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Take a peek into some custom timber frame home plans from our design + build team.

 
On the lake in New York:
Rendering of timber frame exterior of lake home design project.

The narrow, tapering site in the Finger Lakes Region of NY presented a challenge for maximizing views of Canandaigua Lake. Following the setback as closely as possible for the bedrooms while pushing the layout in on each side of the living space gave way for a large deck as well as private deck space access with lake views from each bedroom. 

Taking a bit of inspiration from Pacific Northwest and modern architectural styles, opposing shed roofs help lower the overall mass of the southern facing side of this home, allow for high windows between the roofs, shade from summer sun (yet allow winter sun in), and shelter the main level deck.

Timber frame lake home design entry view with garage.

A covered porch forms the welcoming entry leading to a tall vestibule with a quick corner turn to glimpses the surrounding landscape, then into a light-filled hallway with picture frame views of the lake. Approaching the common area the views keep expanding until you are immersed in the living space. 

A Letter from the Founder of 

New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks

The end of one decade marks the beginning of the next. I, for one, don’t have a language that embraces this expanse of years. Both New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks have changed and will change a bit more. As I sat to write this, I stopped to reflect on all of the work we’ve done over the last 10 years and it really gave me pause.

 

My daughter Sierra, who works with us in Pioneer, recently asked,”Dad, did you ever imagine that these companies would grow so large?” I hadn’t really. Yet, it’s not that I DIDN’T think such a thing. We work hard every day, do the best we can, follow our hearts and gosh, we find ourselves…here.

 

Today we are over 130 craftsmen, artisans, designers,and makers. 

 

Yet the feel of the place remains personal. I like this about us. We know our coworkers, our clients, our partners. When you call, a person answers, and that person now is most likely an owner. We officially became an employee-owned (ESOP) company in 2018 and this means that the folks who have long acted like owners, are actually owners. They can partake more fully in the rewards, have their voice truly heard, and be part of their own work-life destiny. This transition makes sense to me.

 

We have doubled down on our commitment to the Triple Bottom Line.

I remain convinced that businesses like ours can make the difference we need: a world that places a more sustainable earth and a more evenly shared economy on equal footing with earnings. We’ve known with absolute certainty that everything we do, every choice we make needs to take the environmental impacts into consideration. This was our planet’s hottest decade ever recorded; it is imperative that we continue to push forward, to do all we can to shift the winds to help our home, our Earth.

 

Quality design is the thread that weaves through all we do, beginning with architectural plans. Whether you are the designer or architect, or you come to us with a professional design, or you hire us to design your project, it all starts here.

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The focus of our design efforts has many branches including: efficiency–both in energy and how the home functions for the family–comfort, durability, and future needs. “A home should inspire a better way for us to live,” shares Ty Allen, AIA, our design/build manager. “It should respond to your needs today and also stir us to live better, to do better tomorrow.”

 

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“A home should respond to your needs today and also stir us to live better, to do better tomorrow.” Photo (c) Loren Nelson.

 

We find designing shelter in this way is both a challenging and an exhilarating process. Ty: “When we begin the design process we ask a lot of questions and we do a lot of listening. It is important for us to get to know our clients. Who they are; how they think; the patterns of their daily lives; the subtleties of how they live. We want to understand their vision, and how they envision themselves living in their new home.”

With this understanding, we become an extension of them throughout the process of designing and building their home so that in the end, they have a home that simply fits.

When we met Nancy and Larry to first chat about their timber frame home aspirations, we learned that Larry is a beekeeper and suddenly we were as full of questions about beekeeping as we were with answers to home designing and building. The couple shares a special affinity for nature, much like our various teams (if you’ve ever read our bios, you’ll see a reoccurring theme of ‘hiking, biking, and being outdoors’). Taking a look at the bucolic piece of farm and woodlands near Ithaca, NY was one of the first steps to designing the couple’s home. Ty Allen, AIA, our design build manager and architect, met with Larry and Nancy on their site to explore the possibilities. Ty shared with us a bit about the overall project and process:

 

Ty explained that the site offered a good combination of open space and mature woods. There was a desire to embrace both with this custom home.
Ty explained that the site offered a good combination of open space and mature woods. There was a desire to embrace both with this custom home.

“When we walked the site it became clear we could create a design that would give Larry and Nancy a home which engaged with both the surrounding woods and open spaces. We knew they wanted something of manageable size and easy to maintain where they could enjoy their retirement,” Ty shared.

The owners of this timber frame lakeside retreat enjoyed the original lake farmhouse on the site for many years. When it became apparent that their beloved lake house had outlived its use, they made the bittersweet decision to deconstruct it in favor of a new home.

