Homes reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright are sprouting up around Tahoe and redefining the traditional lodge aesthetic that has long defined mountain homes. With flat roofs, big walls of windows, and unadorned interior finishes, many of these new designs look more like a California coastal home than a traditional Tahoe cabin.
But it’s a style that’s rapidly finding its place in the Tahoe market, as recent sales trends confirm.
With just a few exceptions, many of the homes selling for more than $1 million this year are beautiful examples of a contemporary aesthetic that appeals to today’s buyers. Topping the charts in new construction is a contemporary design in Martis Camp with interior white finishes that highlight the natural grain of its wood floors and barn wood accents. That home sold for $5.3 million.
Martis Camp and Northstar have been two communities to embrace the “mountain modern” aesthetic before it became mainstream, and it’s no surprise to see that the majority of the top-dollar recent sales have been homes that embody that design. All 13 new homes sold in the Martis Valley this past year have featured the gray-toned understated interiors that appeal to today’s buyers.
Even new homes with traditional pitched roof, cabin-style designs are moving toward the more austere interiors that seem to be fetching top dollar in Tahoe right now.
“Just like the fashion industry, home design is constantly evolving. Currently, we see buyers gravitating towards a more clean, modern aesthetic,” said Kelly Creedon, a design consultant and partner with her husband, Chris, specializing in custom homes. “There are still buyers who come to Tahoe looking for that more ‘traditional’ mountain home that the area is known for, but as a spec builder, we are constantly studying market trends and have found that the homes that sell most quickly and for highest dollar per square foot, more often than not, are of the mountain modern aesthetic.”
The trend has not gone unnoticed by builders, even traditional lodge-style contractors like Troy Gavin, whose signature work includes homes with whole tree trunks integrated as structural supports for Craftsman-style homes that once defined the Tahoe style.
“I do a lot of work in Martis, and the contemporary designs being built there are really setting the standard,” Gavin said. “It’s what’s selling.”
Unadorned interiors look a lot easier to build than gabled roofs with rafters and massive integrated log accents, but in many ways it’s not only harder to achieve that simplicity; it’s also more expensive. That was a difficult decision for Gavin on his new project, a custom home in Gray’s Crossing off Highway 89.
Truckee architect Keith Kelley & Stone offered up a flat-roof design that welcomed visitors through the glass front door right onto the outdoor patio. Relying on success with the designs of past years, the plan was to outfit the home with knotty alder cabinets, granite kitchen counters, and natural stone tiles — all the elements that had created top selling homes in the past.
In consultation with Creedon for his interior design, Gavin decided to take a risk and go with the more costly and modern elements like waterfall quartz counters in the kitchen, elaborate tile backsplashes, and more contemporary lighting and fixtures. It cost more, but he said “the house just lent itself to it,” and he hopes the upgrades will pay off in the long run.Gray’s Crossing has been quick to embrace the contemporary trend, and the results have been very positive for this community that’s clawed its way back from the recessionary times. As of late April, 29 new homes have sold in Gray’s with a median sales price of $1.4 million. More than half of those sales have been brand new homes, all of which embody some variation of the mountain modern finishes.