Like an Offering to Vulcan, This Home Honors the Ancient Volcano That Shaped Its Design

michael jhon

We often see homes inspired by nature. It could be anything from the ocean to the mountains that influences an architect’s design decisions. We’ve seen desert hues and winter whites, boulders that cut right into a wall or even a tree growing through the middle of a house. But this home […]

We often see homes inspired by nature. It could be anything from the ocean to the mountains that influences an architect’s design decisions. We’ve seen desert hues and winter whites, boulders that cut right into a wall or even a tree growing through the middle of a house. But this home precariously positioned on a steep slope may be the first we’ve seen that drew its influence from the stages of a volcanic eruption. Take a peek at Lookout House — a home that goes from glowing orange magma to cooled-down basalt.

The result of a collaboration between architectural firm Faulkner Architects and Concept Lighting Lab, Lookout House was fully informed by the land. Everything from the slope of the ground to the fact that it sits at the base of a dormant volcano had influence on the design process.  Located in Truckee, California, this house is like an onion with layers that need to be peeled back to fully appreciate the cleverness of the design. 

At first glance Lookout House is an intriguing mix of brutalist concrete and industrial black steel. The modern flat roof which slopes ever so gently, doesn’t just let the snowpack slide off, it mimics the hill the home is built on. The straight vertical lines of the exterior walls were intended to match the tall straight evergreens growing all around the home. The dark blacks and grays of the exterior remind one of the color of lava rock that form after an eruption. While these symbolic elements are easy enough to spot, the folks at Faulkner decided to go one step further and bring in the bright warm colors of magma to add a pop of color to the interior.

With a name like “Lookout House” you know you’re in for some spectacular views, and this place doesn’t disappoint. Every room offers a view of nature, either the forest surrounding the property or the big get — a look at the valley and mountains beyond (and what gives Lookout House its name). 

While you expect to find walls of windows carefully placed to frame natural vistas, you may not expect a few panes of bright red-orange glass as well. This is where the “magma” of the volcano comes into play. The entrance of the home was outfitted with the colored glass to bathe the space in a warm glow and create a welcoming contrast to the cold winter air outside. This warm glow continues beyond the entryway, reaching to the stairs that lead up to the bedrooms. There, the master suite enjoys another splash of color thanks to a wall of the same red-orange glazing. 

Inside, Lookout House is a balance of cool and warm, rugged and cozy. The concrete walls of the exterior continue inside, but are balanced by planks of warm wood covering the floors and ceilings. Upholstered seating in the living room is a contrast in textures when placed by the rugged concrete fireplace. If the glow from the colored glass in the master bedroom is a bit much, taupe-colored drapes can be closed to block the light and wash the room in cooling darkness. 

Being located on a (dormant) volcano isn’t the only way Lookout House offers up excitement for guests. With thick layers of snow piling up each winter, this place makes for the ideal ski chalet. In fact, it was purposely designed with this in mind. The living room opens up, allowing you to ski (or snowboard) right in. The double-height wall of sliding glass panels can fully open to turn the living room into an indoor-outdoor space. This same setup is located in the master bedroom as well, offering direct access to the private patio that feels like it is balancing precariously in the air. And a surprising thrill can be found in the sunroom. As the snowpack gets ever deeper, it slowly piles against the glass wall of the narrow space. Will it hold against the weight of the snow? Will you be buried under during a blizzard? Let the claustrophobia set in as you relax with whiskey and a well-worn copy of The Shining

For all its excitement, Lookout House still provides plenty of luxury. From a spa-like bathroom with a generous soaking tub to the gourmet kitchen perfect for hosting dinner parties — this place has everything you need for a one-of-a-kind retreat that blends excitement and relaxation and tops it off with killer mountain views.

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