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Against the Grain

A San Francisco design firm uses a light touch when decorating a High Sierra home



Matthew Millman

The thing to remember when decorating a mountain getaway is that the warm and cozy look only works for half of the year. Heavy tapestries, woolen plaids and oversized leather seating certainly go a long way to keep inhabitants feeling snug when the snow is falling, but, as designer Jay Jeffers says, “when spring and summer roll around, all of that stuff feels completely out of place.” 

So when a young Bay Area family chose Jeffers to outfit their second home in Martis Camp, an upscale development near Lake Tahoe, the designer and his clients decided to take it easy on the traditional mountain trappings to keep the home looking fresh all year long. “The architecture of the home is very contemporary, with lots of big windows all around, so we wanted cleaner lines and a lighter feel,” explains the homeowner. Kelly Hohla, principal at San Francisco-based Jeffers Design Group, says, “We knew we didn’t want to go ‘traditional Tahoe,’ but we didn’t want to make it a funky city house, either.”

Though the home’s pecan wood floors and exposed beams of red western cedar are certainly orthodox mountain materials, the designers paid tribute to the high-country surroundings in more subtle ways: A sofa in the second-floor media room—or, as the family calls it, the “vista room,” named for its views of the Carson Range—is upholstered in plaid, but the accompanying furnishings are decidedly modern. The unexpected ethnic ikat pattern on the living room’s midcentury chairs is a nod to the tapestries that might normally be found in alpine cabins, while accent pillows are covered in classic tartan. And though the bunkroom (where the homeowners’ young daughters and their friends get their shut-eye) is a space often found in traditional cabins, the designers put a fresh melon-green-and-sky-blue spin on the heavily timbered archetype.

Jeffers put a moratorium on taxidermy animal busts and any decorative iteration of antlers, including the classic chandelier. Instead, he and Hohla opted for lighting with an industrial vibe to play up the modernity of the architecture. Over the dining table in the great room, for instance, a steel fixture from the eclectic Coup D’Etat showroom in San Francisco has beaker-like shapes and long filament bulbs that seem inspired by a scientific laboratory. The interplay between the lighting, the rustic wood table and the elegant upholstered chairs is emblematic of the design throughout the home. “I like to call this style ‘mountain modern,’” Jeffers says.  

Though there’s nary an antler to be found, that’s not to say animals don’t make appearances in the design. Martis Camp comprises more than 2,000 forested acres, after all, so failing to reference the wild environs would be a missed opportunity. Here again, in true Jeffers style, customs are given the tongue-in-cheek treatment. An abstract photograph of a bear by artist Robert Stivers hangs in the dining area, while in the downstairs guest bedroom a contemporary painting by Jay Kelly features, among other iconic symbols of the American West, an elk—slyly satisfying the antler requirement for dwellings located in the wilderness. And in case the vast windows that frame High Sierra views leave any doubt, a piece in the entryway by New York artist Peter Tunney spells it out in plain English: “We Live In A Beautiful World.” 

 

Mountain-Modern Materials

Designer Kelly Hohla pares down the mountain-modern style to its essentials.

RECLAIMED WOODS “Bring in the light barn woods, but use them sparingly. They’ll make more of an impact if they’re not all over the place.”

WALLPAPER “Grasscloth wallpaper has natural texture that goes well in a mountain environment. You wouldn’t think of using wallpaper in a place like this, but it works.” Hohla likes coverings from Phillip Jeffries, phillipjeffries.com.

COZY RUGS “They feel like a huge sweater on the floor.” Check out the plush offerings from Mark Nelson Designs, marknelsondesigns.com.

STEEL “Nickel sometimes feels too contemporary and bronze feels too formal. Steel is a great in-between metal that goes with everything.” While the kitchen seems like an obvious place for metal accents, Hohla also suggests using steel for mantels and stair railings.

BLOWN GLASS “Fixtures made with imperfect blown glass create light and movement.” Works by Pennsylvania artist John Pomp are especially beautiful (we love the Infinity Pendant). johnpomp.com

ARCHITECTURE Walton Architecture & Engineering INTERIOR DESIGN Jeffers Design Group CONSTRUCTION Jim Morrison Construction 

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