On a lush ski hill in Truckee, California, a minimalist mountain retreat affords a professional tennis player and his extending family the best of both worlds.
The lake in reflective blues and greens, the magnificent canvas of mountain and sky, snow-topped peaks in the subdued cradle of greenery…California’s Truckee is a true natural gem where intimate getaways and thrilling outdoor adventures abound. It is against this scenic beauty Faulkner Architects completed a minimalist modern house for a tennis professional looking to build a holiday retreat in the US.
Trent Tucker, who founded The Tucker Tennis Academy, is primarily based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He and his wife are newbies to skiing and a chance encounter with Martis Camp, a private residential community in North Lake Tahoe, brought the couple to the picturesque neighbourhood. The moment Tucker laid eyes on the gorgeous scenery, he was hooked.
“The natural surroundings have a significant influence on the design for this house,” said Greg Faulkner, founder of Faulkner Architects. “The building site is right at the base of a three-million-year-old volcano and we draw great inspiration from it.”
Perched on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, straddling the California-Nevada state line, the home is 6,300 feet above sea level, where sub-zero temperatures are commonplace. Enhanced insulation, radiant floor heating and high-efficiency mechanical equipment are on hand to save up energy and electricity.
“Sustainability is there from the get-on and taking note of the recent California wildfires, safety is also top-of-mind. The concrete and steel exterior, for example, is fire-resistant and low-maintenance,” explained Faulkner.
Wildfire did descend upon the Lake Tahoe neighbourhood and the smoke is one of the reasons Truckee was murkier compared to years before. But that doesn’t stop clusters of tourists from flocking to the year-round destination for its many top-notch ski and snowboard resorts. This 7,833-sq.ft. mountainside house built from the ground up, as if growing out of a billion verdant wands of Jeffrey pine and white fir trees, is destined to stand out from the rest.
Bringing the outdoors in and the indoors out, the snow-capped landscape and the vertical, plumb lines of the tree trunks wave in arboreal air, enclosing the house in an unworldly tableau. It’s not unlike the enchanting winter wonderland in “The Polar Express”. When the warmer season draws near and the snow starts to melt around, stripping bare of the branches, the green chorus brings the most uplifting of vibes.
Inside, the material palette is deliberately kept to a minimum. “We worked hand in hand with CCL Concept Lighting Lab in crafting an interior and lighting fixtures that pay homage to the volcanic landscape,” Faulkner said, underscoring the concrete, glass, steel, and walnut. The basalt flooring, in particular, ties the house to the volcanic basalt borders strewn through the forestry landscape.
Then, there’s the red-tinted glass referencing the cooling magma within the rolling mountain, adding just that punchy detail to the understated interior. As the sunny rays drift into the dwelling, the reflected daylight casts the space in such intricately woven crimson red, conjuring up an almost whimsical mood.
A 20-inch insulated concrete wall, carved into the site and stretching out into the outdoor terrace, keeps the house sturdy. The abode is perched on a steep, nearly 30-degree slope adjoining a ski run and a lodge: the homeowners can just ski right into and out of the house. With the home amassing over 7,000 sq.ft., you’d expect it to be loud and in-your-face. Contrary to expectations, the main living/dining room recalls the compact, cosy ski cabin with a single space dedicated to living and cooking.
With the sprawling 17-foot, floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors taking in the warm rays, the private realm is tucked behind acoustic screens; a master bedroom area upstairs; the garage, playroom, craft room, and ski locker contained in the covered entrance. An active indoor-outdoor lifestyle doesn’t seem much of a pipe dream anymore.
Photo: Joe Fletcher Photography