Sierra Surprise

A San Francisco designer brings urban sophistication, wit and imagination to a family retreat at Lake Tahoe

The thing about decorating a Lake Tahoe Getaway is that you’re pretty much indebted to the dramatic High Sierra terrain, and therefore obligated to pay homage to its grandeur in your design. But if you aren’t careful, all that timber and leather and plaid—the de rigueur riggings of mountain living—can start to feel just a little tired, despite their inherent “warmth.” Chances are good, after all, that your neighbors have adopted the same aesthetic. How, then, can you infuse some modernity and imagination into such an archetypal style?

If you’re interior designer Tineke Triggs, who recently created a High Sierra escape near Homewood Mountain Resort on the west shore of Lake Tahoe for a young family of four, you do the following: 1) Scour the property for relics of ski seasons past for possible design fodder; 2) freshen up quintessential embellishments of mountain décor with wittier versions; 3) bring in unexpected texture to liven up the neutral palette that rustic environments demand; and 4) accomplish all of the above while maintaining a sense of authenticity. 

“There’s a thread of unpredictability in this house that I love,” says Triggs, principal of San Francisco-based Artistic Designs for Living. “At the same time, you still have that not-so-precious, curl-up-on-the-couch comfort and coziness that mountain cabins are known for.”

As you might expect, timber is well represented in the 4,000-square-foot house, imparting its warmth and rusticity in nearly every space. But even this traditional material reveals itself in unorthodox ways: In the master bathroom, for example, the ceramic floor tiles, arranged in a classic herringbone pattern, realistically mimic wood grain. And reclaimed barnwood isn’t used on the floors, but overhead—a trick Triggs used to draw attention to, not away from, the low ceilings in some parts of the house. “When there was nothing I could do to make them taller, I opted to make them interesting,” she says.

As a counterpoint to the rustic surroundings, Triggs found plenty of opportunities to urbanize the design with the addition of metal details. The metal frame of an old ski patrol toboggan was reimagined as a chandelier for the dining room. The kitchen’s dramatic custom range hood is made by the same artisan who crafted the majestic hearth in the living room; both are essentially artistic sculptures of cold-pressed steel. “They’ve got that Gold Rush-era, coal-powered railroad vibe,” says the designer, who notes that the hood’s mammoth scale vies for attention with the tall aspen trees framed by the kitchen’s double-height windows. “I wish I could take credit for the beautiful trees,” Triggs adds. “I really appreciate the depth they give the space.” 

While California poppy-inspired orange-red pillows, throw blankets and artwork enliven the neutral color palette, Triggs also relied on texture to provide interest. The walls of the powder room, for example, appear to be covered in black horsehair, but it’s really vinyl wallpaper. Old minnow baskets lined with crisp linen were repurposed for light fixtures in the kitchen. And two club chairs in the living room are upholstered in sumptuous, oh-so-fluffy shearling. “Sinking into them feels like I’m slipping into a pair of warm Ugg boots,” Triggs says.

With snug seats in mind, Triggs also installed a window bench wherever she could, from the dining room to the master bathroom. “One of the husband’s true pleasures in life is finding a sunny place to sit and watch the world go by,” the designer says. “I swear he was a cat in a previous life.” 

While the surprising design elements give this residence its personality, it’s the designer’s attention to coziness that provides its soul. After all, comfort is often directly proportional to that unmistakable feeling of home. 

Lighten Up!

Rustic rooms can sometimes feel a bit heavy. Interior designer Tineke Triggs gives us her tips on how to lighten the mood.

Swapping out heavy fur and velvet throw pillows and blankets for lighter fabrics is an easy and inexpensive way of changing the look and feel of a room.

Warm autumnal colors seem like a given for a mountain home, but don’t be afraid to go bolder by incorporating hints of saturated color.

Heavy window treatments made from velvets and mohair might not be the best match for a rustic room. Try Roman shades or even a lightweight plaid—they can feel traditional without being stuffy. 

Art can soften or energize the mood of a room. Work with an art consultant. It can save you time and money.

Rustic environments often have rich wood flooring. Be expressive by choosing rugs with a variety of colors and textures. For example, don’t be afraid to mix a Moroccan rug with a hair-on-hide covering. 

Choosing a few whimsical statement pieces, like the old ski-patrol-toboggan-turned-chandelier suspended over the dining table, is much more interesting than an off-the-showroom-floor light fixture.

ARCHITECTURE Ron Diller, INTERIOR DESIGN Tineke Triggs, Artistic Designs for Living, San Francisco, CA, CONSTRUCTION Fellner Construction, 530-546-7899, CUSTOM LIGHTING Jim Misner Designs, San Francisco, CA, 415-928-0400, ARTWORK ENTRY Andrej Karwacki, Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts, Mill Valley, CA, 415-577-8007, LIVING ROOM "Engine," by Blair Bradshaw, Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts, Mill Valley, CA, 415-577-8007, Metal Pieces, Linda Raynsford, Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts, Mill Valley, CA, 415-577-8007, GAME ROOM "Star," by Blair Bradshaw, Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts, Mill Valley, CA, 415-577-8007,   BEDROOM Benjamin Anderson, Stephanie Breitbard Fine Arts, Mill Valley, CA, 415-577-8007, KITCHEN BARSTOOLS Hinkle Swivel in wood and iron, Arteriors, CHANDELIER Custom by Jim Misner Designs, San Francisco, CA, 415-928-0400, HOOD Custom in cold-pressed steel, Hunter Metal, COUNTER TOPS Limestone in Jerusalem Grey, IRG, BACKSPLASH "Hex" Bedford Collection in Zinc Matte, Country Floors PAINT Cabinets in "Iron Mountain," Wall in "Revere Pewter," Benjamin Moore, DINING ROOM CHAIRS Banyan Side Chairs in Craftsmen's Leather, Nichols and Stone, TABLE Custom in metal, Big Daddy WINDOW SEAT FABRIC Duralee, CUSTOM PILLOWS "A," in brown stripe, Manuel Canovas,; "Carpet" in pumpkin, Verrain, Velvet in orange, Pollack, Trim in blue sky, Kravet, CHANDELIER Custom, Jim Misner Designs, San Francisco, CA, 415-928-0400, PAINT "Revere Pewter," Benjamin Moore, GAME ROOM CHAIRS Rockwell Bistro Dining Chairs in dark red WALL COVERING "Aspen" in silver birch, Cowtan & Tout, LIVING ROOM SOFA Custom sofa in Linen, Kravet OTTOMANS Custom in Genius Hershko by Joseph Nobel CHAIRS Lee Chairs in leather shearling dusty beige with Summit Fennel RUG Custom Nadia Wool Rug, California Carpets,   

Categories: Contemporary Homes