With three sons barely having fun snowboarding anymore, Steve and Vanessa Alexander were hoping to find a winter vacation home in the mountains, away from their primary residence in sunny Malibu, California.
“As they grew up, we found that the best family outings were the action-adventure trips, where their age mattered less, in the great outdoors,” said Ms. Alexander, 51, an interior designer whose sons were Jewish, Leo and Max are now between 12 and 19 years old.
What they didn’t expect was that their winter vacation would become a popular four-season destination.
First, they looked for a home in upscale skiing destinations like Aspen, Colorado, where there were plenty of off-mountain attractions, including restaurants and nightlife. But when we rented a house one winter, “we had this realization: ‘Why do we even care if we’re in a city with all these other amenities when we really just want to be at home?'” Ms. said Alexander. “We were either skiing or in our jammies, cooking and playing games.”
Then she and Mr. Alexander, 55, a partner at the talent agency ICM Partners, shifted their focus to finding something closer to home with the aim of owning a house that can be reached by car instead of by plane.
In 2017, they found exactly the right place in Mammoth Lakes, California, about a five-hour drive away: a new house made of concrete, corrugated iron and blackened wood paneling, designed by the architecture firm Cheng Design.
The previous owner had built most of the house but left it empty. “It was just a shell,” said Ms. Alexander. “It was almost finished on the outside and a white box on the inside.” That was ideal, she said, because she wanted to bring her vision home.
They bought the 3,525-square-foot, four-bedroom home in March for $ 1.4 million and Ms. Alexander got to work. Outside, she added a deck with built-in seating around a weathered steel fire pit. Inside, she razed several interior walls to the ground in order to open up the space and to connect the kitchen, previously a separate room, with the living and dining area.
Most of the effort, however, focused on creating an interior that reflected Ms. Alexander’s laid-back take on modernism and celebrated natural materials with plenty of texture and neutral colors. “I wanted it to be super comfortable and super warm, not strict,” she said. “It was influenced by Scandinavian architecture and Norwegian mountain houses.”
For the range of materials, I “used a lot of bronze, brass, leather and various woods,” she says, but also a lot of hard-wearing patinated steel and chunky natural stone – materials that should age gracefully too.
The center of the living and dining area is a long gas fireplace with a patinated steel frame in front of floor-to-ceiling windows with mountain views. A squishy vintage leather sofa DS-600 from de Sede winds its way through the room. Underfoot, Ms. Alexander added furry sheepskins and Moroccan rugs to warm up Eco Outdoor’s gray limestone paving stones – a flooring that’s so durable it’s often used for patios.
For the main suite, Ms. Alexander designed an oak bed with integrated bedside tables and a footboard that hides a pop-up television. “It’s a higher bed than I normally would,” she said with a 28-inch mattress top.
“But the mountain view through the windows is perfect,” she added, wanting to enjoy the landscape under the covers.
The bedroom adjoins a bathroom with a long oak vanity with a brass basin and walls covered in cloudy, waterproof plaster applied by the artisans Ms. Alexander brought from Los Angeles.
There is also a guest suite with a kitchenette with blackened oak cabinets, a concrete counter and a back wall made of patinated steel, and a sectional sofa that also doubles as a sleeping area. “The children go there to play video games or to stay overnight,” said Ms. Alexander.
The house was completed for about $ 1.2 million in late 2018, in time for the Alexanders to have their first vacation there. At first they made the trip almost every weekend in winter, but rarely in summer. However, during the pandemic, they discovered that the mountains are attractive in all four seasons.
“Because we couldn’t travel last summer, we spent a lot of time there and it was amazing. We fell in love with the summer experience, ”said Ms. Alexander, noting that the family has spent days cycling, fishing and hiking and they plan to do so again this year. “Covid opened our eyes to how amazing it is.”
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