design based off an idea from Detroit’s Dri-Design.
“It was a hot-rolled steel product that we rusted on-site using EasyRust,” Tanner says. “In all, we had close to 400 panels—350 of which were custom. We did a lot of on-site fabricating and bending.”
Each panel retains a slightly different, custom-made look, a credit to the builder’s crew, says Sather.
Another dominating feature is a glass staircase with high windows, which creates a second, taller, curved roofline. From the exterior, an array of ball lights creates a sort of icicle effect.
Crafted by Mark Tanner Construction’s in-house millwork shop, the custom cabinets continue the home’s cubed theme, photo by Vance Fox
“We love the stair tower. It was, aside from the repeating cube theme, one of our favorite aspects of the design,” Gina says. “We imagined it as this great vertical rectangle—it’s so light and airy and highlighted with those gorgeous blown-glass lights.”
While the stairwell is topped by a curved roof and there are curved aspects to the roof, much of the home’s roofline is flat—requiring a bit of nautical-style engineering, Tanner says.
“Since it’s that big and that flat, you want to make sure you’re not creating a swimming pool on their roof,” Tanner says. “We installed large scuppers that would drain all the snowmelt off.”
The cube pattern is continued inside—a concerted effort by San Francisco’s Wiseman Group, the interior design team on the project.
The rusted metal panels—both as cubes and elongated, horizontal rectangles—demarcate either end of the great room/dining room area. Set into one wall is a fireplace and surrounding sitting area, and the other a large-screen TV and horizontal row of built-in cabinetry fabricated by Tanner’s in-house team. The great room’s open design—incorporating an informal tea table sitting area, a formal dining area and a family area in front of the fireplace, which are all open to the family’s spacious kitchen—is one of the aspectsth the Jorasches find most appealing about the home. Some family members may be playing a game near the fireplace, while others may be working on a puzzle at the dining table, while some are watching football.
Hanging pendant lights are a design feature continued throughout the home, photo by Vance Fox
“The reason we wanted a house in Tahoe was because we wanted to spend time with friends and family,” Gina says. The couple has three children in high school and college. “It was an important part of the design that it didn’t separate the guest quarters. When I’m cooking, I’m still able to be with everyone hanging out in the great room.”
The home isn’t without its quiet nooks, though. Upstairs is a reading alcove, a favorite spot of the youngest Jorasch daughter, which separates via a sliding wooden barn door. The master bedroom, with an expansive view of the golf course and mountains beyond, includes a small Juliet balcony from which to survey the scene.
The kitchen is a further testament to the skill of the Tanner crew. Custom cabinetry—fabricated by Tanner’s in-house team—again ties the home together with the cube design.
“All of those doors were custom-built with really tight reveals that you wouldn’t find on a traditional cabinet,” Tanner says. “They were beveled so you could get your fingers in there, but we got a really clean look.”
Tanner also credits Kelly Brothers Painting for creating a very smooth, long-lasting finish on the cabinets.
Underfoot is a unique white oak floor with a French finishing technique, wherein the wood was smoked at a site in Kings Beach to bring out its innate, light colors before being finished to seal the look, Tanner says.
Leaving through glass doors from the rear of the great room—which has a panoramic view of the course and mountains through a curved wall design—a visitor steps out onto large slabs of Wyoming stone surrounded by curved stone walls that were dry-stacked (no mortar) to create a sense of the home fading into nature, Tanner says.
Overall, the geometric shapes, lines and cubed design creates a formula for the perfect family retreat.