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Design, detail and craftsmanship take top billing at this Tahoe retreat.
"We were flying back and forth to the East Coast to see our daughter. A lot,” Bill Parker says about the way he and his wife, Susan, began piecing together ideas for the home they built on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. The couple lives in Land Park and frequently flew out of Sacramento, changing planes or stopping over in, say, Denver or Boston, where they’d buy every design magazine they could get their hands on and tear out pages of things they liked. They’d stash those pages away and at the next airport buy more magazines. The images they saw in Denver made a big impression. “We started thinking, ‘Wow, we really like this contemporary look,’” Bill remembers. And they had the stacks of torn-out pages to prove it. While the exterior of the Parkers’ main Tahoe home (there’s also a guesthouse and boathouse) has all the hand-hewn elements you’d dream about in a mountain retreat, it’s a lighter, brighter take on the traditional Tahoe look. Inside, the style bends even more significantly toward clean lines and motifs and presents a welcome balance of rough and smooth textures: granite and slab glass, iron and walnut, cedar and steel. The Parkers’ Land Park home is traditional in style, so the swerve they took toward modern materials and finishes in Tahoe wasn’t exactly predictable, although the quality of craftsmanship that went into all three structures on the sloping lakefront site with the spectacular lake views certainly was. Here’s why: Bill Parker is president of Parker Development Company in El Dorado Hills, well known for developing the award-winning master-planned communities: Serrano in El Dorado Hills, The Parkway in Folsom and Greenhaven in the Pocket. So here’s the interesting part: Bill and Susan had never built a home of their own. Remodeled their 70-year-old Land Park home? Yes. Built from the ground up? No. This was their first crack at it. Which explains the search through magazines. What they did know was this: They’d work the project like any other at Parker Development. “What happened on this job is what we’ve done on every job and every project for 30 years,” Bill says. “There’s a team: four or five people for every decision we’d make.” Meetings were scheduled like clockwork and included everyone needed to weigh in on design, construction or installation: the builder, home designer, interior designer, cabinetmaker, lighting fabricator, masons, carpenters, landscape contractors. “We’d talk to everybody,” Bill says. The project lasted seven years, and it shows. “On a lot of things in this house,” Bill says, “where we started, we didn’t end up.”
Interior designers: Susan Parker and Linda Kleeman. Kleeman is principal at Kleeman & Associates, Sacramento. “We wanted to diverge from Tahoe sameness,” Kleeman says about the main home’s interior. “What I tried to do was add a lot of texture so we’d have a contemporary look that still came back to the earth. So in the dining room, where we have a slick black glass table, we also have upholstery on the chairs that has little bitty leaves. And we have lots of leather. Some of it is glazed and metallic, but not brown leather, like you’d expect.”
A specific request from the Parkers: “No bears or mooses,” Kleeman says.
Principal house designer: Scott Gillespie, Sandbox Studio Design + Engineering, Tahoe City, with work by Tim Williams and Mylo Granadoz. “I think the architectural style still falls into the traditional Tahoe realm,” Gillespie says. “But what we tried to do is create a very strong connection to the outdoors and bring in abundant natural light. Traditional Tahoe (style) can be very dark. I’d call this style California Alpine. It’s not stuck in a traditional genre.”
Heavy lifting: Loverde Builders, Tahoe City; stonework by Johansen Masonry, Truckee; cabinetry by Fred Quinterno, Nevada City
Design inspiration: Views of the lake and surrounding forest
Interior materials and motifs: Floors of walnut and stone, broad-beamed ceilings with meticulously mitered joinery. Oversized upholstered and leather furniture pieces, handcrafted ebony and zebrawood cabinetry, tables of metal, slab glass and wood, custom lighting, massive granite fireplace and a kitchen perfectly outfitted for someone who loves to cook: Susan.
Gatherings: When the Parkers’ two daughters and four grandchildren convene at the lake during the summer, it’s a full house, Susan says. Last year, when daughter Lauren arrived with a crowd of friends, they fired up the barbecue for a seafood feast one day and a gourmet pizza party that same weekend. “We put paper runners down the center of the table and lined up the pizzas . . . we made about eight . . . Now, that was one of the most fun parties we’ve had.”