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When Kelly McGroddy and Dave Press left bustling San Francisco for woodsy Lake Tahoe, they had their heart set on a rustic mountain home. But, after closing on their Truckee, California property, the full-on cabin aesthetic proved to be a bit too much for the Bay Area natives. 

“They didn’t want to feel like they lived in a cabin in the woods,” says designer Megan Bristol of Tahoe Modern. “They basically wanted a modern mountain home with touches of their San Francisco aesthetic — not their grandparents’ log cabin.” 

For Bristol and team, this essentially required a full-on gut renovation complete with layout restructuring, resurfacing walls and hardwood floors, new cabinetry, and a floor-to-ceiling paint job. “We had to update everything, from the 1980s popcorn ceiling down to the worn oak flooring,” she says. “It took roughly eight months from start to finish, but I’m glad we didn’t take any shortcuts.” 

Ahead, find all the details on the involved cabin reno, plus Bristol’s pro tips for modernizing a dated space.

Design by Megan Bristol; Photography by Aubrey McCready

Open Up the Floor Plan

Opening up the layout was the first order of business. “Kelly loves to entertain, and she wanted to feel like she was still a part of the party when prepping in the kitchen,” Bristol notes. To achieve that open flow, they ripped down the upper cabinets, removed the awkward counter peninsula, extended the lower cabinetry, expanded the kitchen island, added extra seating, and relocated the dining room. “The new kitchen feels like a proper heart-of-the-home gathering space,” she adds. 

Modernize Your Canvas

As mentioned, the cabin had a lot of distinctly ‘80s features, like textured drywall, popcorn ceilings, yellowed wood floors, and thick oak trim. “Painting over the textured walls and ceilings would have been like putting lipstick on a pig,” she says. “We had a professional come out and refinish everything, then polished it off with a coat of white paint.” To stay on-budget, they embraced the original hardwood and thick window trim (a hallmark of old Tahoe cabins), and refinished them with neutral stain and white paint, respectively. “We ended up leaving the raw wood window casings, which honors the original design of the home,” she points out. 

Add Concealed Storage

After demoing all the upper cabinetry, Bristol had to make up for the lost storage space. The solution? Floor-to-ceiling built-ins with an appliance garage and drying rack on the entire back wall, plus concealed storage along the revamped island. “We went with Semihandmade Impression fronts in Tahoe for the built-ins, and SSS Quartline fronts in white and black for the lower cabinetry and island.”

Choose a Clean Color Palette

To honor the classic Tahoe aesthetic, Bristol went with her favorite no-fail color palette: black, white, and raw wood. “I want people to feel like they’re in Tahoe, and the wood cabin aesthetic has deep roots,” she shares. “We left the exposed beams as-is, and added a reclaimed wood breakfast nook overlooking the woods.” Paired with crisp marble countertops, matte black hardware, and a modern drop chandelier, the finished space strikes the perfect balance between old and new.

Comments (1)

  • My brother wants to impress his in-laws by showing off a modern and nice-looking home when they pay him a visit. I love your suggestion of investing in different kitchen elements such as its flooring and ceiling. Maybe we should find a kitchen remodeling expert that can make this happen for him!

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Island Hopping

A lot goes into a kitchen renovation, but it’s usually hard to tell from a beautiful “after” shot. Our monthly series “Island Hopping” is about getting a behind-the-scenes account of what the process is like through honest conversations—you know, the kind that typically take place around a kitchen island. We’ll chat with designers, homeowners, and architects about their projects, hoping to peel back the curtain on picture-perfect spaces.