Martis Camp

When electrical engineer turned serial entrepreneur Massy Medhipour wanted to create a multi-generational family retreat within the luxury Martis Camp private community in Lake Tahoe, California, she enlisted legendary architect Peter Q. Bohlin to help realize her vision.

Bohlin, who describes himself as "a modernist by training but a humanist by practice" is the founding principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a practice known for emphasizing the relationship between the built structure and surrounding environment. Their work is guided by investigating the nature of people and how they interact with the natural world. Medhipour wanted the home to work in concert with the environment as one seamless entity, as if part of the landscape itself. As well as Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Medhipour brought in Wisemen Group Interior Design to collaborate on the interiors. Wisemen Group specialize in projects that reflect attention to local history and indigenous motifs, as well as existing architectural features and site requirements. With several other Martis Camp properties in their design portfolio, WGID were familiar with the ecological attributes of the region and were able to organically incorporate them throughout the interiors.

The result of this iterative collaboration between client, architect, and interior designer is a stunning three-level, 1100 m² retreat on a 2,200 acre parcel that follows the ridgeline of a secluded, west-facing bowl in the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains.

The residence offers panoramic views of the Pacific Crest Trail that the architect's design prioritized via extensive use of floor to ceiling glass wall/windows along with careful site orientation. The mountain getaway is delineated into three distinct intimate spaces for Medhipour and for each of her two grown children and their families, along with a central communal living area for socializing, relaxing, and making memories. The common area begins with a glass-enclosed entry pavilion leading into a skylight covered stairwell uniting the three levels.

Just off the entryway is the vast 'great room' and attendant living and dining spaces. With dramatic views and 7 meter high ceilings, the great room forms the heart of the home. Adjoining outdoor decks and a large lanai also function as common spaces, as does a semi-subterranean level which caters to the diversity of age ranges within the family by offering a wine room, games room, and golf-simulator.

Family matriarch Medhipour has a private suite perched above the great room, and her children and grandchildren occupy the two wings to the east and south. The property faces west, with its rear facing the neighbouring properties along the evergreen-lined east access road, maximizing privacy and offering a sense of seclusion whilst still being functionally integrated into the micro community. The rear of the home is screened by a facade of overlapping cedar elements, some solid and some slatted, creating interplays of light and shadow in relationship with the surrounding trees and snowfall and also in relationship with the interior spaces.

The facades are stained grey, black, or red, corresponding with the three areas of the home's internal layout.

Medhipour's son's family wing comprises the southern volume of the home and is sheathed in grey siding. Her daughter's family wing lies at the north end and is sheathed in grey, and the large central common area is defined by a double-sided steel-frame structure of crimson-stained cedar slats. This striking pop of colour amidst the earth toned hues of the rest of the property and its surrounding mountainscape is evocative of a vibrant burst of energy rising from the land to infuse the home with natural and organic vitality. The slatted wall extends from the snow-covered ridgeway and into the house itself, morphing into a double sided feature wall in the entry hallway and representing the beating red heart of the great room, then being woven in to create one side of the central three-story stairwell, the main wayfinding artery of the home. The wall leads to a delicate bridge across the entry and into Medhipour's copper-clad master bedroom suite. The west facade is almost entirely glass, including many floor to ceiling windows. The use of glass was done not only to maximize views and create unexpected sightlines at different angles, but also to collapse the barriers between outside and inside. The designers wanted the views and spaces to be unexpected, for the residence as a whole to resemble 'unfolded origami'. To create this seamless feel, the design team enlisted aluminium specialists Reynaers Aluminium.

Traditional panes for window area sizes as large as those required for the 7-meter-high great room would need to be extremely thick to accommodate lode bearing standard and to offer appropriate insulation (particularly for a mountain region which experiences significant fluctuations in temperature between snowy winters and sun-drenched summers. Functionality traditionally compromises aesthetics when it comes to the technical aspects of window fittings. In addition, large window areas typically require several joint clamps or beams, disrupting the panoramic feeling of their viewscapes.

Reynaers Aluminium have developed unique solutions for glass installation with their proprietary sliding door and window systems which facilitate ultra-slim profiles to create clean lines, sleek design, and maximum uninterrupted viewport width. These solutions use durable materials to solve architectural challenges without compromising on appearance, practicality, or performance metrics. The residence features extensive wall to ceiling windows as well as sliding doors to outdoor terraces and patios which allows views to be brought in without bringing in adverse weather elements, keeping occupants cool in summer and warm in winter through superior comfort metrics.

As the core gathering space, the great room features a kitchen island that can seat twelve and a dining area that accommodates twenty, all framed against sweeping valley views as if dining al fresco. The theme of fusion with nature is extended into the home through the extensive use of natural materials throughout the project, such as slate and pine-board flooring, Douglas-fir ceiling and wall panels, and custom Douglas-fir cabinetry. In addition to the crimson feature wall, other internal pops of colour include a deep blue steel column appearing to hold up a dropped ceiling (actually the corner bedroom of Medhipour's upstairs suite) clad in verdigris copper panels. The verdigris picks up the many shades of green expressed in the foliage outside and the blue column evokes the blue of the evening sky dotted with stars as well as the waters of nearby Lake Tahoe. The colour is also used on some bathroom walls. The red motif from the feature wall is picked up in subtle threads throughout the decor, such as red-hued rails in the children’s bunkhouse beds, splashes of colour on throw rugs, and tableware accents. For the most part though, the interior colour palette matches that offered by the landscape, bringing the outdoors into the home itself as the large glass walls dissolve boundaries between outdoor and indoor, between built structure and geographic structure. Metal and lava stone nesting tables and neutral toned custom furniture adorn the house. A 16-hide cowhide rug sits at the foot of the great room’s fireplace, itself enclosed in tawny tinted board-formed concrete. Upstairs, Mehdipour’s luxurious master suite includes sleeping and living quarters, a totally glass-enclosed bathroom perched high atop the ridge, and an adjoining roof deck complete with hot tub and fire pit. A custom leather bedhead, throw blankets and cosy armchairs are upholstered in soft green shades aligning with the verdigris panel cladding soffits which frame the single-pane bedroom window wall that give the feeling of living amongst the treetops. This is Medhipour's favourite design element. In her words: "You look at this and it is just magic - the master bedroom has an entire wall of glass. The frame is so elegant and thin that it just disappears…"

“You look at this and it is just magic - the master bedroom has an entire wall of glass. The frame is so elegant and thin that it just disappears”

The home succeeds in being both an intimate retreat and part of a bustling, living ecosystem; being both strikingly modern and also elegantly rustic; and in functioning as both a contemporary residence with the latest in comfort, safety, and lifestyle amenities that comprise the different sections' multigenerational programmes whilst being fundamentally anchored to ancient geographic and ecological patterns, ebbs, and flows, and dissolving distinctions between the natural and built environment.