Sometimes, the best thinking happens outside the box. That was the case for designer Cassandra Crain when she was hired to infuse an Idaho vacation home with a California-inspired aesthetic. “We really did go completely against the norm here,” says Crain. “If you look at most of the houses in this area, they are all absolutely stunning, but they often skew more mountain-modern, with lots of dark finishes, bold lines, and much heavier furnishings. My clients and I kept coming back to the concept of simple and livable sophistication. They wanted that light, bright, relaxed look we often associate with California design, but they also wanted to honor the natural surroundings and create a home that felt authentic in this particular landscape.”
It was the stunning landscape at Gozzer Ranch, a community on Lake Coeur d’Alene, that drew this young family to seek a getaway there. “I grew up spending summers on a lake, and I wanted to share that magical experience with my husband and kids,” says the wife. “Our life here revolves around being on the water. It’s like summer camp for my children, only the parents get to come too.”
Crain and general contractor Bill Strange worked closely to fit the homeowners’ vision of their summer lifestyle and tastes. Together, they fashioned a mudroom, giving the family a much-needed, fresh-from-the-lake zone to use daily. “The house had a simple open space entry, and we carved out a small but functional place to hang towels, drop bags and take off shoes right when you walk in the door,” she reports. They also customized a bunk room to gain additional sleeping arrangements for visiting cousins. “We were able to include two full bunks and two twin bunks so all of the littles could sleep together,” says the designer. “It’s a fun space that still feels open even with the double bunks.
Beyond those few moves, the work focused on finishes. Strange’s team emphasized quality craftsmanship and materials that have been used in Northern Idaho for 100 or more years—from the cedar shake roof and cedar siding to the wood windows, regional stone and wide-plank oak floors. “It’s not ostentatious,” says Strange. “It’s not overdone on the exterior—or the interiors. There’s a sense of simplicity and timelessness in the bones of the house that’s really quite special. Then, of course, Cassandra worked her magic with the interiors.”
Timeless sophistication was the look Crain wanted to deliver inside, as well. Her clients, with whom she’d worked on two past projects, knew that the aesthetic they favored in their primary home was the style they wanted in their vacation home, too. “The wife loves the look of Victoria Hagan,” says Crain. “Think clean lines and polished sophistication. But she and her husband have three small children, and they didn’t want to sacrifice comfort and livability to get that certain, polished look. So we had to harmonize to come up with a simple, serene aesthetic that was family-friendly, too.”
Crain, who is known for her ability to effortlessly curate a relaxed version of traditional design, began with an all-white backdrop. She warmed the airy space with plenty of wood—from the wide-plank floors and exposed beams to sculptural furniture, such as the Scandinavian-style chairs in the living room. The designer added texture with woven shades and leather accents, and she allowed the azure lake to inspire the thread of blue that weaves its way throughout the house in art, textiles, and wallpaper.
“I love layering patterns, and it works well if you establish a simple color scheme, which we had here with shades of blues and soft whites,” she says. “Nothing overpowered any particular space, which was in keeping with our theme of understated and approachable elegance.” Almost all the fabrics and rugs are indoor-outdoor or performance, a design decision that allowed the homeowners to relax about lakeside life with children.
“I just wanted a warm, happy home that would age well,” says the wife. “This house was always meant to be full of friends and family. I imagined it full of children. The intention wasn’t a summer house that would feel stuffy. I wanted it to be a place where people could come, unwind and stay for a while. And that’s exactly what Bill and Cassandra delivered.”