Tucked into a hillside near a small lake, this home shines through exceptional craftsmanship and design
As the design and construction process moved forward on their Olympic Valley vacation home, a Bay Area couple with lifelong Tahoe connections, including a youthful stint working at Squaw Valley, decided to make their mountain getaway their full-time residence.
“This is our favorite place on earth and where we wanted to raise our kids,” says the homeowner, who, with his wife, three boys and Labrador retriever, made the move when the house was completed in 2018.
To design their elegant hillside home, they went to San Francisco-based Arcanum Architecture, with whom they had worked on a previous project.
“They do an excellent job balancing function and aesthetic,” says the owner. “We wanted the home to be modern but still warm and welcoming. I think this blend is one of Arcanum’s greatest strengths.”
The pine tree-filled lot is steeply sloped on one side and sports a small lake (Hidden Lake) on the other; the design leveraged the topography to blend the home into the landscape.
“The toughest part of this project was the siting because of the unusual shape and contours of the [property’s] angular configuration,” says Timothy Chappelle, principal at Arcanum.
To break up the size of the structure and the impact on the site, it was separated into two main masses—one for the kitchen and living space and another for the bedrooms—and tucked into the hillside, pointed towards the best vistas on the property.
“We used two gable forms connected by a flat roof transition at the entrance,” says Chappelle. “By offsetting the gables, sliding them past one another, we were able to ‘explode’ the corners and got as many views as possible.”
In addition to the Arcanum team, John Pruyn of High West Landscape Architects contributed to the design, drawing up plans for social outdoor spaces, including extensive patios and an outdoor kitchen.
To build the house, the owners did not have to look far—contractor Kevin Strange of KS Construction, which did all the framing and finish, lives nearby and has completed many projects in the neighborhood. “We really liked that Kevin focuses on one project at a time,” says the owner.
Natural materials used throughout the home inside and out provide a sense of place and grounding for the architecture. Sizeable stone veneer walls anchor the lower portions of each mass; richly stained western red cedar runs vertically in a tongue-and-groove pattern to the roofline; horizontal rainscreen elements constructed from the same species provide contemporary detailing. Steel is used both structurally and decoratively to support the pitched roofs, for a large box frame window extending from the kitchen, along the terraced staircase and for the oversized custom pivot door.
Floor-to-ceiling views of Hidden Lake and surrounding forest welcome those who step into this flat-roofed transition entryway that connects the two distinct parts of the house. To the right lies the open living, dining and kitchen area anchored by a substantial fireplace constructed with the same exterior St. Helena Cottage earth-toned stone. The walls are lined with re-sawn Douglas fir and the ceiling with western red cedar; underfoot, prefinished European oak wide planks withstand mountain family wear and tear.
The dining area features a custom-built square table and Edison-light chandelier.
“We designed the dining table based on the space and needs of the family, and the corresponding square light fixture from metal and reclaimed beams that we found in local yards,” says interior designer Debbie Costa, principal at Moxie Design Studio in Truckee.
The adjacent kitchen area is outfitted with white oak cabinetry stained in a warm shade, a Caesarstone-topped island and a pantry to keep storage and counter clutter at bay. A counter and sink work area is tucked into the kitchen box window that pops out from the house, providing plenty of natural light plus forested vistas of Squaw Valley.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in this part of the house provide natural light and lake views while sliding doors allow for easy access to the outdoors, which includes dining and fire pit areas plus a covered hot tub.
Overhead, the vaulted ceilings get a special treatment. “The wood is installed as panels with a plate steel edge, which is held off the walls to create a reveal/shadow line,” says Matt Wiebe, Arcanum project manager. “Here these panels are broken up to help delineate the space inside such a large room.”
Across in the opposing section of the house, a four-bed bunkroom with its own bath plus a dedicated playroom keeps the kids entertained and contained. An en-suite guest bedroom with large windows awaits at the end of the hallway. The same treatments and finishes repeat here, providing a unifying warm and elegant ambiance.
The floating steel staircase that leads to the second floor is constructed with lighted wood treads seemingly suspended between a wall of St. Helena Cottage stone and cold-rolled steel spindles. Upstairs, a spacious master suite is lined with the same mix of warm woods on floor, walls and ceiling as found in the main living area, as well as reclaimed wood planks behind a custom platform bed flanked by floating nightstands. A wall of glass provides light and views to Hidden Lake; the suite has its own private balcony and outdoor seating area as well.
On the basement level, a spacious mudroom is outfitted with lockers, cabinets, cubbies, hooks and benches to help manage and organize all the family gear and outfit changes. The laundry room handles all that comes with three boys and a dog, and the roomy garage can accommodate a couple of cars and trailers of toys.
For this growing family, their inviting and elegant house has proven to be both beautiful and functional.
“We love the layout of the house,” says the owner. “Everything is very open and connected. We also love the connection to the outdoors—we get to experience the beauty of Squaw Valley wherever we look.”
Award: Mountain Elegance
Building Design: Arcanum Architecture
Builder: KS Construction
Interior Design: Moxie Design Studio
Square Feet: 5,550
Year Complete: 2018