YOU'D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO
A home both rustic and refined, the Von Imhofs' lakeside house embodies the best of all worlds
Story by Mara Severin • Photography by Chugach Peaks Photography
You can fall in love with Natasha and Rudi Von Imhof's beautiful lakeside home without even stepping inside. The serenity of the lake, the glimpse of ocean in the distance, the dock for swimming, boating, and the family's floatplane are paired with a polished house featuring asymmetrical windows, custom rockwork and soaring prow-shaped eaves at the entrance. Together, the home and grounds marry the fun and rusticity of a vacation house with the finish and elegance of town.
Marco Zaccaro, Z-Architects
Rich Lindgren, Lindgren Construction
Cheryl Murphy, Hot Elements
Lori Stitton, Architectural Lighting
Granite, Oregon Tile & Marble
Handmade Rustic Pecan built and installed by Tim Sel
Spenard Builders Supply
Slate, Oregon Tile & Marble; Brazilian Cherry, Alaska Wood Moulding
Master Bathroom Countertops
Granite, Oregon Tile & Marble
Master Bathroom Flooring
Granite, Oregon Tile & Marble; Brazilian Cherry, Alaska Wood Moulding
Master Bathroom Lighting
Granite Fish Mosaic
Mark Gagnon and Rick Paule
Green Acres Landscaping
Peggy Gonzolas, AlAround Carpet
Williams & Kay; Mason's Furniture, Seattle
The spectacular location is not wasted on this family. In the winter, the family skis the 2-½ mile perimeter of the lake. In summer, the kids enjoy a quick dip off the dock, while evenings are dedicated to practice on the archery range that they share with a neighbor. A short walk takes you to Cook Inlet to admire the view of Fire Island. "The Inlet (beach area) is a wonderful playground," says Natasha.
Graph paper and linear thinking
Of course you have to go inside sometime. And the interior of the house, with its soaring ceilings, endless expanse of windows, and mix of refined and rustic wood and stone work, is an extension of the beauty that surrounds it.
"I spent two years working on the design of the house," says Natasha. She collected stacks of ideas and images from home magazines and worked and re-worked the layout on graph paper. "It was all consuming," she recalls. "At two in the morning or five in the morning I would be moving through the house in my head."
"Natasha had strong ideas about what she wanted," says Marco Zaccaro of Z Architects in Girdwood. "Our job was to help bring those ideas to life."
Natasha's vision was of an inviting space, good for entertaining, but without any clutter. "I'm in finance," she explains with a smile. "I'm a linear thinker. I don't want a lot of knick-knacks."
Fine-tuned craftsmen meet rough-hewn logs
The hallmark of the home is the spectacular hand-done woodwork that graces almost every room. Hand-carved stair railings, book shelves, closets, cabinets, and even furniture (like the signature bench with the graceful initial "V" that greets you at the home's entrance) are the meticulous work of Marc Gagnon and Rick Paule who moved into the home for seven months to complete the work.
The actual structure of the house is a part of this aesthetic, explains Marco. "I like how the beams and the big posts integrate (the house). The big rough-sawn beams horizontally and vertically stitch the spaces together on all three levels," he says. "The beams orient you and give you a touchstone. That's my favorite aspect of the house."
In the living room, elegant rusticity is further borne out in the fireplace. Constructed from rock that the family handpicked from Eklutna quarry, the interior chinking is an echo of the fireplace in Natasha's parents' home. "It's not rounded, not uniform, with hidden mortar," she says. "It's what I've grown up with." Adding even more charm to the metaphorical heart of the home is the naturally heart-shaped stone laid into the center.
Bold and beautiful artwork
While the home is decidedly uncluttered, several bold and dramatic works of art add interest and warmth to the interior. Of particular note is a Steve Gordon oil painting of a birch forest that hangs in a central spot in the main living area. A muscular piece with vivid coloring, it sets much of the tone for the main living area. "We bought this piece even before we built the house," says Natasha. "We knew it was right when we saw it." The painting, says Natasha, was a bit of a muse, inspiring some of the paint and décor choices in the rooms surrounding it. "I love it," she says. "I think it's one of the show-pieces."
A fisherman's fantasy
Another notable touch is a mosaic inlaid onto the landing of the staircase leading to the first floor. Modeled after a king salmon that Natasha herself caught, it is whimsical as well as beautiful. "A wonderful local artist named Mike Perez spent hours on this piece," says Natasha, "painstakingly cutting out every single piece of granite."
A fish mosaic built into the structure of the house might give you some hint about the Von Imhof family's love for fishing. But you haven't seen anything yet. The granite fish is welcoming you to Rudi's favorite part of the house: A complete and completely amazing room devoted to processing fresh-caught fish. "There are pull-out cutting boards," demonstrates Natasha, "vacuum packers, a freezer... And 20 years-worth of family fishing pictures." And while it's clearly a "practical" room, even this room is thoughtfully aesthetic, with vivid and playful fish tiles surrounding the walls and adding color and charm.
Inside out and outside in – a two-way love affair
If it takes a little time to appreciate the artistry of the interior, it's only because it's so difficult to tear your eyes away from the views. And that's all part of the master plan. "We did quite a bit of computer modeling on the house," explains Marco. "We moved the house around to take the best advantage of the views, to dial in all of the vistas just right."
Indeed, the house is so cunningly designed that it almost seems like a trick. As if there's actually no back to the house – every room seems to open up onto the lovely surrounding landscape.
You might fall in love with the house before you step inside, but once you're in and can appreciate the thoughtful design and the immaculate artistry of the construction, you fall in love all over again.