Spotlight on Lake Tahoe

Expert Q&A's from this high country destination

Photo courtesy of Edgewood Tahoe

When it comes to places at the vanguard of high-country home design, your first thought might not be of Tahoe—especially if you haven’t visited in a while. But over the years, this storied spot has quietly become a destination for design aficionados, who come from all over the world not just to enjoy the area’s natural treasures, but also to experience its luxurious resorts and—for those seeking a more permanent respite—to enlist the talents of a growing community of talented professionals who are devoting their careers to creating Tahoe’s spectacular mountain homes.

Here, we’ll introduce you to several of those architects, interior designers, and builders—some longtime locals, some transplants drawn to Tahoe’s charms—whose varied backgrounds and aesthetic influences are merging to create a forward-thinking new Tahoe style. Browse their work and you’ll notice timeless designs that honor the area’s natural beauty and rich history, as well as cutting-edge spaces born of 21st-century technologies and trends. You’ll also discover an award-winning resort on the lake’s southern shore, where you can experience some of the region’s most awe-inspiring architecture firsthand, plus all the nostalgic fun you’d expect from a summer getaway on the lake.

Has Tahoe design been flying under your radar? Allow us to bring it to the forefront of your imagination.

In the Vanguard

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Meet architect Todd Gordon Mather, whose boutique Tahoe City firm is making a major impact on the regional design scene with smart, innovative spaces that reflect a deep understanding of how today’s homeowners want to experience life in the high country.

You recently won the 2019 Best New Residential Construction award from the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe. Please tell us about your innovative design.

“Phoenix Rising” is a soaring A-frame home on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. It features thoughtfully detailed design solutions to five inherent and TGMA-identified problems with this particular home typology. We designed it with our client in mind—even incorporating a bar code for his favorite ski area into a 40-foot-tall roof pattern that those traveling south down the west shore of Lake Tahoe can see.

What tools do you employ to help clients “see” such unique designs before they’re built?

Thanks to our in-house, fully immersive virtual reality studio, our clients are able to walk around and through their homes at full scale, experiencing the size and feel of each space as we’re designing the home, and even taking in the views through the windows.

Tell us about a project on the boards that you’re especially excited about this year.

We’re currently working on seven lakefront homes, each with its own unique set of goals and challenges. The homesites range from sandy beaches to rolling bluffs to flat lots on FEMA floodplains to 50-percent slopes dumping right into the rocky shoreline.

Todd Mather, principal
530-414-4662 |
Tahoe City


On Trend in Tahoe


We asked Stephen Silveira, owner of Tahoe City interior design studio and home-goods showroom Alpine Home Furnishings, to share the design trends on his radar right now. Here, his top picks for homeowners with an eye for one-of-a-kind, globally sourced accessories and furnishings.

What design trends are you featuring in your showroom and interior design projects this year?

Organic Modern. Exotic burled woods are being used in creative ways, as you’ll see in our tables made from tree stumps that are sliced, then applied over anodized-metal bases to create a unique “draped” effect.

Leather and suede with lacing details. We are fortunate to work with vendors who are true artisans when it comes to crafting customizable upholstery details, including intricate lacing. Mix these accents with elements of shearling or Mongolian lamb for a rich, layered, and inviting mountain home.

Are there design elements you’re gravitating toward for summer?

Reclaimed rustic oak is a great starting point for many traditional and mountain-modern homes; to reinvigorate that look, we like to layer in polychrome painted chests that look like they might have come from a historic hacienda or a market in Fez. We also love to pick one patterned woven textile and let it star on large master bedroom pillows or a living room sectional. For sheer comfort, nothing beats chairs covered in practical and sumptuous shearling upholstery. And while we love real sueded leather for sofas and sectionals, a new performance fabric of microfiber bonded over inexpensive leather offers the look of real suede but with cleanability.

Stephen Silveira, owner and designer
530-564-0971 |
Tahoe City


Collaborative Construction


Custom-home builder Joe Lamperti shares how his firm’s team approach allows them to construct even the most challenging designs that span the style spectrum, from mountain-modern to traditional Tahoe and every variation in between.

Your firm’s approach requires collaboration among your team members, architects, and homeowners. Why is a joint effort important to you?

We believe that alignment between the architect and builder is critical to providing our clients with an exceptional construction experience, and that constant communication with our clients is the key to providing excellent design while meeting budget expectations.

How do you help homeowners feel involved, even from afar?

We employ multiple methods of communication to keep clients involved and comfortable throughout the construction process. At a minimum, we provide a weekly progress update that includes photos of the work completed and a report of completed tasks, as well as a summary of next steps. In addition, we are always available for an onsite meeting or even a simple phone conversation.

