With three sons who enjoy few things more than snowboarding, Steve and Vanessa Alexander were hoping to find a winter vacation home in the mountains, away from their primary home in sunny Malibu, Calif.
"As they were growing up, we found that the best trips for the family were the action-adventure kind of trips, where their ages made less of a difference, in the great outdoors," said Ms. Alexander, 51, an interior designer , whose sons Jude, Leo and Max now range in age from 12 to 19.
What they didn't expect was that their winter getaway would become a favorite four-season destination.
At first, they looked for a home in upscale ski destinations like Aspen, Colo., where there were lots of off-mountain attractions, including restaurants and nightlife. But while renting a house one winter, "we had this epiphany, like, 'Why do we even care if we're in a town with all these other amenities, when really all we want to do is be at home?'" Ms. Alexander said. "We were either skiing or in our jammies, cooking and playing games."
That's when she and Mr. Alexander, 55, a partner at the talent agency ICM Partners, shifted their focus to finding something closer to home, with the goal of owning a house that could be reached by car instead of airplane.
In 2017, they found just the place in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., about a five-hour drive away: a new house made of concrete, corrugated metal and blackened-wood siding, designed by the architecture firm Cheng Design.
The previous owner had built most of the house, but left it empty. "It was just a shell," Ms. Alexander said. "It was almost finished on the outside and a white box on the inside." That made it ideal, she said, because she wanted to bring her vision to the home.
They bought the 3,525-square-foot, four-bedroom house for $1.4 million that March, and Ms. Alexander got to work. Outside, she added a deck with integrated seating around a weathering-steel firepit. Inside, she razed several interior walls to open up the space, connecting the kitchen, previously a separate room, to the living-and-dining area.
But the majority of the effort was focused on building out an interior that reflected Ms. Alexander's relaxed take on modernism, celebrating natural materials with plenty of texture and neutral colors. "I wanted it super-comfortable and super-warm, not austere," she said. "It was influenced by Scandinavian architecture and Norwegian mountain houses."
For the material palette, "I used a lot of bronze, brass, leathers and different woods," she said, as well as plenty of hard-wearing patinated steel and chunky natural stone — materials that are meant to age gracefully, even with a rambunctious family in residence.
The focal point of the living-and-dining area is a long gas fireplace with a patinated-steel surround in front of floor-to-ceiling windows with mountain views. A squishy vintage leather de Sede DS-600 sofa snakes through the space. Underfoot, Ms. Alexander added furry sheepskins and Moroccan rugs to warm up the gray limestone pavers from Eco Outdoor — flooring so durable it's often used for patios.
For the primary suite, Ms. Alexander designed an oak bed with integrated night stands and a footboard that conceals a pop-up TV. "It's a higher bed than I would normally do," she said, with the top of the mattress at 28 inches.
"But the mountain views through the windows are perfect," she added, and she wanted to be able to enjoy the scenery from under the covers.
The bedroom connects to a bathroom with a long oak vanity with brass sinks and walls covered in cloudy, waterproof plaster, applied by artisans Ms. Alexander brought in from Los Angeles.
There is also a guest suite with a kitchenette that has blackened-oak cabinets, a concrete counter and a patinated-steel backsplash, as well as a sectional sofa that doubles as a place to nap. "That's where the kids go to play video games or can have sleepovers," Ms. Alexander said.
The home was completed in late 2018, at a cost of about $1.2 million, in time for the Alexanders to spend their first holiday season there. Initially, they made the trip almost every weekend in winter, but rarely in summer. During the pandemic, however, they have discovered that the mountains have appeal in all four seasons.
"Because we weren't able to travel last summer, we spent a lot of time there, and it was incredible. We've fallen in love with the summer experience," Ms. Alexander said, noting that the family spent days cycling, fishing and hiking, and they plan to do the same this year. "Covid opened our eyes to how amazing it is."
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