An Alpine home
Where practice makes perfect

Courtney Ferguson


To visit to the McFeely home en route to Cascade Shores, is reminiscent of a “Sound of Music” scene. Its Sierra views and Alpine design are just two “favorite things” that make you want to “climb every mountain.” Bob and Terry McFeely are avid hikers, and spend much time climbing the Alps, the Dolomites and other European mountain ranges. “Bob and I were so inspired by the old-world charm of homes we saw in Austria and Germany that we decided to build a similar style home here on the property we'd purchased in 1999,” Terry recalls, “and it's turned out to be a remarkable adventure.” A 35-foot trailer was the first step. “We'd come up from Sausalito on the weekends, and get absorbed in the challenge,” Bob adds. The more time we spent here, the more appealing Nevada City became. When I retired in 2000, we were able to devote all our attention to this heartfelt project.”

Testing. Testing.

In 2001 they built the smallest permitted house in Nevada City. Measuring a compact 650 square feet, it became their home while they built the main 3,000-square-foot dwelling.  “With its turret and relaxed, cozy feel, the cottage was our home as well as our testing ground,” Terry says. We used it as a mini-version of our work-in-progress, larger home, and it gave us both insight and inspiration.”

“It replaced the trailer,” Bob explains, “and it's now a guest house.”

Building the three-bedroom, three-bath home was a four-year project, with Bob and Terry doing much of the work themselves. With the help of their talented daughter, architect Odessa Shekar, and general contractor Greg Gallup, they created a home design that is full of 17th and 18th century tradition. Craftsmanship and creativity are evident, particularly in the resourceful use of wood. The floors, trim and cabinets are made from trees that needed to be logged for building pads. Milled at California Hardwoods in Auburn, each madrone floorboard has been selected meticulously by Terry. She, no doubt, used her quilting skills because the natural patterns they form have a graceful flow.

“The Japanese maintain that using the wood from one's property in the home's construction discourages insect infestation,” Bob says, “and insects are certainly not a problem for us - so it may well be true.”

Special acknowledgment goes to Allen Johnson of Grass Valley Flooring and to Mel McGuire and his portable mill for the cedars. Bob and Terry found water-damaged oak from the 1940s in a nearby warehouse, and used it for their baseboards and window trim.

They built a good support team of local experts, including Virgial Smith of Russco Tile for tile and mosaic work, Adam Weiss for landscaping, Grant Weiss for masonry, and Sandy Bernstein from A Shade Above for window treatments and fabric sourcing. The antiques and artwork are well placed for maximum impact. The Chippendale sideboard in the dining room has been in the family for generations. One piece I particularly like is the Atwater Kent radio placed right at the top of the madrone staircase. It's the very first radio ever sold in Sacramento. Prior to building, Bob and Terry studied their property carefully to make certain they made the best use of light and temperature. “It took time,” Bob reflects, “but we got it right. The result is the home stays naturally comfortable throughout the year.”

Imagine cooking in a turret with far-reaching views from every window. With breathtaking views, the master bedroom is located on the upper floor of the turret.


Cozy and relaxing, here's the place to be at peace with the world, while enjoying a good book, music and a glass of wine. The concrete flooring on the wrap-around sundecks is fire retardant - and so are the composite roof and the stucco exterior. The living space is light and open and very relaxed. The rounded kitchen and master bedroom are on different floors in the same turret. Bob's office features an impressive, antique desk with a discreet alcove to house his contemporary computer equipment. Terry has a to-die-for crafts room, where she does her quilting and makes her lifelike fabric flower arrangements.

Elegant and rich in wood accents and family antiques, the dining area is perfect for memorable family meals. The master bath features a whimsical tile mosaic that depicts Roman women enjoying a bath. Placed just above the claw-foot tub, again, there's artistry everywhere you look. A double-sided fireplace adds intrigue as well as warmth.

Planning ahead.

While stylish and distinctly old-world, the McFeelys have also given serious consideration to the future. There's an elevator and an upstairs bathroom that is wheelchair accessible, with ample grab bars and a wheel-in shower. Their time, talents and patience have paid dividends. Together, they've created a modern, character home that is a masterpiece of textures, rich, subtle colors, wood and wonder. With turrets and tapestries, drama and practicality, it spans centuries — and makes the Sierra seem more like the Alps! Whether it's a European masterpiece, or a manufactured home, a Georgian or a ranch-style home, there's always a fascinating link between home and owner. Join Courtney for her next home discovery soon. (Special to The Union-Saturday, July 23, 2011).