by Kimberly Nichols
Nestled among spires of pine in the Tahoe Donner project, the distinctive and visually modular Fernwood Folly house is a stunning example of site informing architecture.
“Light was of utmost importance when creating this residence,” says architect Joel Sherman of J.L.S. Design. “The result is a sundial effect where you can always tell what time of day it is from various interior perspectives. Few areas are absent of natural light.”
In fact, the trees surrounding the home are also collaborators in the ambience as their foliage is a filter for the sun; in the summer they keep out the heat and in the winter they keep it within.
Sherman has been designing contemporary mountain homes in the area since 1992 when he arrived with a California modernist’s “post and beam” background and the eagerness to transform the staid tradition of nostalgic log cabin architecture into his particular brand of abstract angularity.
Joel has noticed a trend toward similar values of late, particularly in the Tahoe/Truckee area. Not only has he trail blazed a path of acceptance for the new, but he has also been on the cutting edge of “green” design with his use of common elements such as SIPS-paneled rooftops. In this case, the company adorns a roof that spans a split-level design so that each floor and section comes together beneath while allowing for a unique juxtaposition of spaces within. From the outside, demarcations in the type of wood and layers of contrasting material and geometric shapes give expression to how the house is composed, defining an overall work of cohesive modernity.
“We live in a resort community,” says Sherman. “And I am always asking my clients not to design for Christmas Eve. I don’t want to see homeowners come in to butcher the environment for the sole purpose of entertaining but for people to consider the environment actually becoming the thing that entertains.”
With this minimal aesthetic in mind, Joel likes to design from a “skeletal approach” using the architecture’s bones for a guideline and enhancing from there. The result is a look and feel where even the garage door, which is glazed to meld into the exterior and kicks up at an angle rather than rolling up into the ceiling, is an elemental part of the overall cohesion.
“I like to view all of our designs as lenses looking out onto the beautiful landscape,” says Sherman. “I can’t compete with mother nature.”