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The story goes that in the early years of our company, aka the 80’s, the old shop suffered a collapse and upon thinking to scrap the remains, it was suggested by a couple we were building for that we should re-use the timbers for their home. It was, as stories go, an ‘ah ha!’ moment. Always having enjoyed reclaimed wood, we now had a bigger purpose for bigger reclaimed timbers.

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Since that 1980’s event, we have continued to make special projects from reclaimed timbers, including the roof system (above) our team crafted, joined, and raised just last week.

Reclaimed timbers bring additional texture, aesthetic, and a unique history to every project. This Summer we’ve had several weeks of reclaimed timbers in the shop, designated for a few raisings for residential projects. Remarkable and esteemed, we're giving them another moment in the spotlight:
 

The finishing touches are complete! This timber frame lake home in the Finger Lakes started with our design team and wrapped up with our build team over the Summer:

 

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New Energy Works (NEW) has done a phenomenal job for our family from the design concept to the finished lake house. In the very beginning, the team made a point to learn what was important to us and what we envisioned. Throughout the process, NEW made sure those things that were important to us were their focus.” – Jim and Tina, homeowners.

 

The home has quickly become the hub of family gatherings for multiple generations. Open in a 180-degree expanse, on a point locally known as Allen’s Point, our design group explained that the home’s layout is intended to make the most of the sweeping lake views.

Inspired by barns familiar to the New York countryside, this long, linear home situated on rural acreage overlooks the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley. Designed by Amalgam Studio of NYC and built by Black Oak Builders, the cadence of a series of repeating trusses define the high, light-filled, and airy interior canvas.

“The open setting and the rural, agricultural, and historic nature of the property brought us very quickly to the concept of a “modern barn”, explains the project architect, Ben Albury, Principal of Amalgam Studio. “I researched vernacular barns of the area and looked at three historic forms in particular: the New World Dutch Barn, the English Barn (or 3-Bay barn) and the New England Barn. These contextual archetypes informed the overall form.”

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We began with kiln dried Douglas fir timbers, crafting the traditional gable shape with a modern integration of blackened steel bottom chords and embedded metal connectors. A custom, multi-step finish produced a darkened truss with more pronounced grain patterns. “The client and I both wanted to highlight the nature of the material used for the main structure. It wasn’t a steel portal frame so painting didn’t make sense.” Ben continued, “The process chosen highlights the beautiful grain of the timber, and gives it additional protection from UV damage. The darker tone sits well with the black metal elements, but also contrasts beautifully with the white oak interiors.”

I recently chatted with Jennifer Palumbo founder/principal of Jennifer Palumbo Inc, a Boston-based interior design firm. It was a pleasure to discuss her perspectives on design and intentionality with textures and colors that include special consideration of the place of wood in any space focusing on our timber frame project on the Cape in MA. She shared insider insight into designing and living in the space:

 

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I’m excited to know this is your family vacation home! 

It is! We’d been looking for a location to build a home and found the land in Osterville. I had dreamed of a barn structure in a beach location; it was my initial idea for years. Overall we knew we wanted a large open living space with a barn look and exposed beam work that would fit the beach location.

 

Jennifer Palumbo of Jennifer Palumbo Inc, a Boston-based interior design firm. She believes, “Any interior space can fulfill its function while encompassing beauty and timelessness.”
Jennifer Palumbo of Jennifer Palumbo Inc, a Boston-based interior design firm. She believes, “Any interior space can fulfill its function while encompassing beauty and timelessness.”

 

How did you solve the integration of barn and beach?

From Jonathan:

For years I’ve resisted writing this post. It can come off as very self-serving. Please don’t let it. Instead, I’ll attempt to be as neutral-valued as I can, and share some of my 30-year history, and perhaps just a tad of the experiences, and sometimes frustrating stories, our clients have shared…and some that I have witnessed.

The timber frame industry has a great many good people in it, associated with it, and as I’ve often said, many of the coolest clients I can imagine. So first, think about a timber framer who is involved with the Timber Framers Guild. At our Guild conferences and our meet-ups, in the committee work we do, in the publications we create, two important things occur: we learn, and are better professionals because of it; we share, and our craft is better for it. In both cases you win.

Author, Jonathan Orpin: founder and president of New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks; board member and past president of the Timber Framers Guild, enjoys some time on the water.
Author, Jonathan Orpin: founder and president of New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks; board member and past president of the Timber Framers Guild, enjoys some time on the water.

 

Photo courtesy of the Timber Framers Guild.
Photo courtesy of the Timber Framers Guild.

 

And when you ask, “Is your company a member?” be sure to dig just bit deeper. Do you attend the conferences? Do you send your shop folk and your designers? Do you give, as well as receive?

 

Combining solar with timber framing? We’re all in. We’ve teamed up with SunCommon, a solar energy company with locations in Vermont and New York to bring their latest innovation, the Solar Canopy, to life.

 

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These structures are making solar even easier to add to businesses and homes. The canopies are great for over driveways, parking areas, patios, wood piles, or serving as new outdoor spaces. We like this project as an energy producer, gathering spot, and outdoor storage space–the uses are nearly limitless.

 

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According to SunCommon’s calculations, a two-car bi-facial panel canopy generates enough solar power for the average Vermont home. Designed to take advantage of snow, they use glass solar panels on the Canopies that absorb light from both the front and the back thanks to Sunpreme bi-facial solar panels. If the Canopy is covered with snow on top, the underside of the panels will still produce power from the sunlight reflected off the snow-covered ground. Providing shelter, making the most of inclement weather, and offsetting energy demands–yes, please!

