A Home You Can Ski Right Into

A Home You Can Ski Right Into

When Trent Tucker’s friend suggested he build a vacation house in the private community of Martis Camp, near Truckee, Calif., just north of Lake Tahoe, Mr. Tucker initially laughed it off.

He was busy in Tulsa, Okla., running Tucker Tennis Academy, a training facility for young players that he founded in 2001.

“I was like, ‘Man, that’s so far away, and I don’t even know Lake Tahoe,’” said Mr. Tucker, 45, who previously played tennis professionally. “I was always joking with him and saying, ‘You’re crazy.’”

Mr. Tucker was also aware that Martis Camp was particularly popular with skiers, thanks to a ski lift that delivers residents up the back of the Northstar California resort, yet he and his fiancée — now his wife, Chelsea Tucker, 34 — had tried skiing only a couple of times.

But when he finally visited Martis Camp, he was awe-struck by the area’s rugged natural beauty and contemporary architecture, as well as its four-season appeal. Suddenly his friend’s idea didn’t seem so crazy.

“After visiting a handful of times, I realized this place is really special,” he said.

In 2013, he paid about $1.1 million for a steeply sloped, 1.4-acre lot of boulders and Jeffrey pine and white fir trees, a few hundred yards from the Martis Camp ski lift. Then, in search of an architect, he visited Greg Faulkner, of Faulkner Architects.

“I was this crazy guy who didn’t know anything about architecture, who walked in with a thousand torn-out magazine photos and Pinterest pictures,” Mr. Tucker said. “I said, ‘Greg, I’m going to be like the tennis client I wish I had,’” meaning that he planned to be actively engaged in the design process and learn everything he could, even as he gave Mr. Faulkner complete creative control.

The Tuckers also decided to have their wedding in Martis Camp in September 2014, and began making regular visits, often with Ms. Tucker’s parents, to vacation and attend design meetings. Mr. Faulkner set about designing a 7,833-square-foot house that appears to grow out of the hillside — beginning from a slope that runs beside the Tuckers’ property for skiers returning home from Northstar — as a low-slung composition of thick concrete walls and plate-steel roofs.

“The house is organized along a narrow slot of access that mirrors that ski run and connects independently developed zones within the house: a public realm, a bedroom zone for guests and a master zone above,” Mr. Faulkner said.

The design also allows the Tuckers to ski directly into and out of the home.

The primary living space welcomes skiers with a large, concrete-walled outdoor terrace that flows into a tall living room through 17-foot, floor-to-ceiling, motorized sliding-glass doors. That room extends to an expansive, open kitchen, which ends with more glass sliders opening to another covered terrace.

On the opposite side of a long central staircase is a sleeping wing with three bedrooms. The master suite is upstairs, and the garage and entrance from the street are on the lower level.

The muscular design hunkers down in the earth to protect the structure from heavy snow loads, falling branches and forest fires, while insulating it from the cold. In warmer months, the many glass sliders open up for seamless indoor-outdoor living and cooling breezes.

To put the emphasis on the views outside, the material palette is deliberately minimal: exposed concrete, flamed basalt floors meant to reflect the area’s volcanic geology and reclaimed walnut paneling.

At Mr. Faulkner’s suggestion, the Tuckers hired Claudia Kappl-Joy, of CLL Concept Lighting Lab, to design the lighting and interiors. She created a lighting scheme meant to balance daylight with electrical lighting in changing conditions, from gray winter mornings to brilliant summer afternoons.

Ms. Kappl-Joy also planned areas of light and dark to break the open floor plan into intimate gathering spaces. “Because the ceilings are so high and the spaces are so continuous, we created zones of lighting that allow you to arrive to different places as destinations,” she said.

For the furniture, Ms. Kappl-Joy drew inspiration from the changing colors of the surrounding trees and plants. “The pine trees are lush and green in the spring and summer, but then the brown needles falling to the ground become a big aspect in the late summer and fall, before the first snowfall,” she said, as some shrubs turn yellow. “We tried to bring those natural colors into the interiors.”

After about 18 months of design, Rickenbach Development and Construction began building in November 2014. With weather-related delays, the project took four and a half years to complete, at a cost of about $10 million.

As construction progressed, the Tuckers had two children — Tatum, now 4, and Trace, now almost 1 — which required a few design tweaks.

“We added a lot of storage in the last six months of the build,” Mr. Tucker said. “And we added a little room in the basement we call the craft room.”

Since the construction was completed last April, the Tuckers have found it difficult to be away.

“It’s much cooler than our house in Tulsa,” Ms. Tucker said. “It’s tough knowing it’s out there, when we’re in Tulsa most of the time. But maybe that won’t always be the case.”

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