or most of us, our love affair with timber frames began at first sight. That love often becomes a passion that causes us to dream, plan and save for years. For me, as a professional interior designer, it was a growing infatuation with living in-not just with-a piece of finely crafted furniture. The thought of having a home with chiseled architectural details embellished with comfortable and interesting items fulfills a longing for quality, integrity and longevity.
For 24 years, I’ve been preaching the merits of showing your family’s lifestyle, interests and values in your home. I began to wonder why we had so many choices available in furniture and accessories and yet the housing to put them in looked like so much sterile sameness. In timber frames, the infinite variety of wood species, timber joinery and artisan touches all work together to become a very personal expression. Your timber frame home becomes whatever you want it to be, always makes you look good, gives you long-term savings, is low-maintenance and serves faithfully for generations.
Timber frame homes are a lot less decorating work than a stick-framed home because the timbers give you a head start on beauty. Decorating the house to complement the architectural style and landscape surroundings will keep the design from becoming dated.
Lighting the space is a bit more challenging. More up-lighting is required to show off the frame, and bringing down-lighting to a livable height is complicated by the soaring vaulted ceilings.
Because the frame supports the house, you have the opportunity for openness and entire window walls. These features will require you to give extra thought to having enough wall space for furnishings and artwork. Some of your largest areas of wall space will be higher up on the walls, which means the scale of the accessories must be larger or they’ll be lost when placed so high.
In planning Home On the Hill, a timber frame idea and design center in Cedar Hill, Texas, we wanted to demonstrate timber frames’ flexibility and adaptability to individual style. Working closely with the staff of Thistlewood Timber Frame Homes, including designer Mark Webb and owner Scott Murray, a plan was devised for a building with several different baysâall completely uniqueâto spark the design imagination. Each bay, or section, would highlight different joinery, wood species and room styles so those who’d like to build a timber frame could envision their own dream home.
“The Classic Formal” area was designed for those with traditional furnishings, rich formal accessories and classic tastes. A hammerbeam, two-bent system uses natural cherry for knee braces and pine-stained dark mahogany to set the tone. Adding glazed, veined tile, a natural marble border and base, faux suede walls and a cast concrete fireplace complements the timber frame. In keeping with the scale, a large bedroom furniture suite was ordered to set a romantic mood.
A word to the wise about a difficult lesson learned: In ordering furniture before your timber frame is raised, check the height of your room’s timbersâour bed fit under the lower girt, but our entertainment cabinet would not!
This adaptable room, decorated by interior designer Lynne Adkerson of Cedar Hill Design, is a beautiful master bedroom but would be equally at home as a formal living room in a French country home, or a dining room or library in an English Tudor.
For a more relaxed style, “The English Cottage” area has log cabin overtones. A hand-hewn, white oak kingpost truss and a series of rafters were the starting point of our design. Concrete pavers set in a herringbone pattern cover the floors with country charm. By using the same pavers as baseboards and around the windows and door as trim, I avoided using too much woodâthereby letting the bones of the timber frame shine.
Since most timber frames have fantastic views, the windows are adorned only with interesting trim rather than curtains that would obstruct a view. A hand-troweled, cement-like surface provides highly textured walls.
The room is very adaptable and could be decorated in country, lodge, cowboy or, as we have this time, English country themes. By combining the multi-patterned, overstuffed sofa and checkered scallop-bottom chair with the rough texture of the frame, brick, fireplace and antler chandelier, we mixed femininity and masculinity. It’s a fun combination that’s very relaxed and livable with almost no upkeep.
“We always ask who, when, what, how in designing a room,” says Cathy Rohr of Cedar Hill Design in describing how she arrived at the layout of the great room.
Who and how many people will be using the room on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis? What activities will you be doing there? How do you want the room to feel, and how much do you want to reveal of yourself in this room? When will you be using the room, and what is the sun’s orientation at that time?
The answers to these questions will dictate the durability, color, patterns, lighting, window treatments and furniture needs of the room.
The “Naturally Engaging” great room has eastern white pine hammerbeam bents with roof purlins, porcelain tile laid diagonally (a room-expanding trick that leads the eye to the timber frame posts), manufactured stone surrounding the direct-vent fireplace and an arched window overlooking the woods and creek below.
The walls and ceiling were painted with an energy-efficient paint not only to add a dramatic teal green but to increase R-value. This color contrasts nicely with the pine skeleton that was sealed using a wood-nurturing, citrus-based beeswax paste.
In furnishing the room, Cathy selected a tweed sofa, a big comfortable reading chair and ottoman, a pair of lounge chairs, a pocket-door television armoire and a game table with chairs on casters to easily move anywhere. By anchoring the conversation area with a rug laid diagonally, the eye is led naturally to the view.
Whether you are having a party, watching television, reading a book, playing a game or engaging in intimate conversation, this room feels warm and cozy despite its 32-foot high ridge beam. Rather than finish the doorways with wood trim, bullnose drywall trim was used and the deep doorways were hand-painted by local artist Sergio Chemomorets with a grapevine arbor motif.
Combining the very old with the very new is always interesting. The “Simply Stylish” area contemporary dining room is almost sparse and Shaker in its appearance.
Recycled Douglas fir from a dismantled Heinz Ketchup warehouse in Toronto, Ontario, gives the simple queenpost trusses clean lines with obvious history. Louisiana recycled cypress cabinets make an interesting statement. The design is built around a slate and copper fountain that’s hung between casement windows and terrace doors overlooking the woods. This stylish piece pulls the room together.
The design demonstrates a warm contemporary feeling that’s natural, simple and uncluttered. Faux-washed sage walls bring the outdoors in and complement the slate green porcelain floor tiles set with a sliced rock border that underscores the iron and plank table. Comfortable upholstered chairs invite diners to linger for laughter and conversation long after the meal is over.
Now that you have some decorating ideas to complement a timber frame home, start a file of ideas by clipping pictures and floorplans you like. Attend home shows and seminars and fine-tune your dream.
For more information about the Cedar Hill Design Center, call 972-291-2070.