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58 GENTRY Design | SPRING 2011


Classic Tahoe

A lakeside estate undergoes a masterful remodel at the hands of its owner and the award-winning architecture firm of Ward/Young. TEXT BY STEFANIE LINGLE BEASLEY | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ASA GILMORE CONTRACTOR: BRESNAHAN CONSTRUCTION | ARCHITECT: WARD/YOUNG ARCHITECTURE

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s your car wends down the driveway of this beautifully wooded estate, you marvel at the mountain air and the lush greenery that surrounds you. Then, at the end of the drive, you are treated to the visual feast that is Lake Tahoe, in all its sparkling glory. This piece of property, with its humble cabin, appealed to its homeowner over 30 years ago when it was first purchased. But even then, the land was the prize, not the house. “We knew we’d need to tear it down and start all over someday,” she recalls. The subsequent decades found the house in and out of use as the family grew up. Ultimately, she realized, “I just wasn’t using it enough because the house was so cold—the heating and wiring were all in need of real repair.” It was uninhabitable during winter and thus it went unused for months at a time. “About 15 years ago, I started to really think about remodeling,” she recalls, and finally took the plunge in 2004. Armed with stacks of design ideas clipped from magazines and shelter books on Adirondack cabins, she began to hunt for an architect and a builder who would understand her vision. She discovered them in contractor Dennis Bresnahan of Bresnahan Construction in Squaw Valley and the team at Ward/Young Architecture and Planning in Truckee.

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Along the way, she had filled a storage space with furnishings, artwork, and accessories—all saved for that “someday” when the lake house of her dreams would be realized. Seven years later, this home—a true labor of love—is nearly complete. As of press time for this article, all that remained was the installation of a seven-foot-tall headboard for the master bedroom. It will be the last masterful addition to a house that is already extraordinary. The homeowner divides her time between a sprawling Mediterranean-style residence in Los Altos Hills, a cozy cottage in Carmel, and now this lakeside Tahoe retreat. Each home is unique. “I really wanted a Tahoe cabin,” she recalls. “So many of the homes up there now are too big and too formal. I wanted it to be ’mountainy,’ casual, and warm.” And, most importantly, she wanted it to look like it belonged, “that it had always been there.” At first the project was going to be a remodel, but as time wore on, it became an almost complete tear down. A former garage became a guest cabin and the main house rose again from the original foundation—this time with an improved floor plan, sturdy construction, and wonderful finishes. The most striking design element of the new home wraps around the porches with wild abandon. Beautifully twisted branches form railings reminiscent of


The main house (this page) features a wall of glass to take advantages of the panorama of Lake Tahoe. The cozy guest cottage (opposite) was formerly the property’s garage.

“I really wanted a Tahoe cabin,” she recalls. “So many of the homes up there now are too big and too formal. I wanted it to be ’mountainy,’ casual, and warm.” And, most importantly, she wanted it to look like it belonged, “that it had always been there.”


The living room/dining room boasts a spectacular wall of windows to capture the astonishing view.

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antlers. It’s an unexpected touch, but one that defines the home’s strong sense of place. Inside the house, reclaimed red barn wood discovered in Indiana lines the walls. Designer Michael Burg, who keeps offices in Napa and San Francisco, is responsible for this special touch, recalls the homeowner. The wood lends a rustic feel to the interiors—instantly giving them a sense of history. Many of the furnishings from the original cabin were put to work again in the new space. A few were reupholstered and restored, but many were reintroduced as is—complete with the patina of time. The homeowner glows when she discusses her kitchen with its red AGA stove and custom hood. “The zinc counters are just marvelous, so easy to care for,” she says. Overhead in the kitchen are hand-hewn beams. “The original cabin had them and I loved them, so we continued them in the new house.” Bay Area-based master craftsman Carlos Campos did the ironwork on the front door to the home. To illuminate Campos’ work, a hay baler was electrified and two antique English carriage lanterns placed on either side of the door. Once through the entry door, guests are awed by a striking painting of a Native American. The homeowner laments that the painting was one of a pair that

A wide stone patio provides ample space for entertaining. The homeowner personally selected each of the boulders surrounding the terrace. Views of the guesthouse living room (opposite); the entry hall with an antique totem pole, and oil painting of a native American and the kitchen complete with reclaimed red barn wood paneling..

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she spotted on a visit to a gallery in Carmel. “I should have bought both,” she says wistfully. Beneath the painting, an antique massive console table is topped with an antique salmon purchased at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show. Dotted throughout the house and guesthouse are antique Navajo rugs and blankets from the homeowner’s extensive collection. She even employed several as curtains. “If you look closely, you’ll see the curtains don’t match,” she points out. “Several people thought the idea was crazy.” But it is as visually appealing as it is unorthodox. Unafraid to take design risks and backed by the courage to follow through on her vision, the homeowner embarked on the construction of the massive stone patio that leads guests from the house to the lake. “I hand picked each of the boulders surrounding the patio,” she notes. She also worked with the team of craftsmen who built the outdoor fireplace. “They wanted to make it perfect and symmetrical and I wanted anything but,” she recalls. After much trial and error, they were able to achieve precisely the rough look she was after. Now that the project is complete, the homeowner and her grown children are thrilled with the results. “We’re up here all the time now,” she says. “Enjoying every minute.” ■



Classic Tahoe