Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common

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By Caroline Wallis / Published by Dwell
From skiing to soaking up the sun, a family retreat for all seasons.

Located in California’s Sugar Bowl neighborhood, this shadowy lair by Mork-Ulnes Architects looks like something out of fairy tale. "We call the house Troll Hus, with a reference to the otherworldly beings in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore that are said to dwell in remote mountains," architect Casper Mork-Ulnes says. Hovering over a concrete plinth, the vacation home accommodates three generations of skiers. The orientation of the home places most of the communal living areas along the sun-exposed south facade, and storage spaces along the north facade. The house’s concrete base allows for ski storage and changing area during the snowy season. And when the family isn’t skiing, they can enjoy a partially roofed patio during the summer.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 1 of 7 - Taking inspiration from Arlberg Valley, Austria to classic Nordic materials, the Troll Hus certainly adds a European touch to the California landscape. "The inspiring concept is that of a treehouse that, as if suspended between treetops, seamlessly and ingeniously blends with its surroundings." Casper says.

Taking inspiration from Arlberg Valley, Austria to classic Nordic materials, the Troll Hus certainly adds a European touch to the California landscape. "The inspiring concept is that of a treehouse that, as if suspended between treetops, seamlessly and ingeniously blends with its surroundings." Casper says.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 2 of 7 - The exterior timber cladding is coated with black tar, a traditional Norwegian treatment. The finish serves a variety of purposes: solar heat gain, water resistance, and insect repellant.

The exterior timber cladding is coated with black tar, a traditional Norwegian treatment. The finish serves a variety of purposes: solar heat gain, water resistance, and insect repellant.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 3 of 7 - Construction during Lake Tahoe’s snowy season posed the biggest building challenge. "We shrink-wrapped the building, so the contractor could continue working through the cold of winter, sparing the expense of continuous snow removal, and limiting traces of the process on the landscape. Snowmobiles and sledges were used to bring workers and construction materials to the site." Casper says.

Construction during Lake Tahoe’s snowy season posed the biggest building challenge. "We shrink-wrapped the building, so the contractor could continue working through the cold of winter, sparing the expense of continuous snow removal, and limiting traces of the process on the landscape. Snowmobiles and sledges were used to bring workers and construction materials to the site." Casper says.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 4 of 7 - The open-plan kitchen serves the family’s needs for easy entertaining. The four bar stools are also custom designed by Lexie and were built by Yvonne Mouser.

The open-plan kitchen serves the family’s needs for easy entertaining. The four bar stools are also custom designed by Lexie and were built by Yvonne Mouser.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 5 of 7 - Beyond the open-air living and dining rooms, the master bedroom is also accessible by the shaded patio. The living room features a B&B Tufty-Too sectional sofa and two Bensen U-Turn chairs.

Beyond the open-air living and dining rooms, the master bedroom is also accessible by the shaded patio. The living room features a B&B Tufty-Too sectional sofa and two Bensen U-Turn chairs.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 6 of 7 - Imported Tyrolean dining chairs and a custom bench designed by Lexie pair well with the family’s antique leaf table under the Douglas Fir ceiling.

Imported Tyrolean dining chairs and a custom bench designed by Lexie pair well with the family’s antique leaf table under the Douglas Fir ceiling.

Here's What Norse Mythology and Modern Architecture Have in Common - Photo 7 of 7 - "The owners were looking for a relaxed, welcoming environment. We suggested an interior atmosphere that is simultaneously cozy and airy. We went for a stripped down, almost purified aesthetic. Simplicity is luxury." Interior designer Lexie Mork-Ulnes says.

"The owners were looking for a relaxed, welcoming environment. We suggested an interior atmosphere that is simultaneously cozy and airy. We went for a stripped down, almost purified aesthetic. Simplicity is luxury." Interior designer Lexie Mork-Ulnes says.