You’re attracted to the traditional look of logs. You love the classiness of timber structures. There’s some cool textured stone on your land that would be perfect as a fireplace or pillar footing. Barnwood siding would be nice for the mudroom. And you have your eye on some exotic hardwood for great room flooring.
How can you possibly combine all these materials?
Your dream home might be a hybrid home — a custom wood home that combines a number of building materials and construction elements in the same structure, creating a home that’s far more than the sum of its many parts.
There are several names to this type of home, including mountain architecture, natural element, natural material, log-and-timber combo. Many companies offer this type of a home as part of their repertoire and may call it something like a signature series.
Generally speaking, hybrid homes are those that incorporate a substantial amount of conventional 2-by-6 construction juxtaposed against more natural-looking materials such as full-log walls or log veneer, timber frame, or stonework. The fact that hybrid homes do such a great job of combining different elements creates a wealth of wow factor — and raises the bar on your ability to customize and personalize your dream home.
“The hybrid look grew out of the homebuilding trends of the past, when growing families used whatever material was on hand when they needed to add on to their homes,” explains Matt Franklin of Mountain Architects Inc., affiliated with Idaho-based PrecisionCraft Log and Timber Homes. “Now, though, with advances in building technology and global transportation, the materials you use are pretty much entirely a matter of personal taste.”
The possibilities offered by hybrid home construction mean that people who might not have felt comfortable with any one single flavor of home design can venture into new architectural territory.
“We hear a lot of, ‘I don’t want something that’s too loggy,” Franklin notes. “I try to help people articulate it as ‘degrees of outside’ or ‘degrees of inside.’ A lot of people want the home to reflect the outside on the exterior, but as you get more to the interior, they want less ‘outdoors.’”
Aesthetically, a hybrid home with logs or timber frame on the exterior but with conventional construction on the interior can give a lighter feel than, for instance, a full-log home. Non-log walls tend to reflect more natural and artificial light and lend themselves to attractive painting and plastering techniques — as well as giving you more space for hanging pictures and artwork.
Plus, conventional construction in a hybrid home frees your design from some of the constraints of log or timber frame architecture. “You might love the look of logs, but there are certain issues with a full-log home that you don’t have to have with a hybrid home,” says Erwin Loveland of Tennessee-based MossCreek Designs. “For instance, with a hybrid you can put very large windows into the home without worrying so much about how whether the window is compromising the wall’s strength or how the logs will settle.”
And if you think your use of your home might change over the years, a hybrid home is easier to remodel and reconfigure than is a home made of solid logs or stone.
Then, too, hybrid homes featuring log or timber frame veneers may be a more comfortable build for your general contractor than would a log or timber-frame home. “Some general contractors consider a full log home or a timber frame home to be a black box,” says Loveland, who estimates that some 70% of the homes designed by his firm are hybrids. “If it’s a hybrid, though, the GC can just think of the house as conventional construction and the wood elements in terms of veneers or add-ons. For example, if you want a timber frame vault over your entryway, with a hybrid the contractor can just have the timber frame element brought in while he takes care of the rest of the house.”
Hybrid construction can also open up more possibilities for building sites; many high-end developments prohibit all-log homes, fearing that the home will be the small, dark, boxy log cabin of 100 years ago. But conventional construction accented by log veneer or log character posts can give you the look you want and be acceptable to the local homeowners’ association.
Alternatively, if you find a home with a layout and location you love, but an exterior you could live without, there’s nothing to say you can’t retrofit a home with post-and-beam accents or log character posts and bark siding, provided your architect and contractor are experienced with the materials you want incorporated in the home’s new life as a hybrid.
Key to doing justice to all the elements in a hybrid home, though, is using accent materials in all the right places. “The more public a space is, the more you’ll want to show it off,” says Mountain Architects’ Franklin. “We’re seeing that with a lot of designs. The great room is the focus, with timber frame construction exposed to the interior, or elaborate ceiling trusswork that creates a lot of visual attention. And, to some extent, master suites are getting more attention. Their ceilings are the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night.”
Kitchens are prime spots for traditional construction, giving you flat walls that can easily support cabinets and appliances. But by beefing up your conventional construction to support a little extra weight, you can add decorative ceiling trusswork, or graft on reclaimed wood beams or trim, giving the kitchen more architectural interest and warmth, and a sense of history too.
Designers recommend that you keep construction conventional in kids’ rooms or other areas that might see rough treatment, though. “Usually the kids’ bedrooms are on an upper floor where they aren’t likely to feature a high ceiling, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for timber frame elements,” notes MossCreek’s Loveland. “Kids may do things like draw on walls and add a few dings here and there. It’s probably better to just use Sheetrock for your children’s bedroom walls, because it’s easier to repair than, for instance, wainscoting made from an exotic or hard-to-harvest wood.”
Outdoor rooms, however, are a good place to put aside conventional construction and let the natural elements of your hybrid take over.
“We hear our clients saying, ‘If I’m going to be in a great mountain setting, I want to spend as little time inside as possible,” Franklin says. “That’s leading to a big interest in log trellis add-ons for outdoor rooms, or using decorative veneers like barnboard on the walls inside and out to help transition between indoor and outdoor spaces.”
As insurance, Franklin recommends making sure you find a design professional who really understands the products with which the house is going to be built, and who can act as a good resource for finding particularly interesting materials.
Agrees MossCreek’s Loveland, “You can build a new dream home with all the amenities, and have it look like it’s been there forever. The trick is making all the components work to give you that look. What a quality hybrid home does well is give you the conveniences of conventional construction, but with natural elements that make your dream home look like it really belongs.”
Photos ran in the print version of the magazine. Call (800) 258-0929 to order the Summer 2007 issue of Custom Wood Homes magazine, and click here to subscribe.