Fulfilling a Dream

Timber Frame Home Article

When the time comes for something to change in a home, many people will change the color of the paint, the furniture that fills a room or even the artwork that adorns the walls. But Rosemary Joyce knew these small alterations weren't going to be enough for the change she wanted to implement in her life.

The circa 1873 house that she had resided in with her husband, John, since 1969 had sufficed and kept them on a steady path. But now their three children were grown and the need for more space for their children's growing families was becoming more apparent.

Originally, Rosemary and John had dreamed of finding an old barn and restoring it, but when the time finally came to build, the couple decided a timber frame addition would be better suited to their needs.

"We had this idea for some time. We had always wanted a barn-style home," Rosemary says. "Of course, everyone thought we were crazy to do it at our ages."

After starting the project with an architect and not getting the results she was looking for, Rosemary decided to tackle the project herself. A friend recommended Oakbridge Timber Framing. Rosemary checked into it by visiting their facilities in Howard, Ohio, and touring five homes the company had built.

"We were very impressed with their work, their obvious dedication and their sweetness," Rosemary says. "We didn't want to rush into it, but I called and said we wanted to start the process. Unfortunately, the owner at the time said that wasn't possible. We couldn't start for almost another year."

With the ideas from the homes she had toured and her new-found planning time, Rosemary went to work on the design. The extra time turned out to be a blessing for her because she was able to design the home exactly as she imagined. "The house is 10 years old, and I still wake up every morning and love it just as much as that first day," Rosemary says.

"We've been building and designing timber frames since 1986," says Johnny, director of sales and marketing at Oakbridge. "Most clients don't have a lot of design savvy or bring blueprints to the table–most just come with sketches."

But Rosemary was unlike most clients. "I had no true design tools," Rosemary says, explaining her task of designing the home. "It was so silly. I made it very hard for myself." But Rosemary was determined, and when it was time for the frame to be cut, her home plans were finalized

One of the most important design elements to Rosemary was planning how the three-story timber frame addition would "attach" to the current house but not change the exterior too drastically.

Working with Oakbridge, Rosemary devised a plan to remove a corner of the old living room's bay window and replace it with a door leading into the new part of the home. The couple also wanted to preserve an old tree that was next to the house. In order to accommodate the tree, the doorway into the timber frame was built with a 7-foot extension hallway, which solved the tree dilemma and gave the couple much-needed storage space.

"Designing to make the outside look right is often very challenging," Johnny says. ''The farmhouse and timber frame were joined by a small section, but it was tastefully done. And although the farmhouse doesn't look the same, it still looks very nice."

Rosemary, who had her own ideas about how the two buildings would come together, actually appreciates the changes that have occurred to her farmhouse. "My goal was to make it look like the old-style New England and European farmhouses, which often had the barn attached to the house," she says.

Since she was serving as her own general contractor and was fortunate to live at the building site, Rosemary watched the entire process unfold.

"They brought the pieces of the oak frame already stained, and everything fit perfectly," she says. "It's amazing how they can bring the timbers from miles away, have it fit and do it all in a very cooperative effort.

"The most incredible aspect though was watching the timber framers do their 'ballet' on the upper beams," Rosemary adds. "One would be in the air, two feet balanced on a beam, sledgehammer over his head, hitting the joints as though he was standing on the ground."

Once the frame was complete, John surprised everyone by partaking in a well-known timber frame building tradition: He cut down a pine bough from the nearby woods and climbed on the top of the frame to tack it on. Much to his dismay, one of the crew members–worried that this "old man" would injure himself–protectively climbed up behind him.

As for the finished product, the main floor of the timber frame home includes plenty of room for the family to spread out between the living room, kitchen and dining room. The wall of windows in the living room floods the main floor with natural light. "There is so much space and light, I just love to be in the house," Rosemary says.

A workshop–with its barn-style sliding door–feeds off the main living area, giving even more space for family gatherings. "John started calling the workshop the play shop, because he said I needed to play more," Rosemary says.

A small loft, which Rosemary refers to as the "secret loft," looks over the play shop. "With the ceiling being sloped in the play shop, it's not really big enough for adults. It's large enough for two sleeping bags and that's it," Rosemary says, adding that her grandchildren love the tiny space.

The second floor, which includes the master bedroom, bathroom and office, overlooks the living room. There is also a loft above the office, which Rosemary nicknamed the "meditation loft."

The couple included other sources of lighting to brighten the home in the evening, including track lighting on the beams in the office, living room, bedroom and master bathroom.

"I never really liked track lighting, but the space seemed to call for it," Rosemary says. "It keeps the whole area lighter at night.

With all the open space and the numerous windows throughout the home it seemed heating the home could become a concern. However, the couple agrees the Low-E windows, foam panels that enclose the home and the gas furnace create a snug feeling throughout the entire home. "It's the warmest house we've ever had," Rosemary says.

Yet, because of their location in the country, they decided to add a woodburning stove as an emergency backup, in case any winter storms blew through and knocked out the electricity.

Now that Rosemary has finished constructing her dream home, she has more time to spend with family and to enjoy other activities, such as hiking and horseback riding. "We entertain our family and friends a lot more than before," she says.

Rosemary and John have kept busy by improving the property, tackling projects from landscaping to adding a deck. They also have converted an old chicken coop into a guest house, restored an old cabin into a workshop for John and added a pole barn for John to use for restoring his favorite cars–Model Ts.

The Joyces' path of life has been full of changes, but it has also given Rosemary a chance to live life to the fullest–a chance she took without hesitation.

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