But they planned to do just that on a remote 35 acres in the hilly country about an hour south of Charlottesville, the perfect spot to build the kind of timber cottage they’d always admired in their European travels. "We were really intrigued by this ancient way of building a house, but most of the timber frame designs that we’d seen in magazines had a more ‘lodge’ look. Our vision was considerably different."
Finding someone to realize that vision was easier than they thought. Jeannine spotted an ad in the newspaper for local custom builder and Timberpeg independent representative Smith & Robertson. On a whim, she stopped in their Charlottesville office. "I liked them, liked what I saw, and we never looked back," she says, "It was sort of an intuitive thing."
The home’s warmth is enhanced by earthy colors and glazing on the walls, a technique that gives drywall a texture much like plaster, explains Jeannine. "It has an uncontrived, functional, made-to-live-in look." The floors are 4-inch-wide planks of number-two oak, "We wanted a lot of character and knots," says John. A hearth, center island and travertine backsplash in the kitchen evoke a French Country aesthetic. And rather than have a formal dining room, the couple opted for a cross between a dining area and library, which they dubbed the "libing room." The room’s layout flows easily with multiple entrances, which makes the space perfect for entertaining.
One valuable lesson they learned from touring other timber homes in the area was to be mindful about the size of furnishings. "When you have open spaces, you can’t have small furniture," explains Jeannine. As a result, they invested in new furnishings and mixed in antiques, many of them picked up during their travels in Asia. One of the gems is a carved wooden screen that John brought home from Taiwan after stashing it in the bunk above him on a Navy submarine.
Looking back, the couple has a few regrets. They wish they’d built more closets for all the belongings they’ve collected over the years. They’re grateful that the folks from Timberpeg talked them into building a raised patio off the great room. "It was a way to integrate the outside in," explains John, "It would have been a major mistake if we hadn’t done it." They also realized that timber framing has some interesting challenges, such as lack of wall space to hang Jeannine’s larger work. But overall, they’re thrilled with the results and would embark on this style of homebuilding journey again—no matter where they roam.