Before: Pure Cowboy | After: Urbane Contemporary

This Truckee vacation home is transformed to a serene and elegant retreat
Tahoe Kit

Designer Richard Felix-Ashman painted the cabinets in a soft white and introduced a raw wood ceiling along with handmade lighting by Urban Electric Co. Black counters and backsplash are of brushed Belgian Petit Granit. | Photography by Aaron Leitz

When the New York- and San Francisco-based homeowners first saw the Truckee, California, house that would become their vacation home, they were charmed by the location and the architecture—and less so by the True Grit, Western-themed interior décor (the home was on the market fully furnished).

Instead, they wanted handsome, visually calm interiors—livable and elegant, and equally appealing in winter and summer.

Tahoe Hall

A long light-filled hallway connects the quiet, private master wing with the living room.

“By the time they invited me out to see the home, they’d already purchased it and wanted my help to transform the interiors from ‘pure cowboy’ to something more contemporary that complemented the mountain landscape outside,” says Richard Felix-Ashman, principal at San Francisco-based Richard Felix-Ashman Design.

The homeowners hired Felix-Ashman, with whom they had worked on their San Francisco home. Then, they stepped out of his way. They said: “When homeowners get too involved, you can end up with a ‘Frankenstein’ project. We trust Richard. … Why interfere?”

Tahoe Bed Fire

“We were fortunate that the master bedroom had a dramatic stone fireplace and a warm wood ceiling,” says designer Richard Felix-Ashton. The chandelier is reminiscent of an illuminated pine cone.

Felix-Ashman also admired the architecture of Ward-Young Architecture & Planning. “There was a beautiful flow to the house, a sense of space and openness,” says Felix-Ashman. The 8,000-square-foot home’s shape is reminiscent of a bird in flight. The one-story great room is the bird’s body, with soaring two-story wings on either side—one containing the master suite and the other, guest rooms.

The designer’s first idea was to paint the interiors a beautiful soft white and to refinish the hickory floors in a warm hazelnut tone. “The walls were a tan color, the floors were orange and, overall, the home had a yellowish cast,” he recalls.

Tahoe Livng

Ironwood chandeliers by Avant Garden, the leather-and-velvet sofa and a pair of delicate bronze drinks tables give the living room a smart and handsome look.

His second idea was to completely recast the lighting, replacing the dated halogen lights with new LED technology to add a crisp but still warm color. “Lighting is key in interior design,” Felix-Ashman says. “Good lighting brings an interior alive.” In each space, he considered color rendition, dimmer controls and “layering” of different kinds of light. Two challenges: retrofitting some of the older fixtures, and getting all of the decorative lights specified and fabricated.

Tahoe Family Room

A campfire-like fireplace is the focal point of the family room. Inviting suede-covered chairs provide stylish seating.

Decisions were made quickly and, most of the time, remotely because the owners wanted the project finished in eight months. Painting the walls and updating the lighting had a huge impact but were just the beginning.

Tahoe Bath

In the master bath, a handmade copper tub (imported from France) and a smaller version of the master bedroom’s pine cone-inspired chandelier.

“Relaxing, natural and tranquil is my moniker,” says Felix-Ashman. Because the home is a celebration of metal, stone and wood, he worked within a subdued palette of restful neutrals—a tonality of buffs and creams—to create a timeless backdrop for the homeowners’ lifestyle, whether they are entertaining or just kicking back.

Tahoe Nook

In the breakfast room (adjacent to the kitchen) comfortable and colorful chairs surround the iron-and-oak table by Gregorious Pineo. Soft white paint and the rustic wood ceiling are carried over from the kitchen.

In the kitchen, Felix-Ashman introduced a palette of mixed metals: brass, black steel, stainless steel, copper and iron. “It is unfussy and gives the kitchen a relaxed and welcoming feel,” he says. The raw wood ceiling and black Belgian limestone countertops imbue the urbane space with a touch of rusticity.

Tahoe Dine

McGuire dining chairs in a Holly Hunt leather encircle a custom dining table. The futuristic chandelier (by Michael McEwen) is fluted glass and blackened steel.

The dining table, set within a large bay window, looks out to a serene tree-filled landscape. “We framed the windows in a sheer Belgian linen for privacy but also for unobstructed views of the outdoors,” says Felix-Ashman. He carried the linen curtains through to the great room— anchored by a massive stone fireplace and topped by a soaring wood ceiling. Four ironwood chandeliers create a visually dramatic canopy over the living area.

Tahoe Bed2

The headboard consists of custom-wrapped panels in a chevron-patterned fabric. Rohr lamps are from David Iatesta.

The owners love the results of their sweeping remodel. The room where family and friends enjoy hanging out the most—après ski or après hiking—is the family room, with its oversized chairs and campfire-like fireplace. “It is the perfect spot to slow down, sip a good wine and talk,” say the homeowners, who are charmed by having “a campfire inside the house.”

Tahoe Exterior2

The home nestles naturally into the landscape.

Let There Be Light

Richard Felix-Ashman, principal at San Francisco-based Richard Felix-Ashman Interiors & Architecture, believes lighting is key to interior design. He offers these tips:

When designing with light, THINK LAYERS. Each layer gives a distinct emotional signature to your home. The FIRST LAYER IS THE “BACKGROUND.” It is integrated with the home’s architecture. This layer should be barely noticeable. Ideally, it makes no design statement. Within this category we find downlighting, accent lighting, art lighting and cabinet lighting. The SECOND LAYER IS “EXPRESSIVE.” This layer is beautiful glowing pendants, statement chandeliers and finely crafted wall sconces. It adds texture and materiality to your overall design narrative. The THIRD LAYER IS “PERSONAL.” This includes table lamps, desk lamps and floor lamps. These are within reach when you are sitting or reclining. This layer brings intimacy to a room. Have the color temperature be the same throughout your home. It is important to walk from room to room and for the lighting to be consistent. LEDs are available in a selection of color temperatures and color rendition indices. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin and is simply denoted by the letter K. Look for 2700K. Warmer than this (below 2700K) is in the amber range, cooler (above 2700K) shifts blue. Color rendition (CRI) has a direct effect on color appearance, and a CRI over 90 is ideal.

ARCHITECTURE Ward-Young Architecture & Planning INTERIOR DESIGN Richard Felix-Ashman Design

Categories: Contemporary Homes