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Artful Living

A San Francisco collector curates her family’s mountain retreat with a stunning selection of inspiring works.


Clear-cedar cladding complements and warms up the open living area’s exposed steel beams and floor-to-ceiling steel windows; vaulted ceilings give way to an airy mezzanine level; earthy textures soften the space, while neutral tones keep the home looking crisp and modern.

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A large-scale Richard Misrach photograph serves as the basis for the home’s design, while bold, oversize Frezoli Lighting pendants separate the living room from the kitchen.

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The front entry features a floating bench designed by ABD Studio that wraps down the stairs to become a console.

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The homeowners requested open shelving in the kitchen to display handmade pottery.

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An open mezzanine overlooks the main living area and serves as another space for the family’s collection of art and objects from their travels.

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The homeowners commissioned the James Surls drawing—their favorite piece in the house—above the custom-designed bed in the master bedroom. The nature-inspired piece features writing that reads like a poem. 

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The oak-wrapped media room features art by Kiki Smith, Mary Shaffer and Kenneth Noland.

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ABD Studio designed a custom vanity for the master bathroom.

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It all started with a large-scale Richard Misrach photograph—a striking blue-green portrait of two people floating in the water. It’s the first piece Claire and Holden Spaht bought for their vacation home in Lake Tahoe and the foundation around which Brittany Haines, principal of San Francisco-based ABD Studio, planned her design. The custom-built residence in Tahoe’s private Martis Camp neighborhood reimagines the mountain getaway as a modern family home and showcases for the owners’ prodigious art collection, which includes pieces by such esteemed artists as Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois and Ed Ruscha.

The homeowners wanted a retreat that looked completely different from their San Francisco residence—a more traditional home filled with family heirlooms and antiques—while avoiding anything overtly “ski house.” Instead, they envisioned a home with a collected, bohemian vibe, more Los Angeles cool than rustic chic. “They wanted to feel like they were in the woods, but also wanted a space that looked crisp and contemporary,” says Haines. The designer chose natural materials such as jute, leather and wood, along with a thoughtful mix of custom, retail and vintage decor for the 4,800-square-foot home. ABD Studio custom-designed the living room sofa, chaise and coffee table to complement a pair of vintage leather loungers from Denmark. Shelves and cabinets are filled with handmade pottery from the family’s travels, and beautiful textiles add pops of color to the otherwise neutral interiors. The front entry even features a commissioned piece by fiber artist Margo Wolowiec. “We all decided early on that it just seemed right to have earthy, textural things here,” Claire says. Haines designed a bunkroom for the Spahts’ two daughters, with a double set of full-size bunk beds so that the girls can have friends over for the weekends. The oak-wrapped media room—with a built-in sectional large enough to hold the entire family—has a warm, cozy ambiance. “I can picture them relaxing here on a snowy day,” Haines says.

With an open floor plan and sightlines spanning the living room to the kitchen, Haines had to create a seamless flow from room to room, while also distinguishing the different spaces. To do so, she used clear-cedar ceiling cladding that changes scale and direction in each area, and she separated the living room and kitchen with simple but large Frezoli Lighting pendants over a Nickey Kehoe dining table. Since the homeowners didn’t have a specific palette in mind, Haines let the tones in the many rugs dictate color choices throughout the space. And because the designer knew Claire loves navy, she made sure to use a touch of blue in every room. Easy transitions also help set the stage for rotating artworks. “Art is a big thing in this house, and because Claire is an artist and art collector, the pieces are always going to be changing,” says Haines. “It will be interesting to see how the house evolves over time.”

For this mountain home, art and the outdoors go hand in hand. Claire commissioned a drawing for the master bedroom by Texas sculptor James Surls, who she visited and interviewed while in From top: The homeowners commissioned the James Surls drawing—their favorite piece in the house—above the custom-designed bed in the master bedroom. The nature-inspired piece features writing that reads like a poem; the oak-wrapped media room features art by Kiki Smith, Mary Shaffer and Kenneth Noland; ABD Studio designed a custom vanity for the master bathroom. school. “Like many of his pieces, it is about the forest and its spiritual qualities,” she says. Floor-to-ceiling steel windows in the entry, kitchen, and dining and living rooms also blur the lines between inside and out, giving the family the feeling that they’re always close to nature. The property overlooks the Tahoe National Forest and is zoned so that no one will be able to build there— giving the Spaht family permanent access to wilderness just beyond the backyard. “We have seen a mother bear and her cubs in the pond, a pair of great horned owls, several coyotes, a bobcat and, of course, hundreds of chipmunks,” Claire says. The family spends a lot of time grilling on the back patio, which also features a seating nook, fire pit, hot tub and artist studio.

With four bedrooms and 5 1⁄2 baths, the home is built for hosting guests, and while friends and family do visit regularly, the Martis Camp home is the Spaht family’s personal retreat. “It brings us a sense of calm to be here,” says Claire. “The girls love sleeping late; I love to paint and hike; and Holden likes to blare country tunes under the night sky after a long day on the golf course with friends.”


Single-family home
Lake Tahoe
Walton Architecture + Engineering
Interior Design
ABD Studio
Jim Morrison Construction
Peak Landscape Inc.

ABD Studio
Living room sofa, chaise and coffee table; media room sectional and ottoman; master and guest room beds; bathroom vanities; breakfast banquette table
Commune Design
Bunk bathroom tile
Design Within Reach
Master bedroom sconces
Frezoli Lighting
Dining room hanging lamps
Marc Phillips Rugs
Living room, media room and master bedroom
Nickey Kehoe
Dining room table
Sawkille Co.
Dining room chairs
Stephen White Luminescence Light Sculpture
Master bedroom pendant 
Tony Kitz Gallery
Entry rug
The Urban Electric Co.
Open-flame gas lanterns at front entry 


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco 

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