Element of Surprise is the seventh installment in Timber Home Living‘s Welcome Home Series, following the Olsens’ home project. The home is nearly complete thanks to creativity, collaboration and — of course — a few last-minute design decisions.
“You know when you call a play in football, and then all of a sudden you get to the line and realize there’s a totally different defense? You have to change it up, right? Well, as a homeowner, you have to be ready to do the same thing,” says Greg. “We’ve definitely called a few audibles on this house, but we’ve loved the way each and every one of those calls has turned out.”
In a word, Greg encourages other folks in his same position to be flexible, fluid — open to new ideas.
“If I had any advice as we’re coming down the home stretch,” he says, “it would be to not go into this process with a hard-and-fast plan on what absolutely has to be done in all aspects of your home.”
One surprising detail that the Olsens changed as the house was being built was the walkout bluestone patio that now runs the entire length of the home instead of the simple concrete slab that was originally part of the plan.
“The house just called for it,” explains Greg. “We originally were just going to do stone around the portion of the house near the entryway, but then looking at it, you can’t not have stone there. It’s those types of things that have been little changes that have made a big impact on the look of the house.”
Katie Levin, interior designer at New Energy Works Timberframers, takes this idea a step further, emphasizing that you really can’t make design decisions independent of one another — it has to be an organic process. “One decision really leads to another when it comes to interior design.
The Olsens, for example, fell in love with dark walnut floors and wood is a material that soaks up a lot of light, so to keep things bright, we went with a more contemporary, lighter wood for the cabinets. The choice of wood floors really drove other major decisions inside the home.”
And, if you’re working with a reputable company, the design team should help steer you toward these decisions, asking you questions along the way to make sure every detail is exactly what you pictured.
“The great thing about working with Ty and Katie is they’re so good at asking you questions,” says Greg. “They take your random thoughts and put them on paper. Katie would ask ‘what are you looking for here?’ or ‘where are you going with this?’ and she really helped us turn all these little snapshots into a big, beautiful picture.”
Of course, the more interior design decisions you can make ahead of time, the better.
“We encourage people to incorporate interior design elements about halfway through the design process,” says Ty Allen, who heads the East Coast design team at New Energy Works. “There are a lot of decisions to be made that have a big impact on the layout, so pre-planning as much as possible always delivers the best results.”
And with the end in sight, the results couldn’t be much better, says Greg.
“We didn’t build too small, we didn’t build too big — it’s just right. We have everything that we want, and really nothing that we don’t want. That’s exactly what Ty was trying to get us to do all along, and I think we really accomplished that.”
“Interior design is a lot different than interior decorating; it’s much more technical,” explains Katie Levin, interior designer with New Energy Works Timberframers. When designing your plan and choosing your finishing options, remember to think about items like fixtures and appliances well before construction begins.
“Everything needs to work together,” says Levin. “We take extra care to make sure that every light switch and every outlet is exactly where it needs to be for the home to function well for its owners in the future.”
The unique combination of finishes is apparent in the great room. Dark walnut floors paired with the rich Douglas fir frame create the perfect contrast against the light cabinets and reclaimed walls. The NEWwoodworks team (a division of New Energy Works Timberframers) created floor-to-ceiling built-ins and an entertainment center to perfectly suit the space.