The world of timber frames is ubiquitous to Douglas fir, treated with an oil, and left to mellow over time to a golden hue. It’s classic, bringing to mind the mountain home with a two-story vaulted great room and a wall of windows overlooking a vista. Bring us a mug of hot cocoa and let us snuggle by the fire.
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.
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.”
I was curious about what techniques are used to create a division of space in open floor plans, particularly when the same flooring flows throughout the level. “Great question—we like to make psychological breaks to take the place of walls in open floor plans. Although this project is a hybrid using timber frame and traditional construction, the public spaces fall under the core timber frame. We used the main carrying beams, a bigger timber, to bring visual and physical weight and delineate the great room, kitchen, and dining areas. The great room is also vaulted while the dining and kitchen spaces have flat ceilings. The kitchen island provides a further break between food preparation zones and the dining room,” Pete explained.
“One less common trait in this home is a single point of entry from the garage and parking areas. Without a dedicated breezeway or mudroom, the goal was to welcome visitors and inhabitants through a cleaner entryway in a style more traditional to guest-only entryways. We designed a lower volume with a flat ceiling softened by lifted timber common rafters, which draw the eye through the entry space to the great room and expanse of windows beyond. There is still a need for organizational spaces…a place to take off shoes, a laundry room…We “hid” these just off the entryway, branching to the right beyond a wing wall and screened behind a pocket door,” continued Pete.
Given the location of the home, I wanted to know about the views. “Below the curved bottom chord king post trusses, glass wraps the frame at close to ninety-degree angles. You can see through the corners resulting in a nearly 180-degree view of the lake. It’s pretty neat,” Pete obliged.
How about solar heat gain? “Always a consideration,” Pete agreed. “There is morning sun only because the room faces Southeast over the lake. Other windows throughout the home are covered by large overhangs and exterior roofs, so the gain won’t be significant there.”
“Oh, also about exterior decks and views—we aim to keep them from wrapping the great room because views are more enjoyable when uninterrupted. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a piecemeal view broken by slats of a deck railing.”
I recalled that in our previous conversation Pete had stressed a desire to have the house set into the land, as part of the land, rather than perched on it. I asked how that impacted the interior light in the lower-level. “Whenever we have spaces under grade we make every effort to bring natural light to as many sides of the space as possible. Dan and Laurie’s home has light on three sides and includes lake views; it’s a pretty good situation. We gave the stairwell carefully consideration and arranged it in an “L” within a rectangular opening so plenty of western light could spill through to the lower-level family room. Plus, we made every effort to eliminate soffits, carefully planning and utilizing open web trusses—this way the lower-level ceiling height remains constant and the space feels more inviting and comfortable.”
“Going back to private spaces, the master suite has a vestibule. It is one of those planned rooms that helps create further division from the more public areas. There’s also a private deck accessible only from the master bedroom. The in-law suite is situated down a hallway off the entry, giving it the feeling of a private branch separate from the main core of the home. We know Laurie’s folks are excited about the suite. While we were raising the exterior timber components and decks, they pointed out the timbers going up on their corner exclaiming to onlookers ‘That’s our bedroom!’,” Pete smiled broadly, “Their excitement was infectious.”
“The lower-level is also the space for guests. A bedroom, a bunk room, a family room, and what we’re calling a lake bathroom. It will be the spot to stop prior to journeying into the rest of the house after a swim or a visit to the shore.”
Giving Pete thanks for the information, I sent him off with a piece of spearmint gum (the best I could do in lieu of orange fish crackers).
Further into this summer, Laurie and Dan’s project will be complete. We’ll share a bit on the interior design and have plenty of finished images for you then. Thanks for joining this journey! If you’d like to see other projects we’ve general contracted, visit our Case Studies. And to learn more about our teams, visit Meet our People.
Thank you Darrin and Loy for sending us a real-life photo of your family room! During the day, natural light floods the room from a clearstory above, while the wide windows capture a view of the river valley and mountains of Great Falls, Montana.