CAMPout House: Natural Approach House - House Decades

CAMPout House: Natural Approach House

Since founding Faulkner Architects in 1998, in Truckee, California (near Lake Tahoe), and later establishing an office in Berkeley, Gregory Faulkner has designed 20 ski retreats. The CAMPout house, some 6,800 feet above Lake Tahoe, demonstrates his sleekly natural approach. The client, Rowan Trollope, the CEO of Five9, a publicly traded cloud-software company in San Francisco, likes extreme ice climbing, cross-country skiing uphill (with no-wax skins), and camping in the dead of winter with his two youngest children.

Trollope chose Faulkner because “it was Greg’s idea to be inside and outside at the same time—which is just our thing.” Faulk­ner’s proposed house was almost maintenance-free and largely fireproof (in an area prone to wildfires), owing to a poured-concrete structure, steel roof, and stone floors. (Granted, there are raw sugar-pine walls inside). “It’s a base camp for me and my family, where we can ski in and out,” he says.

The site, a sloping half-acre, is surrounded by neighbors. The house—3,800 square feet for the living/dining/kitchen areas and bedrooms—steps incrementally down and adjoins an existing guest house. At the center is an open courtyard that provides privacy and brings light into the interior through glazed walls and sliding doors enclosing it. Faulkner strategically placed the windows to avoid views of the other houses; the prospects are of the valley below and a forest of hundred-year-old Jeffrey pines.

Part of the thin steel shed roof lifts up to receive light from the south, and, at night, light from the courtyard’s firepit flickers into the living quarters. Black basalt floor tiles provide the appropriate background for the spartan Donald Judd–­inspired interiors designed by Nicole­Hollis of San Francisco. The house, completed in late 2019, was in much use during 2020. As Trollope says, “It was a nice place to be in lockdown.”