Valeria Girimonte and Alexis Bernard had to put their worldly travels on hold when their two children were born. But the international couple–she hails from Argentina, he from Belgium–still wanted to maintain a sense of adventure. They found it in Tahoe.
Captivated by its crystal-clear lakes, towering evergreens, and glittering, snow-capped peaks, the pair purchased a rustic cabin in Tahoe Donner.
“We wanted somewhere with a lot of opportunities to do sports,” says Valeria. From downhill and cross-country skiing to mountain biking and horseback riding, the Tahoe Donner area offers a little bit of everything. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the Silicon Valley suburb of Mountain View where they live most of the year.
“The minute we came into this living room, we knew it was the house,” Alexis remarks. “We like having a big, central place to have friends over.”
It’s easy to see why Valeria and Alexis fell for the space. Gleaming hardwood floors accentuate the vastness of the space while thick, wooden beams emphasize the height of the ceilings. The open floor plan connects the living room to the dining room, giving their kids plenty of space to run around and play. And the natural light that flows in from the wood-trimmed windows beckons you to go enjoy the surrounding forest.
Though Valeria and Alexis loved the space from the beginning, they knew it needed a revamp for it to feel like their own. “It was dark brown everywhere,” exclaims Valeria. “Every wall. Even with a gigantic room, dark brown makes you feel a bit claustrophobic and we just wanted to make this place happy.”
“I love design. I love architecture, but I love gray, and I put it everywhere. I just needed color,” Valeria explained. Designer Laura Savelli was the key to making Valeria’s vibrant design dreams a reality. First, she introduced a stunning, antique-inspired Persian rug with hints of coral, pink, yellow gold and navy. The rug anchors the living room, setting a colorful, eclectic tone.
From the linen weave sofa to the aged elm coffee table, natural tones and materials play off the rustic architectural elements in the space. To add some color, Laura incorporated an array of textured cushions, including a fuchsia-toned ottoman that the family at first felt uncertain about.
“It took us maybe two or three weekends to really understand the genius aspect of this pink pouf,” Alexis says.
“We thought, what is pink doing in a living room? But then the rug came and tied it all together. It’s kind of the centerpiece of the space. We jump and play on it with the kids all the time,” Valeria says.
Because it was designed with a baby in mind, the home didn’t need any kid-proofing, and the design is full of soft edges and spaces for play.
What’s their favorite part of the redesign? “It’s easy to live in,” says Valeria. “We see our kids playing around the pieces all day. It’s warm. It’s happy. It’s vacation.”
But the warm and inviting atmosphere isn’t just for their family – it’s meant to be shared. When they aren’t enjoying the place themselves, they rent it out on HomeAway and Airbnb. They’re also big fans of having friends over for the weekend.
“Part of the package on this house was to invite our friends over and to have people around. When you have kids and live in the suburbs, you just lose touch with your friends. It’s an opportunity to really spend time together and that makes a big difference,” Valeria and Alexis agree.
Whether they’re splashing around the nearby pools with the kids, hitting the slopes in the winter, or drinking wine with good friends, the spacious cabin tucked in the trees of Truckee is the perfect place to come home to.
“When I grew up, we had a vacation home in Holland and a lot of my childhood memories are from there. I wanted to recreate that for my kids. We already see the space creating memories. That’s a big hope that I have for the place,” Alexis says.
Take a video tour here:
Photos by Dustin Walker. Video by Sean Robertson. Styling by Ashley Bussell.