Lake Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada border and is considered by some to be one of the great wonders of the natural world. It is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest. At 6220 feet above sea level, its water clarity is legendary. Although it is known as an international resort and was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, building at the Lake has become highly restricted in recent years.
The Tahoe Ridge House is located on one of the last large parcels in the Tahoe area. Eight acres of land with dense stands of white pine and red fir slope upward to the rocky granite ridge crest that forms a backstop to this exceptional site. This was the second home we had designed for the clients, the first being the Strathmoor House (also in this book), so the usual period of getting acquainted had already taken place. Our design aesthetics and goals were aligned at the onset to conceive of a contemporary building uniquely rooted in the Tahoe area and the spectacular site.
Vernacular mining and stamp mill buildings in the Tahoe area inspired the design of this home. Long before Tahoe was a ski resort, it was a gold rush destination. Tall stamp mills were used to pulverize hard rock into fine silt from which the gold could be removed. All movement of material within the mill was achieved by gravity, hence the structures are characteristically elongated vertically.
Significant mountain vistas quickly became a key design consideration. Views of the mountains of Nevada to the north, to Tinker’s Knob, and to the Sierra crest to the south needed to be revealed. These criteria resulted in a floor plan that sprawls along two orthogonal axes and ascends vertically to the north to the study and master bedroom. The experience of flow along the axes is enhanced by a clear rhythm of ten-by-ten-inch recycled Douglas-fir structural posts that tie in with the roof framing above.
A mix of western red cedar and Galvalume metal siding applied as a tight skin pay further homage to the old mining buildings. On the interior of the home, large recycled timbers and heavy metal bracketing extend the industrial aesthetic and resist the substantial snow loads of winter. Large Sierra White granite blocks are carved and hewn to form the fireplace hearths. The building throughout is clearly rooted in and derived from its mountainous site. A large male black bear has lived in the boulders above the house for many years and is undaunted by recent construction, occasionally strolling unhurriedly down the new entry drive.