Pull Up a Stool – Island Living

Grab a stool and a cutting board, or a plate, or a pencil, or a toothpick, or a tablet, or…?! Welcome to the kitchen island. Food prep, snack counter, breakfast bar, coffee cafe, homework hub, central party point, family communication center—its uses are nearly limitless.

painted and walnut island by newwoodworks

If a kitchen is ‘the heart of the home’, then the island is arguably a home’s centerpiece; imperative at meal times, after school, and during gatherings with friends and family. “I truly enjoy the engagement with and connection most people feel towards this area. I have the most fun working with our clients on their islands. These structures are the ‘sweet spot’.  Looking back on 21 years of this work with New Energy Works, I think islands are often the best part of any job,” said Rob, General Manager and lead designer for NEWwoodworks.

rob island 2

Rob was enjoying a few moments at the island before the Open House of a project we built on Keuka Lake.

As we approach kitchen design, islands are carefully considered, discussed at length, loosely outlined, discussed more, and finalized in detail. “When we have the opportunity to design this area our goal is to bring a thoughtful and logical approach to creating a comfortable, functional, and engaging space incorporating the family’s varied wants and needs,” continued Rob.

A "waterfall" of walnut flows over the bright Ash of the Olsen's kitchen island.

A “waterfall” of walnut flows over the bright Ash of the Olsen’s kitchen island.

How the island will be used is a vital question for homeowners. The square footage of the kitchen and interaction with the rest of the home will influence island location and size. Materials come in to play as an island can offer a change in color and texture or carry an aesthetic through. Large or compact the versatility of the additional space, visual break, and social anchor offered by an island is unmatched.

Central for gathering, food, and when necessary a spot to perch for a great photo op!

The social and food hub – and when necessary an elevated spot for a great photo op or a light bit of tap dancing!

Carrying the oak paneling pattern throughout the kitchen and island was key for this NYC home.

Carrying the oak paneling proportions throughout the kitchen and island was key for this NYC home.

Islands are frequently a literal barrier, dividing the functional space of the kitchen and giving cooks their own main space, but still allowing room for another chef. In very modest footprints they can offer important additional work surface, house extra cabinetry and storage, and take place of a dining table.

Two cooks in the kitchen. Jennifer and Maxine make the most of prep areas in the Vermont Street Project.

Two cooks in the kitchen. Jennifer and Maxine make the most of prep areas in the Vermont Street Project.

The wish list is often broad and varied for how an island will function. Generally, they provide a division of space, particularly in open floor plans. “Working closely with NEWwoodworks we’ve designed islands that are ‘prep only’, ‘service’ oriented, and ‘bar’ islands to name a few generalities. I agree with Rob; in my mind one of the biggest factors is functionality,” explained Andrew of our Design Group. ‘Prep only’ islands typically include a prep sink, butcher block top, and trash/compost bin.

A modest reclaimed Jarrah wood island with a soap stone top and steel sink provides a bit of additional prep space.

A modest Reclaimed Jarrah wood island with a soap stone top and steel sink provides a bit of additional prep space.

HF custom kitchen matt wittmeyer photo

Live edges, butterfly joinery, slate tops, an additional rolling butcher block, and ample counter surfaces afford a growing family space for everyone to participate in kitchen activities.

Others are ‘service’ oriented offering a second oven, cook top, grill, and more. ‘Bar islands’ have been an occasional theme, designed to be an entertainment hub with a bar sink, beverage coolers, and dishwasher drawers.

HF kitchen matt wittmeyer photo

A bar island crafted from reclaimed wood - tops and cabinetry - with shelving from agricultural salvaged timbers.

A bar island crafted from reclaimed wood – tops and cabinetry – with shelving from agricultural salvaged timbers.

We’ve found the service style works well for open kitchens when we can provide the cook with a specific view while they interact with guests, yet maintain a clearly separate workstation.

Good Luck food photo for Rochester Magazine. (Staff Photo by Matt Wittmeyer 051909)

A lake home’s reclaimed beech kitchen affords panoramic views of the water and abundant space for entertaining. Photo by Matt Wittmeyer.

Broad open views of the living spaces are enjoyed from the cook's vantage over the island of this lake home kitchen.

Broad, open views of the living and dining spaces are enjoyed from the cook’s vantage over the island of this lake home kitchen. Reclaimed oak was “toasted” to a darker patina adding a bit of rich color to an otherwise light palette.

Split level islands further differentiate the cooking space from ‘guest’ space. This style allows a bit of camouflaging for dishes, pots/pans, the microwave, dishwasher, and more. It also offers protection for homework, electronics, or any other non-kitchen happenings at the island. We’re believers in “wood where the elbows are” and the split level is often created with this in mind.

Jake demonstrates our belief that there should be “wood where the elbows are” for any kitchen surface where entertaining and eating take place.

