The 14,000-square-foot community center at Martis Camp, a vacation spot near Lake Tahoe that will ultimately include 653 homes, offers plenty to do. It has the requisite party space, a 50-seat movie theater, a bowling alley, a children’s stage, and four swimming pools—plus a folk art school offering classes in painting, pottery, drawing, quilt-making, crafts, writing, and photography. “This is all under the heading of what I call ‘life after golf’,” says architect John E. Sather.

The building itself has the rustic quality of a historic high-mountain barn, incorporating recycled tin ceilings and ironwork, reclaimed wood columns, and local stone. But one of its most arresting features is the three-story fir staircase that leads up to the art studio. “It occurred to me that if we were building an art loft, it needed to feel as if real artists used the space,” Sather says.

So he rounded up 12 architects and interior designers and threw a painting party. Eight hours later, the team had produced a whimsical array of decorative 1x6 planks, which they converted into stair risers. For kicks, they also painted the studio floor in the spattered style of a Jackson Pollock canvas.

“When the workers returned in the morning, they thought the building had been vandalized,” Sather laughs. “But in the end it all came together as a celebration of color. The art loft is now one of the most used amenities of Martis Camp. It has become a point of pride in the community.”