At the Busick House, on the shores of North Tahoe, mixed textures are key to continuity.
By Katrina Paz
Photography Courtesy of Catherine Macfee Interior Designs
Incline Village’s Lakeshore Drive is, in many ways, the Sierra Nevada’s own Beverly Hills. Hugging the shores of Lake Tahoe, this avenue of estates is a home-away-from-home for successful entrepreneurs, CEOs and artists. Despite its prestige, however, its biggest asset remains its stunning natural beauty.
One of the newest additions to Lakeshore Drive is the Busick House, a vacation home to a multigenerational family of California residents. Natives of Incline Village, the Busicks recently returned to build a second home from the ground up for family retreats and getaways. They enlisted Catherine Macfee Interior Design to create a space fit for everything from large holiday gatherings to solo travelers seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
“We wanted it to be fun, eclectic, fresh and exciting,” says Justine Macfee, who worked closely with the builders and owners throughout the construction process. The firm’s designers are typically involved with space planning and interior architecture, and familiar with every nook and cranny of the project. They navigate and help select everything from fixtures and appliances to sheets and towels, presenting a turnkey home to the owners upon completion.
“Time is precious,” she says, noting clients generally want all the little details done before they arrive. “They just want to get there and play.”
The goal at the Busick House was to create a classic fashion palette while avoiding the pitfalls of trendiness and the kitsch of cabin life. The result: a stylish yet comfortable home with personal elements and playful twists—an embodiment of both “rustic contemporary” and “contemporary chic” design.
Built in 2014, the 4,200-square-foot home was a two-year project for the Macfee design team. Macfee’s experience with vacation homes and Lake Tahoe in particular is extensive. She’s been calling the destination her second home since she was a child. It’s also the primary market where she and Catherine Macfee—her mother and business partner—focus their efforts.
Describing her style as artisanal and earthy, Macfee says her inspiration for the Busick home was “Nantucket meets Tahoe.” Because the clients’ primary residence is in Southern California and they have an affinity for coastal life, it was the ideal fusion for a calming yet sophisticated retreat. Most homes, she notes, incorporate personal as well as regional elements into the space.
The three-level home includes three guest master suites and a loft area, which the team evolved into a bunkroom with three beds (an ideal sleeping area for the grandkids). There is also a great room on the main floor, as well as a secondary, less formal, family room on the second floor.
Macfee specifically selected and combined a variety of oaks, cultivating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The floors are French oak, which is a different grain from American oak, and most of the furnishings are in a rift-cut oak, with an exposed grain. Alder was also used throughout the house. Stone fireplaces help retain an Old Tahoe ambiance.
“All the different special kinds of woods take stain a different way,” Macfee says. “(You just need to) make sure your color tones are thought through.”
In contrast, the kitchen incorporates stainless steel appliances and open mesh cabinetry (also a convenience factor in second homes, making things easy to find). The result is a more industrial look, perfectly nestled off the great room. The traditional cabinetry and oversized pendant marine lights keep the home cohesive with distinct yet understated elements.
The adjacent dining area was intended to be somewhat formal for larger gatherings, but leans toward the casual side with banquet seating and pops of color amid soothing tones.
“You can’t be afraid to go for it,” Macfee says of the bold bursts of color. “It pumps up the energy in the space.”
An open floor plan downstairs is one trend Macfee incorporated. All homes, particularly second homes, she says, are leaning toward open dining and kitchen areas, where friends and family tend to congregate throughout their gatherings.
Being involved from the ground up didn’t prevent design challenges, however. One was the upper level bunkroom, with its sloped ceilings. Macfee decided on reclaimed barn wood juxtaposed with lightly colored painted wainscoting, and says painting over the wood took courage, but it lightened up the small room significantly. Light and bright bedding also added an open feel in a cozy area.
An alcove area off the second-floor family room posed a unique design problem as well. The recessed nook with higher ceilings had tricky dimensions, but a shell of a canoe Macfee discovered at a flea market in Paris fit the space perfectly. It also flowed seamlessly with the nautical theme.
From there, she incorporated a variety of patterns, Native American artwork (a nod to Tahoe’s Washoe Tribe), and refined the look with rich textures, including leather furnishings, a hair-on-hide rug, and wool. The “funky mix” of textures, she says, combined with elegant furnishings to create an upscale yet approachable environment.
Macfee emphasizes that “anything we used had a lot of age, texture—a story.”
Found throughout the home are purposeful, subtle storytelling pieces: shabby chic nightstands, log benches, small statues, steamer trunks, antique phones, woven headboards, textured and upholstered chairs, candles, end tables of various sizes, and area rugs in an array of diverse designs. Nearly every room is accented with fresh greenery, from diminutive succulents in stone bowls to fresh floral arrangements and small vases of daisies.
As with most Tahoe homes, the furnishings and layout had to be durable and conducive to the traffic of snow, sand, and sun-drenched kids of all ages. The entire Busick family is extremely active throughout the year, so the furniture is sturdy with a smooth finish. “We wanted to be careful not to make it too ‘mountain-y,’” says Macfee, “keeping it representative of the environment but also refined.”
The Professionals Behind the Busick House
Catherine Macfee Interior Design
Lake Tahoe Design Studio
10004 SE River St.
Bay Area Office
3397 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Suite C
Cerretti Construction LLC
Incline Village, NV