Alpine Noir Is a Cozy, Modern Ski Chalet at the Foot of Mount Hood

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
This matte black cabin with abundant personal touches is a welcoming, low-maintenance family retreat.

In 2016, Portland-based Oliver and Sara Fritsch bought land at the foot of Mt. Hood with "a big dream of a small chalet." The active family had just returned from a three-year stint in Amsterdam and wanted a low-maintenance weekend retreat that would "give us energy and not take it away," explains Sara, who is the president of vintage-inspired home decor company Schoolhouse.

Oliver—an engineer who grew up in Squaw Valley—sketched the initial plans for the home, and Blaine Skowhede of Keystone Architecture and Ethan Beck Homes turned the modern chalet plans into a reality. The resulting tall, thin cabin calls to mind the century-old residences that line the canals of Amsterdam—with the addition of a sloping roof for functionality in the region's heavy snow conditions. 

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To reduce maintenance needs, the design eschews decks and uncovered outdoor spaces. "We didn’t want the pressure to shovel them off," explains Sara.

To reduce maintenance needs, the design eschews decks and uncovered outdoor spaces. "We didn’t want the pressure to shovel them off," explains Sara.

For the interior, Sara turned to Casey Keasler of the Portland-based firm Casework. The aesthetic is guided by the very Dutch concept of gezellig, which Sara describes as more of a feeling than a design trend. "We wanted to capture the cozy," she explains. "Gezellig is something that attracts people, encourages them to gather and stay awhile, encourages less screen time and more board games and books." 

Keasler helped translate this feeling into the design of the home by adding elements that encourage "the cozy" at every level. These elements range from the fireplace at the heart of the open living space to the abundance of floor cushions and fur throws. This approach also guided subtle touches such as instant hot water for tea and a floor outlet underneath the kitchen table for raclette parties—"so no one would be tripping over the cord."

The exterior paint is a custom-blended black that Keasler requested. "I wanted a color that was a little more faded since the chalet has such a modern silhouette. I felt that a true black would be too stark," she explains. The black contrasts with the whitewashed cedar front porch, which features a Factory Light 4 Outdoor Sconce from Schoolhouse and a vintage chair. 

The exterior paint is a custom-blended black that Keasler requested. "I wanted a color that was a little more faded since the chalet has such a modern silhouette. I felt that a true black would be too stark," she explains. The black contrasts with the whitewashed cedar front porch, which features a Factory Light 4 Outdoor Sconce from Schoolhouse and a vintage chair. 

The entryway is designed for gear management with hooks and a custom-made bench with storage baskets. The floors are made of durable, hospital-grade FLEXCO radial high-profile rubber. The colorful rug from Kat + Maouche softens up the stark interior.

The entryway is designed for gear management with hooks and a custom-made bench with storage baskets. The floors are made of durable, hospital-grade FLEXCO radial high-profile rubber. The colorful rug from Kat + Maouche softens up the stark interior.

Sara and Keasler came up with two other keywords to keep the project on track: "alpine" and "funk." Alpine might sound obvious, given the location of the home, but this concept played out through the addition of functional, design-forward features like ample, accessible, discrete storage for snow gear at the entrance, and design tricks that minimize the need for snow removal and maximize natural lighting.

The reverse floor plan and extensive glazing provide natural light where it is needed most.

The reverse floor plan and extensive glazing provide natural light where it is needed most.

The home's reverse floor plan places the bedrooms on the lower level of the home and the living space on the top floor. This makes sense due to the amount of snowfall in the area. "Snow banks get so high in this town, that they often cover up windows on first and second floors of homes," says Sara.

The living area is layered with prints and textures—including a bespoke sofa print inspired by a Dutch masterpiece from the Rijksmuseum. The herringbone rug, side table, and Matter Lamp are from Schoolhouse. The ottoman is from Pottery Barn Kids. 

The living area is layered with prints and textures—including a bespoke sofa print inspired by a Dutch masterpiece from the Rijksmuseum. The herringbone rug, side table, and Matter Lamp are from Schoolhouse. The ottoman is from Pottery Barn Kids. 

A close up of the IKEA sectional cover printed with a deconstructed painting from the Rijksmuseum.

A close up of the IKEA sectional cover printed with a deconstructed painting from the Rijksmuseum.

Sara also sought to put a "funky spin on things." This concept plays out in elements such as artwork with the lyrics to the Sugarhill Gang's 1979 hip-hop hit "Rapper’s Delight." The song has a very personal meaning for the couple: "The first time I called Oliver (circa 1996), his answering machine had a recording of him and his roommate rapping this song," she explains. 