A common misconception is that a builder’s job ends when construction is complete. Tell us about the post-construction services you offer.

There is no one who understands a home better than the person who built it, which is why we remain involved with the maintenance and servicing of our homes long after the initial construction has been completed. Many of our homes have had multiple owners over the years, and we feel fortunate to frequently participate in the alterations that help meet new owners’ needs.

Joe Lamperti, president
530-550-1505 |


The Art of Architecture


For more than 30 years, architect Dennis E. Zirbel has been creating residential and commercial designs that blend seamlessly with their mountain surroundings. Here, he and interior designer Natalie Zirbel tell us how their full-service firm is helping to define the Tahoe aesthetic—with styles ranging from traditional to rustic contemporary to mountain modern.

What’s your secret to uniting buildings with their surroundings?

We are inspired by design from all over the world, and we are constantly analyzing structures to learn what makes them successfully relate to their sites. We begin each project by spending time on the site to understand what it has to offer in terms of concepts, shelter, form, color, and texture, and to gather natural elements that inspire finish materials. We keep these materials as indigenous as possible, often incorporating stone harvested from a site to help integrate a building with its surroundings.

How do your clients benefit from having one firm design their architecture and interiors?

A structure’s architecture and interiors are intrinsically connected, and when we oversee the full scope of a project, our clients enjoy the most successful and harmonious outcomes. Working with a full-service firm like ours also makes the remote experience more cohesive and streamlined for clients building second homes.

Tell us about the artisans who bring your artful designs to life.

The true essence of a home is found in the details, and we strive to create unique details to complement the style and feel our clients are after. We work with numerous talented craftspeople, among them local ironworkers to develop custom detailing and carpenters to achieve impeccable woodwork.

Dennis E. Zirbel, principal
Natalie Zirbel, interior designer
530-582-8979 |


The Lake Escape

Captured On 09,14, 2017 By Brian Walker / Brian Walker Photography

Captured on 09,14, 2017 by Brian Walker / Brian Walker Photography

After earning Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Award in 2018, Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ Hotel of the Year designation in 2019, and four stars from Forbes Travel Guide in 2020, Edgewood Tahoe Resort™ has cemented its reputation as a premier luxury destination. Here, we learn what has everyone buzzing about Tahoe’s idyllic south-shore getaway.

Edgewood Tahoe has earned numerous industry accolades since opening in 2017. What sets this resort apart?

The lodge is a marvel of architectural achievement that celebrates our reverence for the environment and dedication to hospitality with awe-inspiring, mountain-modern guest rooms and common spaces accented with surprising textures and reclaimed materials, and a spa with an ever-expanding range of exclusive wellness offerings. But what truly elevates the guest experience is our staff, who are known for anticipating needs, exceeding expectations, and engaging in meaningful communication at every opportunity.

Describe a perfect summer day at the resort.

A perfect day would begin with a delicious, vitamin-rich specialty juice at the Après-Sleep Cart in the Great Room, followed by a session of Mindful Morning Mountain Yoga. To soothe sore muscles, a splash and soak in our heated lakefront pool and hot tub would be in order before an alfresco lunch on the Bistro’s outdoor patio. Up next: An afternoon of blissful relaxation at the spa, followed by a dinner of succulent, pinecone-smoked elk loin at Edgewood Restaurant, which offers picture- perfect views of the lake. And finally, there’s no better way to end an Edgewood day than by savoring a nostalgic dessert of build-your-own s’mores at one of the resort’s cozy outdoor firepits.

833-490-5729 |
Stateline, NV


The Viewfinders


Truckee-based boutique architecture firm Marsden Architects uses a combination of time-tested techniques and high-tech tools—from 3-D modeling to virtual reality—to bring clients’ high-country dream homes to life. Here, principal Ryan Marsden tells us about the beautiful results.

Clearly, your designs aren’t bound by one particular style, but are there common themes that unite your work?

The common theme is that our work is not about our aesthetic; it’s about our clients’ desires, which we interpret into one-of-a-kind designs. Another common thread is our focus on site response. If there is a particular view that a great room needs to nail, then the home will take shape around that. Oh, and a lot of glass! That’s a pretty common theme, too.

What’s next for you this year?

We’re excited to be working on a custom home at the Greenbrier Sporting Club in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. It’s a unique opportunity to pursue mountain architecture beyond the West.

Ryan Marsden, President and Principal Architect
530-378-3211 |


As seen in the May/June 2020 issue

Categories: Spotlight on Design