The 1960s A-frame on the south end of Donner Lake was horribly outdated. The bedroom loft was dark and cramped. A kitchen, dining and living area were squeezed into the main floor. Downstairs, an unfinished basement leaked during every downpour. Yet, when longtime visitors Melissa M. Enriquez and Bill Roy heard that the lakefront cabin, only four doors down from where Roy’s uncle owned a home, was up for sale, “we swooped in,” says Enriquez.
“When we bought it, we thought we were going to just tear it down,” she says. “But we wanted to be able to spend some time there first.”
Enriquez and Roy first made minor interior repairs to render the house habitable. “Once we did that, we got comfortable” with the idea of a remodel Enriquez says. “We realized it was a great home.”
However, the one-bedroom house was too small to accommodate the Los Angeles–based couple’s large extended family. So they consulted SANDBOX principal Scott Gillespie, whom they found while thumbing through a past issue of Tahoe Quarterly Mountain Home.
“This house wasn’t built particularly well,” Gillespie says of the original 1,755 square foot home. “It was poorly insulated and constructed. But I’m always in favor of saving something existing when it makes sense, not only environmentally but financially as well.”
Gillespie enlisted Brent Ferrera of Truckee’s BC Builders to work on transforming the house, together improving form and function. They topped the master loft with dormers, creating light and space and emphasizing the stunning view of Donner Lake. They added a covered front entryway and vestibule and widened the interior stairway. They converted the downstairs crawlspace into a family room, complete with billiards, wine bar, library and guest suite.
The design includes a rich palette of eclectic materials that Enriquez, who owns an interior design firm, wanted to incorporate into her home. Three sets of antique doors were salvaged from demolished houses in India. Stones in the entryway and billiards room were reclaimed from a dismantled chateau in Burgundy. The herringbone oak flooring in the master loft came from an old Midwestern home. Tiles in the guest bathroom are 50-million-year-old relics from Wyoming’s Fossil Lake. Flooring in the two guest bedrooms are recycled Coopersmark Oak wine barrels, complete with original stamps and markings.
The exterior siding is interior-grade oak that Roy handpicked; the trim is red barn wood from a dismantled property in Wisconsin.
“We mixed so many styles in the house and somehow it all works together,” Enriquez says.
Ultimately, the home exudes the style of a European chalet, something enduringly classic yet totally unique. “The decisions that we made were not just aesthetic but long term,” says Enriquez. “We weren’t just remodeling to fix it up. This house will, hopefully, never be up for sale, but handed down in our family forever.”