Having designed dwellings in the Lake Tahoe region for a decade, Jay Jeffers has had a front-row seat to changes happening within luxury communities like Lahontan and Martis Camp. “I’ve watched the architecture become much more modern,” he says. “And owners are using their homes year-round now.” In this case, San Francisco-based couple Rob Darby and Chad Abbott, who also have an abode in Palm Springs, wanted an alpine escape from the city—one designed to feel as airy in the summer as it does cozy in winter. “Chad is from Alabama, but I grew up in Oregon. We went camping often, so mountains are my happy place,” Rob explains. Jeffers, who had worked with the couple previously, knew just what to do. “This project focused on three things: the architecture of the space, the geographic location and how the clients wanted to live,” he says.
The four-bedroom Martis Camp residence was built several years ago by Truckee-based Kelly & Stone Architects and required only a surface refresh. “We came into this wonderful structure with floors, kitchen, bathrooms all done,” Jeffers recalls. He brought back general contractor Robert Morken to help with a few tweaks, “but he did such a great job on the home originally, there wasn’t much to do,” the designer says. “We changed out the lighting and enhanced what was already there.” The biggest challenge was harmonizing the materials used on the great room’s steel-clad fireplace wall. To one side of the chimney was wood paneling, but to the other was white space. “It was too strong a contrast,” Jeffers says. Covering the double-height expanse of white with an understated blue tartan wallcovering added texture and a tailored feel. “Modern can be cold, so we wanted to warm up the house,” Rob says. “The design is a mix of mountain style and urban sophistication,” Chad adds. “But there are a few unexpected things, too.”
The wallcovering also established the home’s color scheme. “This couple likes strong, but not bright, hues and wanted a neutral palette that felt natural in the mountains without being cliché—this isn’t your average log cabin with antler chandeliers,” Jeffers explains. “But there’s also such strong daylight at this elevation that you have to mute colors to make them feel right,” he adds, explaining that a neutral gray paint can look bright white in the mountains. Geometric patterns, too, repeat throughout the rooms. “These aren’t floral people,” he says of the clients. “Plus, geometrics can surprise and delight—they might read as one shade, but as you look closer, the pattern reveals itself.”
To furnish the great room, Jeffers found comfortable pieces, like a large sectional upholstered in a soft cotton-linen blend (“You don’t want a big, brown leather sofa here—the temperature could be 100 degrees!” he notes), and vintage European pieces, including a 1970s bar cabinet by Italian furniture designer Aldo Tura and 1950s dining room chairs by midcentury French firm Guillerme et Chambron. “They wanted the rooms to be easy and breezy. Comfortable for themselves, their guests and their beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Winston, too.” Another important component for Jeffers was incorporating pieces from the couple’s art collection, especially paintings by Jennifer Pochinski, Matt Gonzalez and Tricia Strickfaden.
In the more private spaces, Jeffers shifted the palette to greens (a soft sage for the office, a deep pine for the media room) as well as darker rusts and blues, as seen in the primary bedroom. There he again harmonized bold architectural features (this time a glass door and windows of varying sizes) with dark blue walls and matching Roman shades that make the space feel “intentional and cocooned,” he says. Fitting neatly into the bedroom’s picture-window nook is an Eames chaise and ottoman upholstered in plaid. “That was really fun to do,” Jeffers notes. “You can play with a mountain theme—I love having those plaid, cozy elements—but it’s important to not go too far.” Other subtle “mountain moments” in the house include the guest bedroom’s rope lamps and a charcoal-finish bench in the hallway.
Outdoor spaces, especially a covered deck area between the living room and the couple’s bedroom, were designed for any season. “It’s the perfect shady spot in summer, or for a cup of cocoa and a fire in the winter,” the designer says. It’s also the ideal place to commune with the surroundings—the majestic forest that brought the couple here—and enjoy the natural environs that were enhanced with the help of landscape designer Jaclynn Neu. “You can have a mountain abode without making it thematic,” Jeffers adds. “This home has a sophisticated air about it, and it represents the evolution of Tahoe style.”