Young Jake demonstrates our belief that there should be “wood where the elbows are” for any kitchen surface where entertaining and eating take place.

Wood where the elbows are.

A split level island puts wood where the elbows are using live-edge walnut atop reclaimed “toasted” oak.

remodeled kitchen newwoodworks 2

Rob explained, “The island serves many functions and is used quite differently by folks. I think it is the best part of any kitchen and a wonderful opportunity to get creative.

A painted island with a poured top and industrial stools/brackets adds color and functionality to a modest kitchen.

A painted island with a poured top and industrial stools/brackets adds color and functionality to a modest kitchen.

Are you looking for ideas on how to improve or add island living into your kitchen? Let us know. 

 

Update on the First Complete Cross Laminated Timber Building in NY State

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

tomorrowland CLT building exterior NEW web

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.

Will G Steico DSCN2802

wood fiber install tomorrowland clt new energy works

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

tree paint new energy works clt building

CLT tree cut out night shot new energy

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

shou sugi ban color char siding by pioneer millworks on clt building

siding tomorrowland

Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese technique of burning wood as a preservative treatment for exterior siding. The process gives Pioneer Millworks Larch a dark, slightly iridescent look. We anticipate that in this exterior use it may change over time, depending on its exposure to the elements.

Lights! All LED lighting combined with the natural light from the clerestory make this a very bright space. Our fine woodworkers are clamoring to move in for the lighting alone!

LED lighting CLT building new eneryg works

Concrete – what a BIG pour! Lots of man power and man hours. Concrete was flowed over radiant heat throughout the shop.

KB Masonry's team handled this big pour.

KB Masonry’s team handled this big pour.

wet concrete

Concrete complete and set! Photo by Scott Hemenway.

Concrete complete and set! Sprinkler lines run…lights to come. Photo by Scott Hemenway.

Mechanicals, such a sprinklers, and duct work. Steve and Ed our maintenance duo have been hard at work installing duct work/dust collection alongside a few of our trusted partners who handled the sprinklers and other mechanicals.

Ed and Steve talk connections for the dust collection ducts.

Ed and Steve talk connections for the dust collection ducts.

Ed is a bit camera shy and did well hiding behind the pipes.

Ed is a bit camera shy and did well on the man lift hiding behind the pipes.

Mechanical room.

Mechanicals room.

Amenities including the break room and bathrooms are underway.

rooms in tomorrowland

rooms framed in

Plumbing and electric are in. Next: doors.

In use: Pioneer Millworks has begun using their storage and shipping space at the back of the building. What once seemed to be a cavernous 8,000 sq ft is filling up quickly with custom orders that are ready to ship and other weather sensitive products.

PMW storage tomorrowland

We’re on schedule to move all of our fine woodworking shop to their new space in mid-August. Check back for information on our ribbon cutting this Fall. And visit our previous blog post for more images, videos, and details of this project.

About CLTs:
CLT construction is an economically and environmentally conscious alternative to steel and concrete construction, a material that is new to the U.S. building industry.

A quick description might be ‘giant plywood’. More specifically, CLTs are large wooden panels, typically consisting of 3, 5, or 7 layers of dimensional lumber, oriented at right angles, glued together. The panels for our project averaged 8 feet tall and 38 feet long at 3 ¼ and 3 ¾ inch thickness. Using a crane and lulls, the panels were lifted into place and fitted by hand to the supporting timber frame. Each CLT panel has a shiplap edge that nests the panels together and is secured with metal fasteners.

Q and A with a Timber Framer featuring Pete O’Brien

Leaving the world of party tents, awnings, and rough construction behind, Pete O’Brien joined our timber frame group finding the craftsmanship and finer work of traditional mortise and tenon joinery much more to his liking. In his opinion, handcrafting is second only to raising a frame.

pete for profile

We seem to be inundated with folks who love the outdoors so we were not surprised to learn that this timber framer likes hiking, kayaking, and frequents the Adirondacks. However, Pete admitted that he’s a gamer with a passion for racing and marksmanship games (cat’s out of the bag, sorry Pete!). On occasion Pete puts his kayaking skills to the test, participating in our local white water Wild Water Derby. After sitting down for this rapid fire interview, he regaled us with a few stories from the derby. Read on to learn more on this young craftsman (with author comments in brackets):

Pete's favorite way to view the ADKs!

Pete’s favorite way to view the ADKs!

What’s your favorite word or phrase?
Awesome. (Pete’s fellow timber framer and long-time member of the team, Jake, piped in saying to me, “That is for sure his favorite word.” Based on the grin he and Pete exchanged I suspected differently but didn’t press.)

Pete with chainsaw


We think this photo of Pete applying a chain saw texture is pretty awesome.

What’s your favorite time of day?
Dinner. (Big smile from Pete with this answer.)

What’s your favorite truss or joint?
A scarf joint.

