A Handcrafted and Historic Sierra Nevada Cabin
Paul and Becky Bolt had an unusual source of inspiration for the alpine retreat they built on a two-acre site near Lake Tahoe. The couple envisioned a historically accurate cabin that would incorporate the style and traditions of Paul’s Prussian, Scandinavian and Nordic heritage.
During a decade of design research, Paul—a building supply and sourcing executive and an avid architectural history enthusiast—amassed a collection of 25,000 images featuring ancient building styles and details, from chimneys and windows to wood carvings, gables and finials.
After interviewing dozens of architects, the Bolts connected with Larry Pearson, principal of Bozeman-based Pearson Design Group. “Larry and his team were the right fit for us, both philosophically and from a design standpoint,” Paul says. “Right from the start, Larry intuitively understood the scope of what we wanted to do.”
“It’s always exciting to meet clients with passion,” says Pearson, who worked with the Bolts for more than two years to design the home. “Paul and Becky had this incredible enthusiasm coupled with a unique vision of a home that paid homage to their family heritage. Since Paul has done business internationally, he has relationships with the greatest artisans around the world, and he sourced a variety of exotic salvaged materials that we integrated room by room. I call the cabin a jewel box because it has so many rich details.
"The home’s classic square-log exterior is highlighted with intricately carved wooden shutters, window panels, fascia and roof details; the effect is so unique that awed golfers often pause on the adjacent fairway to snap photos. The 2,350-square-foot floor plan includes two bedrooms, a bunkroom and an open main floor living area with a massive dry-stacked stone fireplace. “In historical European design, the hearth was the heart of the home,” Pearson says. “It was originally used for heat and cooking, and we used it to anchor the living room, dining room and kitchen.” Abundant windows bring in sunlight and frame the mountain views on the east and north sides of the home.
Builder Matt Williams of Williams Construction worked to incorporate the numerous reclaimed materials that Paul sourced from 12 countries, including hand-hewn beams, vintage columns, cabinetry, old teak from Indonesia and Canadian oak timbers. And when Paul learned that a 500-year-old Chinese temple’s hand-chiseled stone floors were going to be covered over, he couldn’t resist. He had the massive granite stones—each weighing 125 pounds—shipped to the cabin’s site, where they now lend the home’s floors a well-worn patina he describes as “velvet soft.”
Paul commissioned artist Cathy Koball to paint the home’s ceilings and kitchen cabinets with traditional Scandinavian rosemaling motifs, and he turned to his contacts in Indonesia to create the home’s hand-carved wood elements, including door portals, window frames and interior millwork. “At one point, 75 wood carvers from around the world were working on pieces for our home,” he says.
The Bolts named their cabin Zakopane in the Sierras after the alpine village in the Carpathian Mountains, and it’s the first building in a compound that will accommodate more guests and family members, including the couple’s two adult sons.
Although the home’s design was inspired by his heritage, Paul takes a long view about the cabin’s future. “We used the best workmanship and many vintage building materials that have already stood the test of time,” he says. “I would like to think that 300 years from now, our descendants will still be enjoying Zakopane in the Sierras.”
Architect Larry Pearson designed the mountain home with traditional Zakopane-style details like flat log construction, wide chinking and hand-carved wooden motifs on the roof gables, shutters and trim.
In the cozy living area, a Montana basalt dry-stack hearth was crafted by fourth-generation master stone mason Leif Johansen of Truckee, California. The naturally weathered, hand-chiseled ceiling beams and mantel are old oak timbers reclaimed from a Canadian barn. A vibrant wool Bakhtiari Persian rug adds warmth to the 500-year-old hand-chiseled granite floors, which were salvaged from an ancient Chinese temple. The Black Forest-style chandelier is hand-carved mahogany trimmed with real shed antlers.
A custom island of repurposed teak dominates the kitchen; cabinets are hand-painted in the Telemark rosemaling style. The tile backsplash was crafted by Marc Sanders.
The carvings in this teak exterior trim were inspired by the choir stalls at St. Petri Dom Cathedral in Bremen, Germany.
Corner caps embellished with Karveskurd—Norwegian chip carving—cover the home's exterior wall joints.
German windows highlight views in the dining room, where a custom teak table is paired with tapestry Fairfield chairs. The rug is Persian tribal, and the Spanish tole chandelier is circa 1840.
A 400-year-old Belgian oak hand-carved fireplace warms the master bedroom. The teak Viking wedding chest was inspired by a piece from the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, and a colorful piece of Tuscan ceramic majolica hangs above the door. The Spanish chandelier is late 19th century, and the bed is covered with Restoration Hardware linens and a Pendleton blanket.
Every window in the house is adorned with custom teak trim, hand-carved with Austrian motifs.
A detail from the bunk bed ladder shows the intricate Viking dragon-style hand carving.
Turkish limestone covers the walls, floors and counters in the master bathroom. Hand-painted Indonesian mahogany oval mirrors are carved in the Balinese style with a hibiscus motif, and the chandelier overhead is a rewired Spanish fixture from the mid-19th century. The door and vanity are hand-carved repurposed teak.
ARCHITECT Pearson Design Group, Larry Pearson, Gregg Matthews, Bozeman, MT, 406-587-1997, pearsondesigngroup.com MASTER BUILDER Williams Construction, Matt Williams, Clio, CA, 530-308-1703, williamsconstructionca.com INTERIOR DESIGN Colleen Fritter, Steven Sipe, SIPES TAHOE, Truckee, CA, 530-582-1110, sipestahoe.com STONE MASONRY Johansen Masonry, Leif Johansen, Truckee, CA, 530-308-4271 TILE SETTING CLT Tile, Mark Sanders, Stockton, CA, 209-481-2850 SUPPLIERS/IMPORTERS OF WINDOWS, UNIQUE ARTICLES & ARCHITECTURAL ACCOUTREMENTS Bertrams Inc., Paul R. Bolt, Stockton, CA, 209-981-7657, houzz.com/pro/zakopane/bertrams DECORATIVE PAINTING Cathy's Folk Art, Cathy Koball, Grand Meadow, MN, 507-440-0875