Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 6, 2011

MVNews this week:  Page 20



Mountain Views-News Saturday, August 6, 2011 

One Of A Kind: Featuring unique homes and gardens and the people whoe create them. Story and Photos by Chris Bertrand 


It’s often said that “heaven” is two hours 
from wherever you live.

Big Bear Lake is almost exactly that magic 
two hour travel time “heaven” from Los 
Angeles. Originally created in 1884 to irrigate 
the orange orchards in the farmlands of San 
Bernardino County below, the Big Bear Lake 
area is a mountain ski resort in the snowy 
months and a lake-centric recreation area in 
the summers.

Dennis Kneier spent the summers of his youth in “heaven”, amid 
six brothers and sisters in his parent’s small cabin. Purchased 
when Kneier was five, in 1945, it was built on Forest Service land 
in the Fawnskin area on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, where 
the siblings fished, hiked sailed swam, water skied and explored 
mountain roads in the family Jeep. In 1972, a sibling purchased the 
cabin, continuing the family traditions. 

Kneier and his family so loved the Big Bear getaway, that in 1985, 
he purchased the much larger adjacent home just east of his family’s 
mountain cabin. “The Big Bear life ingrained in all of us a love of 
the mountains and of nature,” he said. “Every update since then 
has first remained true to the spirit of cabin living of the era. When 
bathrooms needed work, claw foot tubs were added, not showers. 
Of course, the kitchen has a wood stove (in addition to a gas stove 
for modern day convenience).

Built in 1927, it is said that Hollywood celebrities like Clarke Gable, 
Carole Lombard and Tom Mix regularly used the home, even 
leaving a favorite cream waffles recipe embedded on the inner door 
of a kitchen cabinet. In 1987, a (not very memorable) movie starring 
Tad Hunter and Linda Blair, was actually shot at the home. During 
the month of filming, the cast continued the Hollywood inscription 
tradition, adding their own sentiments to the inside of an adjacent 
kitchen cabinet. 

The Kneiers love a bit of quirkiness in their mountain living. A 
set of 60 year old, full size Native Americans manikins from the 
Knott’s Berry Farm Steak House, are perched casually, like revered 
family members. One resides in the living room of the main house, 
and a second in the guest cabin Kneier just spent a year restoring 
and improving. Always ready to startle the unsuspecting guest and 
engender a bit of laughter all around. 

It’s hard to pick the buildings out from the water, as the Forest 
Service intended for the structures on their leased land to blend into 
the mountainsides. It requires a brown and dark green color scheme 
for the exteriors of structures built on this leased land… though 
some seem to have taken liberties. 

It’s very evident this home was built from 
trees that remained quite identifiable. Trim 
work around the exterior windows is clearly 
rough hewn from old growth trees. The 
corners of the home are bound in what 
appears to be entire tree trunks. 

Instead of crown molding inside, quarter 
diameters of rough hewn logs have been 
fitted into the junction of wall and ceiling… 
also constructed of wood, of course. 

The staircase to the third floor boasts railings 
and posts that celebrate the non-uniform 
nature of tree limbs, the nubs of branches left 
intentionally in place. A free form animal of 
sorts, crafted from Manzanita limbs, climbs 
between the limbs that run parallel below the 
railing. Two other wood species were used to 
create the walls and stairs in contrasting red 
and yellow colors, likely cedar and fir. 

The Kneiers bought the cabins furnished 
from the previous owners. “As is common in 
cabins, the furniture was castoff from things 
that weren’t wanted or need anymore, back in 
the LA house.” The couple has thoroughly enjoyed replacing nearly 
everything with their personalized taste over the years. “Basically, 
every stick of furniture and artwork has been replaced,” chuckled 

The dining room table and buffet fit exactly as if they were made for 
the room. Antler chandeliers would likely appear kitschy back in the 
big city, yet a Craftsman or brass chandelier would likely look as out 
of place here in the lodge.

There are many private as well as public spaces for family members 
and guests to settle deep into a book or cards or chess or lake gazing, 
though the Kneiers have learned a few things about mountain living 
over the years. 

A beautiful balcony was almost never used because afternoon and 
evening winds made it uncomfortable. A wind block in just the 
right place has made now one of the home’s most desirable spots, 
with some of the best views, a big sofa and a table to take it all in, 
or ignore the vistas and enjoy the fresh air and the feel of the sun’s 

Another feature of the property, 
a guest cabin had lain in complete disrepair and dis-use since the 
Kneiers’ purchase, even devoid of furniture. A year ago, the time 
came to restore and update the 330 square foot cabin. Architect Rob 
Tyler laid out the basic design. An experienced sailor, Tyler was 
an expert in getting the most, function, storage and use out of the 
extremely close quarters. 

The Kneiers then chose Stanley Marshall, of Rustix Design, to 
perform the remodel. Marshall had already proved himself with 
various projects at the main house, including the dining room 
furniture and balcony table. Marshall spent seven intense months 
fashioning a multi-colored, multi-species décor, including light 
fixtures, mirror surrounds, cabinetry, handles, armoires and even 
toilet paper holders. 

Kneier reflected, “We knew his work and turned him loose on the 
guest cabin. We’re very very happy with the outcome. We think it’s 
like a little jewel box!” 

More information about Rustix Design, of Big Bear City, can be 
obtained at or at 909-547-0789.


In spring and summer, it’s easy to envision ways to enhance your home’s curb appeal with a trimmed 
lawn, planted and potted flowers, and patios and decks arranged with outdoor furniture and an 
inviting grill. But when the leaves fall and the temperatures drop, even homes in temperate climes 
undergo a winter transformation that can challenge a seller to create exterior appeal.

 When it comes to landscaping and colorful plants, there are plenty of ornamental grasses and 
plants that look great in wintertime. Purple cabbages, fountain grasses, and potted evergreens along 
pathways and by the door all add seasonal color and appeal. And obviously, your sidewalk, entry path, 
patio and deck should be clear of leaves and/or snow.

 Be sure to keep in mind that shorter days mean that buyers are that much more likely to see your 
home after sunset, so make sure all your floodlights are clean and in working order, highlighting your 
home’s exterior features. Lamps with soft lighting in all your windows will also offer a warm invitation.

 Finally, just to cover your bases, have photos available of your home in all its glory during the spring 
and summer months. This gives buyers a better sense of your home’s appeal during all the seasons of 
the year. Your agent will have more tips for attracting buyers in any kind of weather.


Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: