Page D1.2 . 24 January 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Stal Tre Hus


Sherman observes: "The American planning notion is cut down the trees and name the streets after them." He says he abhors the idea of slap-dashing regional kitsch onto "a T-111 vanilla box." Nevertheless, he did have to make concessions to the realities of negotiating long Sierra winters.

Conceding to Cars

The slope of the 70- by 180-foot (21- by 55-meter) lot and the virtual necessity of large vehicles in this region meant that the street face of the house would have to be a 600-square-foot (56-square-meter) garage. "I couldn't avoid that," Sherman says. "However, the idea was to put as much care designing that garage as I did the living room, because that's your first [view] of the house."

Growing up in California, Sherman had seen the effect of the automobile on residential design, in which "we make more space for our cars than our living, dining room, and kitchen put together." He had also learned to loathe the "snout house," in which the primary facade is a garage door.

For the Stal Tre Hus, he concealed the garage with sandblasted glass-and-redwood panels which open electronically. Along one side is a plank walkway to the main entry, reminiscent of a child's treehouse swinging bridge.

California Traditions

Before starting his own firm, Sherman attended architecture school at Arizona State University, where the authority of Frank Lloyd Wright still reigned. He later apprenticed with architect Ray Kappe, a SCI-Arc founder who worked on the Eichler homes by Anshen & Allen.

"Ray Kappe is by far my biggest influence and I think this house definitely shows that," Sherman says. Perhaps not coincidentally, Stal Tre Hus is now a vacation home for a couple whose primary residence is an Eichler house.

Sherman finished the design in 1993, soon after he had relocated to the Tahoe area from Southern California. The original owner and builder, Jon Traegar, of Norwegian Wood Construction, had built as time and money allowed over six years, on speculation. It was a decade before the house was sold to its present owners.

Sherman explains his training and inclination lead him to design from the inside out. "One thing that just galls me to no end is this concept of curb appeal," he says. "People push around plans ... and then they glue on an exterior elevation — oh, what flavor do you want? I call that facadomy... it has nothing to do with the inside space."

Modern on Stilts

In the Stal Tre Hus, the interiors are luxe surfaces within spare design, which informs the exterior's modern lines. Instead of log walls and rock hearths, there are Tasmanian oak floors, 10-foot (3-meter) ceilings on both levels, and poured concrete counters in the kitchen and bath.

The garage and master suite are on the upper, street level, and the kitchen, dining room, and living room are below, along with two more bedrooms. Transoms over the bedroom doors allow light and air to circulate from the heart of the house.

Although the house is not overwhelmingly big at 2,600 square feet (240 square meters), space and light reinforce flow, as does built-in seating along the sides of the central living areas. A freestanding wood stove facing the living room naturally draws people from the kitchen toward the rear, where French doors open onto the deck. Steel also appears indoors, to frame cherry cabinetry and the entry stairs.   >>>

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Ski chalet near Lake Tahoe, Nevada, by JLS Design.
Photo: Edward Lupyak

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Flow through rooms.
Photo: Edward Lupyak

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The kitchen features concrete countertops.
Photo: Edward Lupyak

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Built-in furniture contributes to the house's openness.
Photo: Joel L. Sherman

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Longitudinal section.
Image: JLS Design Extra Large Image

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Railings of steel and glass.
Photo: Edward Lupyak

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Master bedroom suite.
Photo: Nick Rab

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Built-in furniture.
Photo: Joel L. Sherman


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