 

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The land, the lake, and home’s impact there was a driving force in the design. Our design team started with respecting the local vernacular and maintaining existing trees and then included advanced enclosure and mechanical systems, FSC-certified® and reclaimed wood flooring and siding, roofing made of recycled wood fiber and rubber, and a geothermal heat system—all resulting in energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

 

In keeping with local vernacular, the road side facia of this cottage home is modest and welcoming.
In keeping with local vernacular, the road side facia of this cottage home is modest and welcoming.

 

The broad stroke design of this home harkens to sap houses and agricultural structures of the Northeast and the flare of mountain homes for a balance of rugged and modern aesthetics. Forms evoke the traditional, such as the clerestory and the cylindrical stair tower but are tempered within via the non-traditional great room space and helical, modern stairs.

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Transom windows express the Northeast vibe but are combined with big expanses of glass reminiscent of western mountain homes.
Transom windows express the Northeast vibe but are combined with big expanses of glass reminiscent of western mountain homes.

 

“Often I find the most beautiful designs are when you can see the function of a structure. I enjoy thinking of a balance of the purpose of a structure and function, and how the builders achieve that goal,” shared Shannon, homeowner of the Circle in a Square project. “I enjoy seeing the inner workings of things. That’s why I love timber frame structures. Take a home and its many reasons for being; there is an endless way of accomplishing the goal. You need a roof and walls and other parts and ways for them to be held up and attached. The timber frame is probably one of the most unique ways of showing how that can be done.”

 

Much of our design and construction planning focuses on reducing the energy our projects consume, not only to the benefit of those enjoying the home, but to the larger community and the planet. One of the best ways to influence this: special consideration, planning, and detailing of wall and roof systems (aka: the project’s envelope). I chatted with Ty Allen AIA, our design-build manager, who took us a bit deeper our current innovations and processes with our home enclosures:

 

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Ty (left) discusses plans on the job site with a few other members of the design/build team.
Ty (left) discusses plans on the job site with a few other members of the design/build team.

 

Megan: Thanks for walking through this, Ty. I’m curious, what do you think are the key things to consider when you are designing the building envelope for a high-performance home?

Ty: Air leakage is one of the biggest areas of energy and efficiency loss. Think of it this way; you can have as much insulation you want, but if you leave the front door open, it doesn’t matter. Add up all of the thousands of potential points of air leakage, and it can quickly turn into a big energy and efficiency loss.

Generally, when we think about envelope design, one of the most fundamental things we want to do is define the pressure boundary. In other words, the line throughout the building in the wall-makeup where you’re creating airtightness. If there’s a break in the pressure boundary, say cold air leaking through the floor system into the living room, performance is lost.

 

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Onlookers huddled in their coats and chatted excitedly on a cool breezy day in upstate New York while our craftsmen raised the frame for Jim and Tina’s home on Cayuga Lake. Multiple generations of the family were joined by a few guests at the site. Seeing the timbers come together and their home take shape brought plenty of smiles from Jim, Tina, their children, and grandchildren.

 

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While there are very few flat build sites available around the Finger Lakes these days, the couple found a special spot on Cayuga Lake that is not only flat but includes a point, known locally as Allen’s Point. Open in a 180-degree expanse, our design group explained that the home’s layout is intended to make the most of the sweeping north, west, and south lake views. With plans calling for a modified “L” shape, the position of the home on the site collects those views as well as links together the north beach side with the south boat dock side of the property. (It also allows private spaces to reside in the long straight of the “L”, separate from the open public spaces.)

 

 

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With the foundation in and first-floor framing in place, it was time to put the frame up. Raising days are momentous occasions, a culmination of years of dreaming and planning. We’re always glad to join these significant days as the excitement is infectious and there’s nothing quite like going from an open site to a full frame in the span of a day or two.

 

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Designing your timber frame home starts from the outside in. Ty Allen, AIA and our design/build collaborated with Timber Home Living on a short article about the beginning of this process. Read the article below or, if you’d like an original, pick up a copy of the December 2017 issue of Timber Home Living magazine.

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“No fish and no gum today?”

I was sorry to disappoint Pete for our design discussion, but I was indeed empty handed except for my notebook and pen. I reluctantly shook my head. With his usual cheer and chuckle, Pete continued, “That’s okay, Megan. Next time…both.”

 

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I had sequestered Pete on the porch this sunny afternoon to learn more about a large lake home project the team had designed. It was raised late last year on Smith Mountain Lake and, rumor has it, is steadily nearing completion.

 

An early rendering of the Smith Mountain Lake project.
An early rendering of the Smith Mountain Lake project.

 

“I can’t say I’m feeling very linguistic today,” Pete admitted. It turned out he had been doing sheer wall calculations, which meant crunching numbers, all morning. Regardless of a head full of figures and formulas, we managed a good conversation diving into details of the design/build for this family vacation home. I even learned a new term:

Thanks, Phil and Rocio. Little did you know how perfect your timing was when you came to us and asked for a “small but perfect home”. Fertile ground indeed, and my mind raced with the many recent thoughts about working on something like a precious gem, or what we’re calling a NEW Jewel.

