At Home in an A-Frame
A strikingly modern home rises from the ashes of a vintage cottage steps away from Lake Tahoe
Just as a wildfire clears new room for growth, the accidental blaze that destroyed Carol Bastek’s charming vintage cottage in Tahoe City made space for something new, namely a strikingly modern A-frame designed by architect Todd Mather. “The A-frame’s bold, sharp exterior belies the inside, which is cozy and inviting,” Carol says.
Replacing the cottage with an A-frame was the idea of Carol’s son, Scott. An avid skier, he envisioned a rustic retreat away from his home in San Francisco. The thought also appealed to Carol, who resides in New Jersey. Mather urged them to reconsider, pointing to the architectural style’s inherent limitations, which include a prominent roofline, tight interior spaces and a lack of natural daylight. But Carol and Scott were undeterred, so Mather began tinkering with ways to improve upon the classic form.
One example is the metal roof’s alternating “cap and pan” panel design, which was inspired by a cus- tom “Squaw Valley USA” bar code Mather generated online—a nod to Scott’s favorite ski resort. When it snows, the pans fill up, and the roof resembles black and white piano keys. “As a musician, I think it’s so damn cool and unexpected and whimsical,” Mather says. “If you’re looking at the side of an A-frame, all you see is roof, so I had to make it super-special.”
That’s not the only thing that makes it unique. To create more interior space, Mather added several barnwood-clad dormers outfitted with large windows that flood the interior with natural daylight. For example, the bedrooms have boxy dormers that allow you to sit up in bed—one a full wall, the other a win- dow box that Mather compares to an eyeball. And the dining area features a two-story dormer that frames a picture-perfect view of an aspen tree.
Interior designers Shannon Barter and Brady McClintock collaborated closely with Mather on the project, marrying Scott’s desire for a countrified retreat with Carol’s more traditional leanings. In the living room, for example, a contemporary sofa and chair covered in navy-blue leather face a massive stone wood-burning fireplace that offers warmth and ambience on frigid winter nights. “The blue is like a vein that connects everything,” Barter says. “It’s predictable and comfortable.”
Indeed, the designers repeated the hue on the is- land in the classic white kitchen and on several of the wood balusters on the curvaceous steel stairway to the second-floor loft area. Builder Brett Spadi and his crew cut the balusters into different sizes and painted them white, black and blue—an homage to the bar- code-inspired roof. “It’s incredibly unique,” Spadi says. “This house has a soul.”
That’s especially true at night. Staggered in height, the home’s four collar ties contain an illuminated channel that reflects off of the knotty cedar ceiling, and the tiered iron chandelier likewise glows through the Mondrian-inspired windows.
Carol plans to spend about six weeks each summer at the A-frame, and it’s a weekend escape for Scott. When it’s warm outside, they often throw open the double doors and enjoy the intoxicating smell of cedar and pine drifting in with the breeze. “You have this curious sense of being outside,” Carol says. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”