Experience the Raw Beauty of Tahoe’s Once Untouched Nature when First Discovered by European Civilization, and the Exclusive Social Culture Present Surrounding the Lavish Architectural Beginnings of Alpine Nordic Decent.
Lake Tahoe was first discovered by European civilization late in the 19th century. The Post Gold Rush era of the early 20th century brought an influx of wealthy San Francisco families who began to develop palatial summer homes along the lakeshore. Some of these historically significant settlements are the Thunderbird Lodge on the coveted East Shore as well as the Vikingsholm Mansion nestled within Tahoe’s hidden gem, Emerald Bay. Since Lake Tahoe is reminiscent of Nordic geography showcasing a massive alpine lake with pristine water quality, dense old growth forests, and dramatic snowcapped mountains, many of the architectural stylings of the time sourced inspiration from Viking and Nordic origins. This created the beginnings of a unique social culture of boating, sunbathing, remote beach picnics, and lavish house parties. It was an exclusive community dedicated to seeking fulfillment by enveloping themselves in the beauty pristine natural surroundings can provide and sharing in the experience together.
The design concept for this 1934 lakefront compound was to bring one back to this time when people first experienced and celebrated the beauty of Lake Tahoe. This included an emphasis on leisure and social gathering, a revival of Nordic inspired architectural detailing, the lost grace of lacquered mahogany and chrome boats once gliding across these glassy waters, and a communication with the natural surroundings within the designed spaces. The unique setting for this exclusive residence is located directly on the lake, completely isolated on grandfathered private property in the middle of a protected national forest. The raw nature available in the immediate surroundings is vivid with centuries old redwood trees, untouched white sand beaches, massive granite boulders from a once erupted ancient volcano, snow peaked mountains, and an alpine lake shimmering with a soft turquoise along the shallow waters that transitions into a deep cobalt blue as it reaches the seemingly endless depths. Each of the homes embraces the color palate of its surrounding natural environment. The compound is comprised of a boat house on the lakeshore taking in the shallow turquoise waters and cream colored sand, the main home on a bluff overlooking a panorama of the lake absorbs the cobalt blue of the deep water in the distance and soft grays of the volcanic boulders, a small guest cabin nestled among towering Sequoia and Redwood trees embraces a whimsy of mossy greens and the cool white of the morning mist above the nearby trickling stream, and a second lofted guest cabin embracing the saturated gold and blood orange sunsets visible at dusk.
The main home engages the Nordic architectural features of log beams and mountain cabin aesthetics while embracing a contemporary layer of understated lake house elegance. This is accomplished through the use of compelling indigo and cobalt blues complimented with charcoal grays and bright whites. A continuation of lacquered woods and reflective metals are maintained throughout each home to unify the separate structures. Quartzite stone kitchen floors are reminiscent of the massive gray granite boulders of a once erupted volcano speckling the white sand beaches. High gloss lacquered redwood counters showcasing swirling wood grains reflect each cycle of seasons passed. The master suite exudes a monochromatic palate of biscotti and cappuccino to create serenity in such an intimate space. Surrounding nature is visibly inspired throughout the home, and an open plan combining the expansive living room, dining room, and kitchen invites social gathering.
This tastefully restored cabin paints an aesthetic of a whimsical forest of toadstools, trickling streams lapping over rounded stones, ancient trees covered in green moss, and light mist drifting through the endless thicket of branches. Frosted glass, reflective metals, whitewashed walls, mocha floors, and soft green complexions invite this experience into the home. Intricate patterns and light wooded antiques are implemented to compel the Nordic origins of much of Lake Tahoe’s early architecture.
The boathouse is directly inspired from the vintage wood boats popular of the time. Italian, Riva, and American, Gar Woods, handcrafted golden mahogany and polished metals into sleek speedboats enticing sun seekers and joyriders to experience the lake in style. The two-tone teak and holly striped floors common of old sailboats and woodies, have been abstracted by being lifted and placed on the walls horizontally in the main room. The traditional black stripes and chrome detailings were also implemented in the space. Turquoise tile work and cream stone flooring reflect the shallow lake water and sandy beaches nearby.
The experience of dusk on the lake is the concept for this home. As the skies fall into sunset, heavy blood oranges, shimmering golds, shades of gray, and the ominous black of the approaching night sky fill the horizon. Nocturnal creatures emerge in the form of bats skimming the lake shore in search of food, owls perched on tree limbs, and wolf like predators hunt for prey. All of these instances in nature are introduced into the designed space creating a tribute to its surroundings and an intriguing dynamic conducive to drawing a social presence.
The Edwardian era is an architectural shift away from the traditional features of heavy drapery, cluttered surfaces, and low lit, cramped rooms better recognized as its predecessor, the Victorian era. While maintaining the positive elements of the Victorian style, such as bay windows, layered crown moldings, and abundance of custom millwork throughout, the Edwardian was better known for its ability to introduce plentiful natural light through the implementation of light wells in the center of the homes, nature inspired stained glass windows commonly seen in the form of flowers and vines, and a practice of minimalism and organization to lighten the feel of otherwise cluttered and overwhelming spaces.
The concept design for this quintessential 1914 Edwardian atop Russian Hill is to take the original heritage of the architectural design process known in Edwardian structures and respectfully build upon these core concepts in a contemporary translation that is in line with today’s modern comforts and cultural needs. This is accomplished through a celebration of original architectural details within the space by accentuating character pieces such as wooden banister rails, ornate moldings, curved glass bay windows, and nature inspired stained glass.
Another feature common in Edwardian design is an abundance of natural light through the use of light wells. This was taken a step further by introducing reflective materials such as chrome and stainless steel as well as wall mirrors to bring the light deeper into the building. Original floor plan layouts traditionally had many small walled off rooms creating a strong separation between each space. This was typical of its time for societal reasons that women would cook meals in the kitchen separate from the dining room and living room areas. This would allow a presentation of a finished meal to be delivered into the dining room while hiding all of the labor of cooking in the kitchen. By removing many of the walls to essentially open up the communal spaces, a modern day “great room” was formed. This combined the bar, kitchen, living room, and dining room into one communal gathering space typical to contemporary social culture as well as allowing an influx of natural light to flow through all of the social spaces. A balance of bright whites, light, warm grays, and the occasional black are also key features implemented to showcase a light, airy appeal with a bit of depth to create areas of interest. Since the three major social areas have been combined into one large space, the walls and moldings were painted in a unifying bright white and soft gray throughout, while the kitchen was painted a striking black color to maintain an ability to differentiate the spaces.
Nature was commonly introduced through floral designs in stained glass windows. This concept has been abstracted to involve a sense of nature in all of the design without taking such a literal approach. Light fixtures were chosen with organic forms reminiscent of tree branches and water droplets while engaging a contemporary twist using polished nickel and glass materiality. Natural fibers are present in every room to inform nature in the design; the staircases are laid with woven sea grass runners, furniture is upholstered in earthy tones and soft Belgian linens, drapery is fabricated from burlaps and antique grain sacks.
A final important attribute innate to Edwardian architecture is a practice of minimalism as compared to traditional Victorian methodology. This is achieved with less clutter on counters and fireplace mantels as well as sparse decorative accessories that have been placed with purpose. Instead of Victorian’s lavish elegance of heavily floral patterned silk drapery, “low class” textiles were introduced such as burlaps and simple linens muted in color to soften the bold architectural details of each space. Interest is created in earthy monochromatic color palates through a variety of textures and layered geometric patterns instead of an abundance of bright, saturated color variations.