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Reader Spotlight: Zakopane in the Sierras

About an hour north of Tahoe, in an area known as the Lost Sierra, Paul Bolt and his family built a cabin that is both an homage to his ancestry and completely original.

Compiled by: Griffin Suber
Photos: Courtesy of Paul Dyer, Photographer 
Paul Bolt:
My family is from Norway, Baltic regions of Germany, Russia and Estonia, so I wanted something that’s part of our heritage. I wanted to design a Viking house.
I started by looking at rooflines and found that I didn’t want to do the Tyrolean flat roof type of a thing with the big balconies. I wanted something a little bit different. So the architects introduced us to an Alpine village in the Carpathian Mountains called Zakopane. It had this architectural style with steep roof lines because of the heavy snowfall, and we liked the look of them.
From there, we decided to add accoutrements from Norway, Germany, Russia and Austria, in the form of woodwork, door portals and shutters/window carvings. We concentrated on carvings from the old medieval stave churches (Stavkirke) in Heddal and Urnes, Norway.
Our sources found a 500-year-old temple in Fujian Province, China, that was being dismantled due to a hydroelectric project. We salvaged the hand-chiseled granite floors and shipped them by container to our site.
The roof ornamentation on our cabin is known as an Okhlupen. Traditionally, in northwestern Russia, a large larch log would be used as the roofing beam, and the root ball would be hand carved in the shape of a stallion, rooster or ram’s head. This was a pagan symbol meant to ward off fire, famine, enemies or pestilence.
I think what we enjoy most about Zakopane in the Sierras, is the feeling that the place has been around for several hundred years. Virtually everything in the home is from reclaimed or re-purposed materials. It is, however, fully modern in all conveniences. It’s kind of like staying at a 200-year-old Plaza Athénéé or Shangri-La Hotel.

Paul Bolt would like to thank the following craftspeople for their exceptional vision and talent in building his home:

Architect: Keith Anderson
Builder: Matt Williams, Williams Construction
Norwegian Folk Artist: Cathy Koball 

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