Visit a bright alpine retreat in Tahoe


Sometimes the family vineyard can come in handy, even when it’s a little convoluted. In the case of designer Sara Oswalt, her client for a Lake Tahoe cabin renovation was the son of a stepfather’s friend. “Let’s keep it simple and say a friend of the family,” she laughs.

Oswalt’s task was to transform the dated cabin — a pandemic buy intended to be a vacation home — from its ’80s ski lodge vibe into something more modern, minimalist and masculine.

A curved vintage sofa from 1stDibs balances the dramatic geometries of the wooden ceiling beams and adjacent window.

Lindsay Brown

“It was last redone in the early 2000s, I think,” Oswalt says. “There was an ugly, cheap kitchen and these cheesy round stained glass windows. And everything was covered in thick layers of white paint, so you couldn’t see the original beams. It was like lipstick on a pig!

But once Oswalt and his team at Purveyor Design stripped it all down, the house’s real charms began to shine through. They restored the ceiling beams to their original raw-wood sheen and added windows to make the most of the stunning year-round views from the house’s perch in Tilted Tahoe Village.

To evoke traditional cabin warmth without falling into clichés like deer antlers and animal skin rugs, Oswalt opted for a fusion of Japanese design and Californian modernism. Warm exposed woods, organic textures like rice paper and rattan, and soothing geometry come together to create an aesthetic that is now irrevocably comfortable.

The living room

house sara oswalt tahoe
A colorful piece of artwork by Claire Oswalt hovers above a custom low shelf.

Lindsay Brown

The minimalist concrete fireplace that anchors the living room is a far cry from the stone behemoth it replaced. “It was a giant boulder that came out of the ground,” Oswalt explains. “They must have blown it from there.”

Knowing that she wanted to use the room as much as possible without it being cluttered, Oswalt sought out statement pieces. A curved, vintage “teddy bear” sofa she found on 1stDibs set the mood for the rest of the room. “I knew it couldn’t be the main couch because it was curved, but it looked like one of those soft, comfy things you wanted to sit on by a fire.” She added a large Croft House sofa and a pair of Maiden Home leather armchairs to provide plenty of seating options in the space. To give the abode a more lived-in feel, many of the artwork and artifacts dotted around the space come from Santa Fe vintage stores.


house sara oswalt tahoe
The kitchen cabinets are all custom designed by Purveyor Design and manufactured by Fortress. The bar stools are by Lawson Fenning.

Lindsay Brown

To create an organic flow conducive to entertaining, whether after winter skiing or summer hiking, Oswalt opened the kitchen to the living room and dining area. “We made it a big common space,” she says. “It really changed everything and gave it a much more modern feel.” A large concrete island sits at the heart of the kitchen area with custom cabinets and Neolith side counters that can be used as a bar during the festivities. To bring in a splash of the homeowner’s favorite color, Oswalt incorporated green tiles under the island.

master bedroom

house sara oswalt tahoe
The master bedroom was light and airy. The leather and wood bed is from Croft House, the wall lamps from RBW and the bedside tables from Woud.

Lindsay Brown

The master bedroom, one of three upstairs sleeping spaces, is definitely the one with the most obvious Japanese influences, says Oswalt. “It’s a very simple room but also has that mountain feel. The Croft House custom white oak and leather bed sets the tone, with RBW Mori recessed supports complementing the rice paper pendant above. Another of Oswalt’s 1stDibs finds, a DeSede vintage leather loveseat, provides a cozy sitting area by the window, perfect for snuggling up with a book after a long day outdoors.

Main bathroom

house sara oswalt tahoe
Oswalt and his team sought a Japanese spa vibe in the bathroom through a minimal palette of wood and concrete.

Lindsay Brown

The adjoining master bathroom evokes the traditional feeling of Asian public baths. “We put teak around the tub to try to associate it with the idea of ​​the cabin, but also to make it feel like a Japanese spa,” Oswalt says. To maximize space and complement the concrete countertop and sink, Oswalt used a floating vanity and mirror.

As has been the case with many people’s purchases during the pandemic, the owner has finally decided to sell the newly renovated chalet once it is complete. But before doing so, he wanted to see him once in his resurrected state. “It just came to stay once before selling it and then decided to keep it,” Oswalt says, adding that was exactly the sentiment she intended to evoke with her design. “I really wanted it to be a place you didn’t want to leave!”

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