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West Shore Cottage

Todd Gordon Mather Architect

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Belleview Avenue




  • Structural Engineer: Linchpin Structural Engineering
  • General Contractor: Rickenbach Development & Construction

Project Status


Year Completed



1,850 sq. feet

Construction Cost


Certifications and Designations

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Project Description

Henry and Katie Bunsow fell in love at Lake Tahoe late in life. With Katie’s Napa-based equestrian center and Henry’s work in San Francisco, and kids grown, they desired a small lake retreat to escape the Napa Valley heat. They found a wonderful 1920s cabin across the street from the crystalline water of Lake Tahoe.

Todd Gordon Mather Architect was asked to assess a renovation of the cabin situated along Tahoe’s West Shore. Due to the lack of upper level headroom primarily, the recommendation was to tear down the existing cabin and rebuild in a similar manner.

The Bunsow’s goals for the new home included enhancing the lake views through an adjacent park. Careful placement of rooms and windows were seminal. They wished for a cabin-in-the-woods feel that was to be reflected in a quaint home that might resemble the original cabin. Maintaining the home’s exterior materials were to be reduced to a minimum. Doors were to be minimized, too. Quality construction was imperative.

This 1,850 square foot, two-bedroom house features a soaring living room with antique lights and mantle, and hosts an exposed recycled timber-framed reading loft that overlooks the grand-yet-cozy living room. High windows at the opposite gable provide lake views. A diminutive media den is made cozier with a window seat. The kitchen has its own fireplace with space for an integrated reading area and desk. An open staircase allows daylight to pour in from an expansive window making the stair feel gracious. Two bedrooms each with just the proper amount of space are en-suite. While French doors open to the master suite, a matching exterior door with Romeo & Juliet balcony overlook the grounds and Lake Tahoe from the foot of the bed. An open closet area hides personal items behind a galley of full-height cabinets. His and her vanities are located opposite each other and opposite a deep soaking tub.

Katie, a self-taught interior designer, selected the interior materials, finishes and products. She furnished her home with an extensive, refined collection of American antiques incorporating some into the vanities and kitchen bar.

The entire house is wrapped in recycled Utah barn wood. This resilient siding is carefully mitered at the corners so exterior trim could be minimized, which augments the home’s shape and size. The ratio of windows to walls add to the home’s timeless feel as if it had been built a century earlier. The home’s exterior base is clad with a quintessential stone wainscot which durably and firmly grounds the building to the earth among the thick ferns.

The charming, compact design includes a double-cantilevered upper floor and intersecting gable roofs with carefully located shed dormers. TGMA worked with Linchpin Structural to design efficient steel floor beams to accommodate this challenging feature. Heavy snow loads on the adjoining roofs added to this challenge. TGMA coordinated with civil engineers to certify floor heights and design the foundation’s flood vents due to the home’s location in a FEMA flood zone.
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