Mike Beganyi spearheaded the partnership with SunCommon and has been on-site taking photos of several of the Vermont canopy projects, including the first canopy opening with Vermont Governor Phil Scott at Hunger Mountain Co-op, a member-owned grocery and cafe.

 

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Enclosure, mechanicals, and moving in. What’s the latest with our CLT build?

We began raising the first complete Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building in New York State on our main campus in Farmington, NY in late January 2017. A combination of mass timber, heavy timber, and CLTs, the 21,000 sq ft building will house our fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks, and offer a bit of storage/shipping for our sister company, Pioneer Millworks. Progress since May has included:

Wood fiber installation, another product which is new to the US. Also referred to as “out-sulation” since it is installed on the outside of projects, the Wood Fiber panels offer 3.5R per inch, are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, and are a carbon sink – for each 1 m3 used, up to 1 tonne of CO2 is bound within the product. Made by Steico, we found this product installed with a fair amount of ease and is performing well.

 

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The custom CNC cut corner tree received a coat of stain and is now sheltered behind glass.

 

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Siding, including shiplap Shou Sugi Ban Color Char by Pioneer Millworks.

 

“I truly could not have asked to work with a better crew. It’s great to work with people so on-point. Hardly anything went by without someone helping to make the others’ job easier.” – Mike W, Timber Frame Champion on the Ann Arbor Legacy Home.

 

Thanks to Mike W, Timber Frame Champion on this project, for sharing his comments, leadership, and skills.
Thanks to Mike W, Timber Frame Champion on this project, for sharing his comments, leadership, and skills.

 

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Raisings are often an exciting culmination of years of dreaming, months of planning, and hours of crafting. This Ann Arbor, Michigan home was no exception as our team was met with excited smiles and kind accolades from the homeowners Cindy and Bill and the builder, David (of Coppernail Construction). Our team of Mike, Jimmy, Taylor, and Randy from the McMinnville (Oregon) shop raised the frame amidst some rainy summer days in July.

A large hybrid timber frame and stick-built project, timber abounds in the great room, main entry, kitchen/dining areas. As a full-time home to the owners, this structure will also comfortably accommodate visits from their five children and many grandchildren within its nine bedrooms and seven baths. Plus they’ll have all-season fun with both indoor and outdoor pools.

 

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Our craftsmen are raising the frame for a large timber frame central hall for a project with Kurpinski Builder. Each timber has a multistep custom finish and a few have needed to be ‘persuaded’ into place. The best tool of the trade for this? The trusty wooden beetle mallet wielded here with gusto and precision by Matt.

 

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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.

 

As seen on Houzz.com a project we raised in Madison, WI a few years back:

 

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As seen in Fine Home Building, written by Jonathan Orpin:

 

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DESIGN New England did a feature story on a Newport estate inspired home full of trusses and timber details. The home was designed in partnership with Gleysteen Design and built by our friends at Kenneth Vona Construction.

View it below, or to read directly in the magazine, check out the full article.

 

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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

 

An article from Canandaigua Magazine by Erich Van Dussen with photos by Matt Wittmeyer:

 

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Almost every detail of the house kept the environment in mind, down to the Cedar shingles (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) and the EnviroShake roofing.
Almost every detail of the house kept the environment in mind, down to the Cedar shingles (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) and the EnviroShake roofing.

 

Various types of wood used throughout the house were reclaimed from old barns, industrial timbers and mills. Local Sheldon Slate was used in the kitchen.
Various types of wood used throughout the house were reclaimed from old barns, industrial timbers and mills. Local Sheldon Slate was used in the kitchen.

 

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It’s true: I’ve been raising timber frames for just over half of my entire life. I can’t actually count how many raisings I’ve been on. I don’t do as many as I used to, but when I do, there’s no less joy.

 

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Last week Darren Watson, our McMinnvile shop chief and I took co-workers Johnathan Farley and Randy Yates up to Wenatchee, Washington, to raise the timber frame home of Dave Parker. Wenatchee is on the dry side of the Cascades, with chaparral, sage and mountains. Dave’s homesite is across the valley from Mission Ridge Ski Resort, where he is a full time instructor. The design of the home picks up the area’s ruggedness, and Dave’s thirst for woodwork and volume.

 

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The schedule: Two days to offload and pre-assemble the sections and bents, one day for a crane-assisted raising, one day to rack, peg and drive home. There’s a formulaic rhythm to saying that which underscores the vast planning, the attention to detail, and level of skill and experience on raising day. But when there, it seems anything but formulaic to me, and likely downright crazy, perhaps exhilarating to those not so…mature as me. Think of Randy, his first raising as he starts new to us after a pretty heady career as a machinist. What was he thinking? Or Farley, who as a rock climber immediately got assigned to high man duty…what is on his mind as the crane swings a section of pre-assembled timbers towards him, and just a tease of wind picks from down the mountain-side? Or best of all, what was Dave Parker thinking? He’s now a cabinet-maker by trade after a long career as a project manager in large commercial jobs. WOW, his pre-thinking all our details had been impressive, almost overbearing, and now here’s his vision become volume.

 

Jonathan & Maxine were interviewed by AOL Real Estate after hearing The Vermont Street Project had won Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s Home of the Year in the Houses 2011 issue. Filmed about a year ago, we still take our hats off to the production team for capturing their story so well. Enjoy the video!