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First Annual Outstanding Home Award

tahoe quarterly smith house 2004 living area

The winner of the “best in show” award dazzled the judges with its exquisite craftsmanship, seamless integration of new and recycled materials and, most especially, its “purity of vision.” The panel praised architect Greg Faulkner's attention to every detail as well as his success at integrating the themes of the home from the exterior through every interior space.

Despite the fact that Faulkner's influence is found throughout, the home is a uniquely successful collaboration. “The cold war that sometimes rages between owner, builder and architect never occurred in this project,” says Faulkner. “it was a complete team effort. It was a vision-driven project, and you can't let the schedule or budget drive a project like this. The owner realized that, and builder Mike Yankin was willing to do it and that's what made it fun to work on this house.”

One aspect of the Northstar home seemed to make it particularly representative of Tahoe life. Its playfulness, or sense of “whimsy,” as one judge characterized it. Fun, creative ideas are brought to life throughout the home. Take for instance, the slide that leads from the entry level to the lower game room. It was the idea of the owner's mother, but Faulkner successfully integrated it into the home by using a hollowed-out, old-growth redwood trunk that had long laid a the bottom of a river.

“It's quite the scene when the kids are going down the slide and three or four couples are in the game room,” says Faulkner.

Reclaimed redwood, used in both the exterior and interior of the home, creates much of its character. Most of the wood came from a lumber mill in Fort Bragg, California, that was dismantled in the 1990s. The  material has added significance for the homeowner because his great-uncle helped design and build the mill 100 years ago.

tahoe quarterly smith house 2004 - reclaimed redwood clapboard siding
Reclaimed redwood clapboard siding blends into the trees and sets the tone for a marvelous mix of new and recycled materials found inside.

Due in large part to the redwood clapboard siding used on the exterior, the home appears to have sat on its lot for a hundred years. Its tight grain pattern and markings from old, bolted connections add to the illusion that the structure is an old western homestead.

Faulkner squeezed the structure onto a one-third acre lot in between the other homes. He hid much of the 5,700 square feet from the street to keep the structure in scale with the other neighborhood buildings.

“We wanted to save those century-old sugar pine trees in the front,” he says, “so we also had to push the home farther back.”

Approaching the house, it is the details of craftsmanship that impress themselves upon a visitor. The front door is an impressive slab of reclaimed redwood complete with a speakeasy window and a window frame hand forged by blacksmith Steve Lopes of Port Townsend, Washington.

The combination of rich, old-wood grains and custom metal artistry is one that is echoed in every corner of the home. Faulkner designed most of the furniture and light fixtures in the Arts and Crafts style, helping to create an Old Tahoe ambiance. Copper accents adorn the roof with trim created from old electrical panels. Interior doors feature thick metal kick plates wedded to mahogany, mesquite and walnut.

Plenty of loving touches decorate the home's great room. A Faulkner-designed, Lopes-forged, mica, steel and copper chandelier bathes the room in a warm glow. Carpenters used square head fasteners rather than circular nails. Copper tiles, hand-forged by Lopes, adorn the two walls on either side of the room's sliding doors, whose windows reveal a view of Castle Peak. The doors slide into hidden slots in the walls to create an integrated, indoor/outdoor entertaining space.

Next to the great room sits the galley style kitchen. Hand-split 36-inch by 16-inch reclaimed redwood sheaths the kitchen bar. The mahogany kitchen cabinets are perched above Faulkner's flooring of choice for the entire home: mesquite.

“Mesquite is a great environmentally conscious wood to use,” he says. “It requires very little water to grow and grows like a weed.”

From the kitchen the owners can descend through a two-story wine cellar on a spiral staircase made of steel and mesquite. Bottles are stacked within reach on racks crafted from reclaimed redwood water tanks. Light filtering through the perforated holes of the steel staircase adds to the magic.

A journey through this imaginative wine cellar ends next to the downstairs bar and game room (also reached by the aforementioned slide or more conventionally, by stairs). The bar is one of the home's most striking custom-made pieces. Its countertop a redwood sinker log hundreds of years old, pulled from the bottom of the Albion River near Mendocino. The wood's edge was left as it was found - curvy and flowing. The room's wainscoting originates from six to eight-foot diameter, tight grained logs pulled from the same riverbed.

“The logs sank because they had too much sap in them.” explains Faulkner. “Back in those days it was easier to just cut down another tree rather than get the log out of the river. California has now stopped the recovery of these logs because it can muck up fish habitats. But some friends of our took these logs out in the 1980's.”

Across from the bar, a Faulkner-designed billiard table, made by Tschirhart's  Custom Billiards of Ontario, Canada, is another testimony to the care poured into this home.

The mesquite-framed table has walnut railings, exposed slate on its sides, square walnut wedge pins, leather pockets and square-cut glass markers on the rail. While adults shoot pool, kids can play hide-and-seek in a room hidden behind a secret door.

Adjacent to the game room is a bunk room and bathroom, featuring one of the several murals created for the home by Truckee artist Pam Krone. These include old napa, fairy-tale themes and even the home owner's Porsche painted on a bathroom wall.

Jaap Romijn of Emeryville, California (father of actress Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), built much of the cabinetry and furniture in the home. For the third-floor master bedroom he created a headboard from a 49-inch slab of old-growth, reclaimed redwood then layered it over a second slab. The headboard matches a fireplace mantel across the room.

Fireplaces are found throughout the home, including two outdoor hearths, one located on a small patio near the front entrance, the other next to the spa and water feature located on the lower level.

Was the Northstar home universally loved by our judging panel? The answer is a qualified 'yes.” One judge labelled the incredible amount of detail found in the home “a bit oppressive ...as magnificent as it is.” Another commented that the home felt “a little dark and masculine.” Yet every member of the panel expressed praise for this “stunning execution of vision.”

“The sense of context is appropriate throughout,” one judge explained. “Everything fits, the consistency in the texture, the consistency in the color and the integration of the exterior, the interior and the landscaping. It's impressive from beginning to end.”

tahoe quarterly smith house 2004 the master beds headboard is created from huge slabs of reclaimed redwood
The headboard is created from huge slabs of reclaimed redwood.