This Modernist retreat on Lake Tahoe is rural but refined

A masterful mix of marble, concrete and cedar wood, the mountain home is framed by scenic forest vistas

contemporary home sierra nevada mountains
Photography Joe Fletcher/Otto

America’s Sierra Nevada mountains seduce skiers from all over the world, including one London-based family who visited for a one-off adventure holiday and, seven years later, have built a house here. Having snapped up a desirable lakeside plot of land, they asked Faulkner Architects to design the retreat, which they wanted to use for extended stays, as well as for hosting friends and family.

contemporary living room sierra nevada home
Photography Joe Fletcher/Otto

‘The H-shaped house’s design follows patterns of light, shade, slope and shelter,’ says lead architect Greg Faulkner. A pair of two-storey ‘sheds’, each containing six bedrooms, are linked by a double-height communal space built principally of glass, through which daylight streams and shifts throughout the day. ‘We wanted to weave the house into the existing topography,’ Faulkner explains, ‘for the light, building and landscape to respond to one another.’ In terms of volume, this meant they could play with scale.


The kitchen and dining space’s ceiling soars to more than four metres, yet doesn’t make it a third of the way up the cedar, fir, aspen and pine trees it rubs shoulders with. During blizzards, this space is the warm, calm eye of the storm, surrounded by snowfall on all sides, but rendered cosy by the low fireplace.

contemporary fireplace sierra nevada home
Photography Joe Fletcher/Otto

When it came to materials, Faulkner and the couple chose to clad the house in cedar, which they blackened in the Japanese shou sugi ban style, scorching it on-site. This gives the timber a patina, links the house to its arboreal environment and, more pragmatically, protects it from forest fires. Tahoe-based interior designer Sarah Jones installed Californian walnut flooring to make true Faulkner’s vision that ‘here, outside is inside and inside is outside’.

Photography Joe Fletcher/Otto

Breaking up the architecture’s clean lines, an almost-cosmic Bocci chandelier floats over the dining table and glowing pendant lights by New York studio Niche Design hang in the kitchen. In the living room, a soft rug from artisan specialist Tufenkian leads to dove-grey B&B Italia sofas, perfect for sinking into after a long day on the slopes.;

For the full house tour see Elle Decoration January 2018

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