The day I visited the 2,800-sq.-ft. home, three very friendly Pugs greeted me, with tails wagging and barks of joy. “Oh, they’re not all mine,” Laurie laughed, “one belongs to a friend, and I’m just keeping him while she’s away.” Within minutes, the neighbor’s Jack Russell appeared at the door, and he joined in the fun.
Typically, high-energy pets and perfection do not live in harmony. Here, they do. The hardwood floors and stunning area rugs look spotless, in spite of the canine traffic.
Since the living area opens directly on to the patio and back garden with its decorative stream, there’s a real openness as well as an unusual elegant informality.
Now comes the dichotomy
Much of the furniture in the three-bedroom, one-office and 2.5 bathroom home is European-style Victorian. “Many of the pieces and the artifacts you see, such as the Victorian love seat and the matching red chair in the corner of the living room, can be traced back several generations,” Laurie explained.
While the home houses many such nostalgic treasures, its design is a far cry from the ornate classic Victorian style. No brocade wallpapers. No intricate trim or busy Oriental rugs. Instead, the furniture is grouped and presented with plenty of space and lots of natural light. The walls throughout the home are complementary and plain. The living room is a soft, sage green. The fireplace surround is marble. The floral-print furniture nearby really stands out in this straightforward setting, as contemporary and traditional live in blissful harmony.
Another dichotomy is the choice of paintings and prints displayed. In the entry hall there are lithographs of Ansel Adams originals. To the right is a numbered print of the cable car turnaround in San Francisco that was originally purchased at the White House Department store in San Francisco in the 1940’s. Laurie’s Dad, Harold Himmelman, was a mounted guide in Yosemite in the 1920’s and 30’s. Wearing old-time chaps astride a horse, his picture is given a place of honor by the glass-and-wood front door.
In the dining room, the rich wood armoire seems particularly dramatic as well.
The table is over 100 years old. There’s a dollhouse replica of a gracious 19th century home, made by the godmother of daughter Kristen Alire. The details are so authentic, even the roof shingles were done by hand.
Is there a lesson here?
When you have furniture that’s special, each piece is likely to look far more dramatic when treated as the focal point of a room. Surround each one with tasteful simplicity, and it’s really going to stand out. If it’s authenticity you want, then stick with the Victorian bric-a-brac. If you want the emphasis to be on the craftsmanship and design of furniture and artifacts, keep it simple and clutter-free.
Built in 2004, the Alires purchased the home in 2008. In 2009, it was included as one of the properties in the prestigious Music in the Mountains Home Tour. “That was a lot of fun,” Laurie recalled, “and preparing the home for such an honor became a real family affair. Kristen is a true horse lover, owner and competitor. Hence, her part of the house has a real equestrienne bias. Perhaps this is a love she shares with her Grandfather.”
Kristen’s part of the home has many pictures of her on horseback, sailing over sizeable show jumps. The bathroom features cowgirl-style towel rails as well as a shower curtain with horses running wild.
In Laurie’s office, you’ll find a colorful, original painting of the family pets by Boulder-based artist Harriet Peck Taylor. Laurie, a public relations professional who consults on line, thoroughly enjoys working from home – as well as the open views from her window.
The home’s floor plan is perfect for privacy – with the master bedroom, kitchen and laundry room on one side and the two bedrooms and office on the other.
More cooking; less walking.
That’s what Laurie likes most about her kitchen. “It’s a pleasure to cook in. Everything is easy to reach and easy to clean. We like to eat at the breakfast bar.
Instead of a small kitchen dining area, we’ve turned it into a sitting room. That way, guests can visit while I cook.” When I asked about her Christmas menu, she’s planning roast beef and red cabbage with steamed persimmon pudding and brandy cream sauce for dessert.
Snowflakes with a back-up plan
Banner Lava Cap is known for its snowy winters. Thanks to a back-up generator recommended and installed by ABT Plumbing & Electric, scenic snowstorms are worry-free. Double-pane windows, generous insulation and well-placed shutters (both internal and external) help conserve energy while keeping the home toasty warm. “Barbara Hartwick of Nevada City gave me good practical and aesthetic advice,” Laurie added.
From its indoor light, space and warmth to its beautiful garden areas front and back, the Alire home is one that offers a year-round invitation to relax, and enjoy the splendor of every season.
“Exploring fascinating Nevada County homes is an adventure, not only in design and personal preference, but in creativity. There are so many ways to enhance a home’s character – both aesthetically and environmentally.”
— Courtney Ferguson