Another very personal funky touch is the family's bespoke floral sectional. During their days in Amsterdam, the Fritsches lived close to the Rijksmuseum, which was one of their favorite spots. The museum offers high-resolution images of their collection available to download for free. Sara and Keasler both fell for the Dutch masterpiece Still Life with Flowers, by Jan Davidszoon de Heem. 

Sara wanted to make a bold statement with the sectional, so Keasler downloaded the image and edited it to remove the vase and table, leaving just the colorful bouquet in place. She then formed a repeat pattern and had it printed on fabric and upholstered onto the sectional. "I worked to tweak it based on the size of the sectional cushions. I wanted each bouquet to land on a cushion, or at least as close as possible," explains Keasler. The custom fabric is treated for UV and stain protection. "I would hate to cover this giant sectional then have it fade after one season because there aren't window coverings on the main level," she adds. 

The open-plan living space is anchored by a black brick fireplace with a sleek modern profile.&nbsp;<span style="font-family: Theinhardt, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, sans-serif;">Muddox makes t</span><span style="font-family: Theinhardt, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, sans-serif;">he commercial wire-cut thin</span><span style="font-family: Theinhardt, -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, &quot;Segoe UI&quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, sans-serif;">&nbsp;bricks in ebony with liquid black added to the mortar mix. The Studio Floor Lamp is from Schoolhouse.&nbsp;</span>

The open-plan living space is anchored by a black brick fireplace with a sleek modern profile. Muddox makes the commercial wire-cut thin bricks in ebony with liquid black added to the mortar mix. The Studio Floor Lamp is from Schoolhouse. 

The team installed track lighting in areas that lacked space for can lights.&nbsp;

The team installed track lighting in areas that lacked space for can lights. 

The interior features statement accent pieces set against an overall neutral palette of whitewashed floors and white walls with black trim. This aligns with the couple's original vision, "to keep things simple, make for easy decisions, and [have] a neutral but not boring palette as a clean and impactful background to live in," says Sara. 

In the end, the results were exactly that—and more. "A home is a mirror, we wanted it to reflect who we are and what we love," she concludes. 

Shop the Look
Dexam Home Enamel Mug (Set of 2)
Dexam Home Enamel Mug (Set of 2)
This pair of retro-classic enamelware mugs will brighten up your morning coffee ritual, and they’re just as content to sit pretty on a shelf or counter when they’re off-duty. They’re also good for a camping trip, where they’ll also come in handy as impromptu soup and dinner bowls.
Hand-Loomed Pom Pom Towel
Hand-Loomed Pom Pom Towel
The Pom Pom towels are full of colour and style perfect for any occasion. Woven on old hand looms in Turkey, these super thick and heavy cotton towels are a mix of traditional design with bright vibrant colours, neutrals, stripes and melanges.
Emile Henry Ceramic Cheese Fondue Set
Emile Henry Ceramic Cheese Fondue Set
Cheesy. As far as we’re concerned, any dish that’s centered around a mass of melty, gooey cheese will never go out of style (and is a necessary cold-weather hibernation food). This set comes with a pot, burner, stand, and six forks, so you can spear, dip, and twirl to your heart’s content.
The dining area's Salt Chairs are from DWR. The Factory Light 9 Pendant is from Schoolhouse.&nbsp;

The dining area's Salt Chairs are from DWR. The Factory Light 9 Pendant is from Schoolhouse. 

The windows feature high-gloss interior paint trim. "In Holland, they use high-gloss white; we used black," says Sara.&nbsp;

The windows feature high-gloss interior paint trim. "In Holland, they use high-gloss white; we used black," says Sara. 

The kitchen rug is from Kat + Maouche.&nbsp;

The kitchen rug is from Kat + Maouche. 

A Petite Cast Iron Fondue Set from Schoolhouse sits on a kitchen shelf.&nbsp;

A Petite Cast Iron Fondue Set from Schoolhouse sits on a kitchen shelf. 

A very gezellig corner of the kitchen.&nbsp;

A very gezellig corner of the kitchen. 

The master bedroom has bedding from Schoolhouse and an Isaac Sconce in brass.&nbsp;

The master bedroom has bedding from Schoolhouse and an Isaac Sconce in brass. 

The children's bunk beds are custom made and the bedding is from Schoolhouse. The black Radar Sconces are from Schoolhouse.&nbsp;

The children's bunk beds are custom made and the bedding is from Schoolhouse. The black Radar Sconces are from Schoolhouse. 

The bathroom features an Astrid Sconce with a natural brass finish from Schoolhouse.&nbsp;

The bathroom features an Astrid Sconce with a natural brass finish from Schoolhouse. 

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Keystone Architecture Planning, Blane Skowhede

Builder/General Contractor: Ethan Beck Homes

Structural Engineer: Associated Consultants, Inc., Babrak Amiri

Interior Design: Casework / @casework.it