California Raising: From the Homeowners

We offer our sincere thanks to Tom & Karen for their thoughtful and touching letter of appreciation–and for allowing us to share it here. No one can tell the story of their home better than those who dream it, live it, and love in it…

To all those who were a part of our timber frame home:

This letter is long overdue. Recent events have kept us pre-occupied. This evening as we did out traditional walk through of our home, our eyes gravitated (as usual) to the superb timber frame work you completed.

We would like to share our experience with you in the hope you would share it with your future clients.

We originally wanted to build our last house as a timber frame because we appreciate the large wood elements and how it made you feel. Considering we spend a lot of time in our home we wanted our family and friends to feel the warmth and comfort that only wood timbers create.

We searched the internet and found several timber frame companies. We started with your firm “New Energy Works” because we liked what we saw on your website.

We made the initial phone contact and visited with Jonathan Orpin, he was very pleasant and helpful. We were novices in understanding the process of timber frame construction. I am sure we must have sounded pretty naive but Jonathan was kind and understanding. He gave us the necessary confidence in your company to move to the next step.

We agreed to fly out David Shirley for a consultation. From the first moment we met David and took him to our home we felt comfortable with him and quickly determined he knew what he was talking about, as we flooded him with questions. He was able to extract from us our ideal retirement home concept.

I was not sure how many design drafts we would have to do with David. We recognized our ability to communicate our layout was more emotionally based then structural. We wanted a great gathering area for our 5 children and 11 grandchildren and friends. A gathering area that would allow us all to be in the same room. We especially wanted an eating area that would accommodate the entire family. In the past, we always ate at separate tables and had to gather in several rooms due to our size.

We complicated things by letting David know we were on a restricted budget and were not sure we could afford a timber frame home.

David emailed us his first draft. It was a perfect representation of what Karen and I had confusingly expressed. The great room with the center arches was spectacular.

The way he tied in the dining area, office, and kitchen was exactly what we wanted.

We were very pleased that he considered our budget and created a timber frame look in the master bedroom for the ceiling.  The areas that were stick framed he added corbels and beams to give the appearance that the whole home was timber framed.

We were able to massage a price that fit into our budget and create the look and feel we desired. David’s ability to understand us and create the exact home we wanted on his first draft is a tribute to your company.

The one aspect of working with David that I really enjoyed Is his willingness to listen and interpret our design criteria. He was always available by phone and he followed through on all our emails. That level of communication is something that is greatly lacking in the construction industry.

David Shirley, Associate Architect and avid outdoor enthusiast.

As the time passed we made our progress payments when the timbers were being milled and processed. We were a little uncertain as to the type of finish product we would be getting. Second, we were apprehensive about the type of crew that would come out to erect the structure.

The traditional construction crews we experience are generally brash and often verbally offensive with their construction language. My wife is very sensitive to that and in the past homes we built I would have to keep her away from the job site when the contractors we there.

We had established a relationship with Darren and Quinn before their arrival and felt confident that their professional mannerisms would allow Karen to take part while the timbers were being built. They were clear in their communication and we were prepared for their arrival without any unforeseen issues.

Delivery Day!

When Daren, Quinn, Randy and the crew arrived on site it was very apparent this was not your typical construction crew. By the way they conducted themselves I would have thought they were all the owners of the company and had been educated in human relations. We quickly became close friends and Karen just loved being around them.

Opening the well-packaged timber frame was like Christmas Day. I understand wood and was expecting a certain level of quality in the wood and the milling and joinery. I had no idea how beautiful the wood was and how precisely the beams were made.

At that point, Karen and I knew this was going to be a cherished experience with the crew. I have spent my life in the construction field and rarely do I have my expectations exceeded by the quality of the contractor.

This image gives a view on pre-assembly day from the perspective of the great room.

Your firm exceeded our expectations on every level. Watching Daren direct each craftsman and surgically put together and raise the timber frame was magical.  So many members of our community, church, friends, and family came by just to watch them work.

Karen and I spent many hours sitting in lawn chairs as the cranes raised the timbers. Each crew member completed their assignment with a personal touch that made us feel they were vested in our project. There were no mishaps, no raised voices, no scrambling to fix something.

I understand that Sean Berman was the lead timber frame engineer who worked with David on how to span the great room without posts. What a marvelous creation he designed. It is the focal point of the entire house.

It was like a finely tuned orchestra, each completing their part. Darren approached me to let us know that our names were carved into a beam over the kitchen area. We were excited about that as we had no idea you would do that for us. Another personal touch that made the experience paramount.

Darren did explain that the carving was on the wrong side of the beam. He qualified that statement by telling us he had made a special order for his chisel set to be delivered the next day. He would carve our name into the right side.

I assumed this was a one-hour process but when I saw the number of chisels in his set I realized this was a monumental task. Darren started at 8 am and finished that afternoon; he did a perfect job. Even today, those who look at the carving will not believe me that it was hand chisel and not a router machine.

With each section of the timbers being raised and set in place we saw our dream home take shape and come to life. The English vocabulary cannot adequately express how Karen and I felt when the timbers were completed.  It was touching when Darren and I placed the ceremonial branch at the top of the structure.

The only sad part of the experience was that they were leaving. However, we knew they would be back for the exterior once the house was skinned and framed.

When they returned it felt like a reunion. Once again we watch Darren, Randy, and the crew demonstrated their skills. Their departure was an emotional event for Karen and I as we really felt that they had become a part of our family.

We cannot look at our home without seeing, David’s and Jonathan’s incredible design. Each timber represents Darren’s, Quinn’s, Randy’s, Curran’s, Greg’s, Simon’s, and Jimmy’s personal touch. When we look at the carving we fondly remember Darren’s craftsmanship.

Okay, so I have been long-winded. Yet it still is only a fraction of what we wanted to express to each of you.

When Karen and I admire our timber frame it will always remind us of each of you and the part you played in making this house our home.

With kindest regards,
Tom & Karen
Monterey, CA