So many of our clients now are building smaller homes because they simply don’t need a bigger one. Seems smart for many reasons: less vacuuming, less heating and cooling, less taxes. And for many, less strain on the finances as we get to the point where retirement shines bright and hopeful.

 

Phil and Rocio with their new Aussie pup Sherlock.
Phil and Rocio with their new Aussie pup Sherlock.

 

I’ve closely followed the whole Tiny House thing, and a few of my friends have been drawn to it. There’s plenty about it on the web, but simply put they’re tightly designed and crafted homes of 200-400 square feet, often built on a chassis and wheels. Cool idea, but hard to live in for most, I’d reckon. For the jewel of a home in my own mind, I wanted to start with 1,000 square feet. Enough room for a pleasant common area, a couple of away rooms for bed and work, a couple of bathrooms and yes to a mudroom and pantry. (For Phil and Rocio’s, we ended up with 1,140 square feet.) 

 

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While site constraints are common with any project, this particular building site on Otsego Lake demanded that any new structure fit within the previous camp’s footprint – no larger, no change in orientation, no closer to the shore. However, there was opportunity to play with the height of a new project and always room for thoughtful use of space.

 

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The Southeast side of Ostego Lake is forever wild. The Northeast is home to a state park, the Western side is a large, privately owned estate. Thanks to good timing several years back, the client purchased this site with an existing three-season camp, on the Northwestern end of the lake. Removal of the old three-season camp revealed a tight 24′ x 31′ footprint.

 

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Our design team began the journey to ‘grow up’ on the site by understanding the desires and needs of the client—a father looking to create a four-season, multi-generational family get-away. A sleek mountain-lake aesthetic provided the starting point for a taller, multi-level cottage design. With the lake as a major focal point, contemporary, horizontally mulled rectangular windows were combined with non-mulled square windows for ample views and abundant natural light. A split shed roof will allow the project to stay within height restrictions while creating a clerestory to bring southern light into the upper-level bedroom spaces. “I really like the simplicity and functionality of the split shed roof and I’m excited to see it come to life,” said Pete, lead Architect on this project.

 

When we last visited Dan & Laurie’s project on Canandaigua Lake, Pete, one of our design group architects and the design leader for the home, walked us through the site planning. I nabbed Pete again, this time to take a look inside the project at the design considerations for creating the layout and formal floor plans.

 

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Just like last time, Pete made a quick inquiry about little orange fish crackers. I had to let him down softly; I had nothing. Looking disappointed for a beat, he moved on reminding me that Dan & Laurie’s site overlooked the lake and came with strict site constraints (not uncommon to building near water) including height restrictions, erosion/sediment concerns, setbacks, and more. He explained that the constraints drove the overall siting of the house and garage, but there were still the interior spaces (and floor plan) to negotiate.

“Dan and Laurie’s project is meant to be a multi-generational home that will act as a central gathering spot for family and friends. Overall the home has an open floor plan with the public spaces centralized on both the main and lower levels which can easily accommodate larger gatherings. Balancing that are private spaces on the ends of the home which allow folks the opportunity to enjoy their quiet space or step inwards to join the party.”

 

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In our experience, homes are most successful when they adapt, age, and grow with their inhabitants. It’s always pleasing when we can plan ahead for changes, such as transitioning a weekend vacation space to full-time home. Hank and Julie have given us such an opportunity. The couple has a delightful build site in Vermont and enlisted our team to design their vacation home, which will eventually become their full-time retirement retreat.

Sublime views between ski areas to the north and south guided the overall home orientation, and specifically the great room layout, for Hank and Julie’s project.

 

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Careful consideration was also given to the traditional Vermont farmhouse vernacular. The design acknowledges this aesthetic with a main gable roofline that intersects with an asymmetrical salt box gable roofline. It incorporates the couple’s desire for mountain-rustic style with mixed exterior materials and subtle timber elements. The corner of the home’s “L” shaped layout is defined with a stair tower that has evenly stacked windows and will feature shou sugi ban siding.

 

The stair tower anchors the corner of the home’s “L” shaped layout.
The stair tower anchors the corner of the home’s “L” shaped layout.

 

With a combination of woodlands and open agricultural space, the site will allow the home to be set partially within the trees at the end of a curving drive through open land. A banked garage is angled into the hillside, giving the front of the home a modest street-side facade.

 

The design for Jim and Regina’s home on Oseetah Lake (connected to lower Saranac Lake in NY) is affectionately referred to as a modern take on Adirondack style architecture. Oseetah Lake is well-known for paddling and fishing, as it has a mean depth of 3 ft. This build site is one of nine lots on a 500 acre privately owned natural preserve around the lake. The home will be situated on a small swale off a ridge with lake views.