Scarf joint assembly.

Scarf joint assembly.

Favorite wood species?
Oak.

What sound or noise do you love?
(A long pause here was punctuated by a good-natured verbal jab from a fellow timber who suggested the high pitched whine of the drill he was operating nearby was the sound Pete loves. Shaking his head and smiling Pete offered a different answer…) Water.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Nails on a chalkboard (He couldn’t suppress a shudder and I grimaced with empathy for his reaction.)

Let’s move on…you travel to raise frames. What’s your favorite area of the nation?
The Blue Ridge in Virginia – the views are amazing. (“Better than the Adirondacks you visit so much?” I asked.) Different. Less populated…

Not quite the Blue Ridge, but plenty of blue water for this lake home raising. (From the left: Pete, John S, and Mike G)

Not quite the Blue Ridge, but plenty of blue water for this lake home raising Pete was a key member of this Spring. (From the left: Pete, John S, and Mike G.)

What’s best about your profession?
Crafting something unusual, something not many other people do.

All focus.

Speaking of unusual, here Pete’s working some new joinery for 100+ year-old reclaimed agricultural timbers salvaged by our sister company, Pioneer Millworks.

What profession would you not like to do?
Telemarketing. (Pete looked stricken by the very thought of having to cold call people.)

What’s your dog’s name?
No dog, I have a cat. His name is Porter and he’s…awesome. (Another grin spread across his features. I have to admit appreciation for Pete’s sense of humor and overall affable nature.)

(Follow the pink arrow to Pete)

(Follow the pink arrow to Pete)

How about the Wild Water Derby?
This was my first year participating. Bruce, Jason, Matt, and a few others – we formed a team using an old wooden raft some of the… (he paused, sending a quick glance at Jake) …more seasoned guys raced a few years back. Things were going well until we started taking on water. (“Really?!” I asked and Pete laughed.) Really. The rapids were splashing up and tossing us around. We were using our hands and a bucket we had in the boat to scoop it out between bouts of rowing. It was epic. We all made it out fine and we got a wooden oar award too! I’d like to do it again next year. 

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.

“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.

rendering MI legacy timber home new energy worksRaisings 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.

raising main bent new energy works

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.

Jimmy was all smiles for his selfie from the top of the frame.

Jimmy was all smiles for his selfie from the top of the frame.

Mike explained, “Jimmy (featured in a previous blog post) really showed his experience and took charge like a champ. He was absolutely my right hand on this raising,” 

 

Over 300 kiln dried Douglas fir timbers, nearly 20,000 board feet, were crafted for this project. On-site pre-assembly and layout of the hammer beam inspired bents and trimber was smoothly orchestrated over three days.

preassembly new energy timber michigan.jpgWorking between raindrops, the team raised the bents of the great room and main entry in a day.

taylor on frame.jpgOur newest guy, Taylor, got his feet wet (quite literally) during this, his first raising. He has hustle and shinned day after day with a “go getter” attitude and excited mindset,” Mike continued.

raising timber truss ann arbor by new energy works

 

 

Randy was all smiles as he helped direct "flying" timbers.

Randy was all smiles as he helped direct “flying” timbers.

pres MI raising.jpg

The entry was set with posts on concrete pillars that will have a stone facade in the future. More timber will grace the exterior as “trimber” as the project finishes out. Many thanks to the homeowners for a great project, the builder for his many skills, and our team for their dedication, camaraderie, and good work.

Guiding the corner posts of the entryway is a team effort.

Guiding the corner posts of the entryway is an effort in communication on the ground and to the crane operator.

Growing Up: Creating Volume in a Small Footprint

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.

building sectionThe 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.

sat view site otsego lake

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.

clerestory timber frame small lake home

“We knew making the most of the site would likely result in a very “flat” exterior aesthetic. To add dimension we’re incorporating a combination of vertical and horizontal siding in a mixture of materials along with varying the depth of the roof overhangs,” continued Pete.

main level floorplan timber frame otsego lake

The design suggests setting the project further down into the site to provide parking access at the roadside, rather than lakeside as the camp had previously been oriented. This will provide more “green space” on the lake side of the site, however, it creates an interesting entry point that is situated ‘between’ the main and upper levels. The entrance includes a larger landing with a bench and connections to two staircases: one that leads down to the main level commons and another that proceeds upwards to the bedrooms.

timber frame entry lake otsego home

Timber runs from the ground level up, enabling the creation of visual breaks throughout the project’s open spaces with strategically placed structural timber frame posts and beams. Overall the design plays out to 2,000 sq ft with bedrooms, including a master with private balcony, on the upper level, main living on the mid-level, and a guest suite plus lake access from the lower level. Pete and team are continuing to finalize this design, adjusting to meet both client and additional zoning requirements. We can’t wait to see the home as it comes to fruition. Tell us about your dream timber frame.