For families, there’s a temptation to make stylistic concessions on behalf of the brood, skewing toward strictly pragmatic interiors that employ no-nonsense durable materials. But that wasn’t the case for the parents of three children who own this home in the luxury California development of Martis Camp near Lake Tahoe. “They wanted to live in a house they love,” observes designer Jay Jeffers. “They didn’t let the potential of wear-and-tear from children make them afraid to take it to another level. In this residence, everyone can live together, and it can still be chic.”
In fact, the interiors developed over four years by Jeffers and his senior designer, Jenn Sharp, represent several balancing acts. In addition to the equilibrium between adult elegance and multi-generational practicality, the designers sought fair distribution of masculine and feminine and industrial modern and rustic mountain aesthetics, resulting in rooms reflecting a fearless confidence. It’s a dynamic that starts with the house itself, designed by architect Steve Geiszler. At the first conceptual meetings, Geiszler recalls, “The client looked at me and said, ‘be bold.’ That was the governing thought as we went through every design decision.”
The sheer diversity of materials is a testament to this approach. “We let all the structural features express themselves,” Geiszler notes. In this house, elements such as steel and concrete announce themselves intrepidly, and the Jeffers-designed metal-mesh railings on the central stairwell and acid-washed steel replace in the library add to the industrial-chic vibe. “But we wanted to warm it up too,” continues the architect. “We used cedar ceilings and wood floors, and accent walls of reclaimed barn wood. Two very large stone chimneys anchor the building, adding a sense of warmth and intimacy.”
Those chimneys are signals of the many hearths the home contains. Jeffers gave each fireplace a unique material treatment–and, in addition to the acid-washed steel in the library, surrounds are crafted with blackened steel and stone veneer in the living room and beautifully figured marble in the master bedroom.
The use of metal in the house was not simply predicated by aesthetics; the dramatic slope of the site presented construction challenges that called for the material as well. “I could have built three houses out of the amount of structural steel and concrete we used in this home,” notes builder Matt Heslin. “It goes way beyond what I’ve ever done.” The engineering challenges didn’t stop at the front door. Two sections of the library’s built-in bookcases are secret double doors that spring open when a particular book is tipped forward and the husband’s home office is revealed. “Each of those doors weighs 1,000 pounds,” Heslin marvels.
Cool features aren’t limited to the adults, of course, and the younger inhabitants have their fair share. As Jeffers points out, “There are two bunk rooms and a play area, and the huge downstairs is an all-ages activity center filled with furniture that can be picked up and tossed around.” That said, the lower level also boasts a bourbon bar, a home theater and a game room under deep-red ceilings.
Whether elements are adult-oriented or kid-friendly, the designer gave them an elegant style treatment. Jeffers notes, “We tried not to skimp on fabrics, because how things feel when you touch and sit on them is very important.” This led to a textile palette that runs the gamut from cowhide and leather to wool tweed and cotton velvet. Silhouettes here are sophisticated, as opposed to the bulky, chunky furniture common to mountain homes. A quartet of armchairs upholstered in a coral fabric display a clear Art Deco influence, and the dining chairs telegraph a trim, cane-backed Italian profile. The furniture grouping around the living room fireplace evokes streamlined, midcentury modern designs.
An interesting visual tension is present between pieces that skew masculine and others featuring more curvaceous lines and softer colors. Those shapely coral-colored chairs, for example, sit on a cowhide rug around a weighty stump table. Nature is the common denominator that brings it all together. “I have a pet peeve,” Jeffers admits. “Finishes like polished chrome or brass feel very city to me, and out of place here. In a home like this, I prefer natural materials and finishes.”
Given the many constituents the design of this all- season residence serves, you could say it disproves an old adage coined by medieval-age monk John Lydgate, who said: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” This is a house that begs to differ.