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