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High-end builder’s indigenous flair

Grace Karpa
John HartThe living room of the Sky Pines Ridge Road home of Jonathan and Margot Goldsmith that was designed and constructed by custom-home builder Ken Meffan of Rough and Ready.
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The Goldsmiths’ living room is as close to being inside the cover of Sunset magazine as you can get.

A two-story-high wall of glass, punctuated with honey-colored wood panes, allows a view of forest and lake worthy of a tourist brochure.

“It’s fabulous,” said Margot Goldsmith, who with her husband, Jonathan, owns the house, located north of Nevada City. “The openness brings the outdoors in.”

The windows also let the sunlight in, making the house “passive solar,” its designer Ken Meffan of Rough & Ready, said.

Meffan designed and built the house off Highway 20 to make the most of its crest view of Scotts Flat Lake. Meffan designs houses to be “environmentally conscious,” and to make the most of sunlight.

Beyond the wall of windows is the support structure for the roof, exposed wooden beams and iron cross braces.

“I try to emphasize the structure, not hide it,” Meffan said about the crosshatching of wood beams in interior walls and the ceiling.

The support structure roof allows in the most sunlight from the winter angle of the sun and offers the most protection from the summer sun, Meffan said.

The sun hits the acid-stained concrete floor – colored rust, copper and a green courtesy of Miracle-Gro – in winter, creating additional heat.

Meffan, who moved to Nevada County 13 years ago, has built several houses characterized by cathedral ceilings with exposed wooden support beams.

Meffan noted Nevada County has its fair share of “Roseville knock-offs,” conventional houses that are “the same old boxy type of architecture.”

“People are used to what they see,” Meffan noted.

Meffan’s background is in building “high-end structures” in Malibu and plenty of conventionally designed houses in the area “to feed the tribe,” he said, referring to supporting his family.

When he moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., he became convinced people would build and buy houses that fit within the landscape and which reflected “indigenous architecture.” In Nevada County, that would mean old mining buildings with metal roofs and rough exposed timbers.

“There are not too many houses like this in this area,” Meffan said in an unintentional understatement. “Not too many clients will let me go that rustic.”

“I think he has a God-given talent,” said Sue Meffan, his wife of 15 years, who has worked on houses the couple ended up living in.

People who live in his houses seem to concur.

Susan Neebs says living in a house Meffan designed is “like living in a tree house.”

“This is more open, more artistic,” Neebs said about her Willow Valley Road home with a wall of windows looking into a forest.

Meffan estimates houses of his favorite type of design costs $176 per square foot to build compared to $140 to $150 per square foot for a more conventional design. He uses common materials, like wood and concrete, instead of exotic materials, like slate or marble, which keep costs down.

Meffan thinks it’s a shame that so much wood ends up covered in drywall, “the crummiest material you can buy.”

All the lumber for the house was milled on the site, and Margot Goldsmith watched the construction from a trailer also on the site, “which is not necessarily a good idea.”

“I’d come out and say ‘Move it a little to the left,’ ” Goldsmith recalled.

The Goldsmiths moved into their finished home in April. Jonathan’s career as an actor – check out the new “Dragnet” series, as well as old “Gunsmoke” and “Rockford Files” episodes – takes him to Los Angeles frequently.

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