The couple referenced both contemporary and traditional mountain style architecture as they described their vision to our team. Adding to our road map for design was their design questionnaire – one of the most thoroughly completed we have ever received. These questionnaires are an invaluable tool when we’re beginning the design process.  Many thanks to Jim and Regina for sharing their time and attention to detail!

 

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The resulting first draft plan is very open with with overlapping living spaces. The form of the home calls for opposing sweeping lines in a contemporary, ‘lighter’ timber frame full of natural light and lake views.

 

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Starting with the entry the home shrugs tradition with a “void” of space rather than an outreaching covered porch. Immediately upon entering, the plans call for a 90 degree turn that open to lake scenery and, as one steps further in, it becomes capacious, with clear volumes to upper level. Planning focused on eliciting views and letting the space grow as one progresses deeper within the home.

 

Timber Home Living magazine documented the Olsen’s journey to building their family retreat in the Berkshires from 2014 to completion in 2016. What happens during a custom home building project? Starting with our design team join the story from the Olsen’s point of view as we craft the timber frame, enclosure, and custom woodworking. Click through each part of the eight part series below to get the inside scoop.

The Olsen’s story, and the Welcome Home Series, begins with the land…

 

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Part 1From Dream to Design
The Olsen’s begin designing their dream home on land they’d been spending vacation time visiting for 10 years. Harmony with the land and the family was a must.

 

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Part 2: Laying The Groundwork
Breaking ground – an exciting day, especially with a few last minute modifications.

 

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Part 3: Built to Last
Our team raises the frame and the Olsen family watches their dream home take shape.

 

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Part 4: Worth the Wait
Weather delays…but not for long!

 

“I definitely think we designed the right size house with the perfect layout. The house lives on the land and captures views. We’re so happy we decided to build this house and we’re so happy we decided to work with New Energy Works.” – Greg Olsen.

We can’t thank Greg enough for his kind words, but we can try! Many, many thanks to Greg and Dee for working with us and becoming part of our community. Designing, raising, enclosing, and completing the fine woodworking for their home was truly a pleasure. Please enjoy this final article by Timber Home Living magazine of the Olsen’s retreat home journey. (And if you missed the others, click here.)

 

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Re-use and reclamation:

Refreshing older timber frame structures to meet modern vernaculars and layouts is an interesting challenge. It reminds us what an extremely flexible building method timber framing is. With the frame carrying the load of the enclosure, interior walls are free to be moved and adapted.

Daniel and Sheri asked for our help in redesigning their 1980s timber frame. The layout and fenestration wasn’t meeting the needs for their large family. The re-design for the existing frame has created modern, open layouts. One major change was the window design for the front fascia. Removing a beam and replacing it allowed more light and wider views from inside the home.

 

The exterior of Daniel and Sheri’s 1980’s timber frame had a face lift including re-working large windows, re-forming the main entry, and updating cladding.
The exterior of Daniel and Sheri’s 1980’s timber frame had a face lift including re-working large windows, re-forming the main entry, and updating cladding.

 

Original fenestration.
Original fenestration.

 

We re-worked the window layout, removing and replacing timber beams to create more open views.
We re-worked the window layout, removing and replacing timber beams to create more open views.

 

Many of our clients want a connected space that works well as the living room, kitchen and dining area, and are looking for this in a more intimate volume than some of the bigger great rooms we often see in timber framing and other large houses. We call this the Commons. Done well, it can feel just as comfortable when two sit down to read for the evening or twelve come for Easter dinner.

 

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Timber Home Living magazine is covering the adventure of building a timber frame home from the ground up with the Olsen family. In this second installment, we raise the frame:

 

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Timber Home Living Magazine is documenting each step in the design/build process for the Olsen family’s reclaimed Douglas fir timber frame home in Austerlitz, NY. Online and print articles will cover the home’s journey from architectural planning, to the frame raising, to enclosure, to completion.

Part 1, below, can be found in the October issue on sale now.

 

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The Oregonian wrote an article on The Vermont Street Project our timber frame showhome in Portland, Oregon. The piece is packed with great design highlights and tips, images, a slideshow, and floor plans. Read it all here.

 

Jonathan Orpin, Maxine Bromfield (with Annie) and their son, Jake Orpin (with Dexter) moved into their home at the end of 2009 and feel now as if they are getting in the rhythm of the house, using and enjoying what each space offers. Photo by Stephen Cridland
Jonathan Orpin, Maxine Bromfield (with Annie) and their son, Jake Orpin (with Dexter) moved into their home at the end of 2009 and feel now as if they are getting in the rhythm of the house, using and enjoying what each space offers. Photo by Stephen Cridland