A Modern Nest in the Woods
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, this custom home (dubbed the Whittington House) was built to embody the lifestyle of its occupants—a family of six, plus pets! Designer Matthew Lechowick tells us more about the design details, each of which was built around their lifestyle and love for their woodsy surroundings.
Written by Nissa Hallquist
Photography by Kat Alves
THE PROJECT: Family residence in Newcastle, CA
THE DESIGNER: Matthew Lechowick Design
THE SPACE: A 4-bedroom custom home built from the ground up
With a love for the wooded foothills of the Gold Country (about 30 miles northeast of Sacramento), this family of six started with a bare lot in their dream setting. Designer and Lumens trade partner Matthew Lechowick was tasked with creating a custom home that would meet the needs of the family of six (plus pets!) and bring the outdoors in. Here, he tells us a bit more about how they got there.
How would you describe the overall style of the Whittington House?
I don't like labels, so I will keep it general. I would describe the Whittington House as inviting, contemporary design. If we have to be specific, it is the combined style of the family and myself coming together for a clean, clear and cohesive design aesthetic. Something the client said actually hit it on the head for me: What I am trying to do for all my design is be empathetic to their needs and wants. My personal style is very clean and sometimes futuristic, and while I try to infuse that into the design, I always prioritize the client's needs, wants and ideas.
What inspired you most in its design?
The family's needs and how they described how important they are to each other. How they love to entertain their big extended family and great group of friends. We wanted a big but inviting space that could handle the activity that comes with raising four boys.
What was the most important thing for the clients in the home design?
Two things, and they are the source of the programming of the house: Public and private space.
Private space that gave time for introspection for each son and the parents. And the public, entertaining spaces for the family to come together and entertain their friends. It was important to intersect these and then expand the public space to be taller and have more volume, so the congregations of family and guests would fill the space in nicely.
What specific challenges did you have to face in the design and/or construction?
Placing the house as close to the olive tree cluster as we could and then getting the house to not impose too much on the surroundings. This was achieved with sinking the lower floor into the hill and creating a 10' tall concrete retaining wall. Overall, the resulting views are cherished by the clients.
This was also my first house design outside of a fire district or city, so that added another level of protection we needed to design. Fire resistant siding and stucco became the materials we used to tell the client’s story.
Lastly, when budget issues arose—as they always do, no matter the budget—we were able to come together and creatively come up with great design solutions. Having a collaborative relationship with a contractor gives the best results for the client. Don Murphy and his team did a great job.
The final interior design is sophisticated, yet comfortable and family-friendly. Was this your intention?
Yes, that was our intention. The clients have very busy lives; additional clutter and decoration is not their thing, nor do they need it. We wanted the space to be about the people and not the decor. Finishes, colors, and such were chosen to be timeless, modern and understated. With significant input from the client, we intentionally chose to keep the interior monochromatic and understated, so their lives, things and experiences would be the art/creativity/context. So in a sense, my work was to create a subtle backdrop for their lives, and they happily fill in the rest.
Walk us through your process in choosing furniture, lighting, artwork, etc. to achieve such a feeling.
The lighting and furniture pieces we did choose reflect an appreciation for quality and craftsmanship. When working on projects like this, I confer with Zack Rosson [in the Lumens showroom] and see what he thinks. He and the rest of the Lumens team are a great resource for lighting. The clients and I concentrated on finding contemporary pieces that were timeless for them and their aesthetic.
In the living room, investing in an awesome light from Lumens, dining table from [Sacramento-based] Reclamation Art & Furniture and Schmitt Design pendants in the kitchen gave it a personal and sustainable local touch. Plus, we went with investment pieces like a sofa from Room & Board and Tom Dixon lights in the master bedroom. After you get these main items finalized with the client, the budget will usually be dwindling fast, so we concentrated on basics that were fitting of the monochromatic aesthetic and filled in like anyone else does.
ABOUT MATTHEW LECHOWICK DESIGN
Sacramento-based designer Matthew Lechowick describes himself as "a few things: Husband, father, professor, designer (in that order)." Lechowick is an adjunct professor in the design department at UC Davis, specializing in architecture, interior design, product and graphic design. And last but not least, he is a designer of buildings, products and residential and commercial spaces. He and his family have lived in Midtown Sacramento since 2007.