The Secret Life of Bees. A forever timber frame home in Ithaca, NY

When we met Nancy and Larry to first chat about their timber frame home aspirations, we learned that Larry is a beekeeper and suddenly we were as full of questions about beekeeping as we were with answers to home designing and building. The couple shares a special affinity for nature, much like our various teams (if you’ve ever read our bios, you’ll see a reoccurring theme of ‘hiking, biking, and being outdoors’). Taking a look at the bucolic piece of farm and woodlands near Ithaca, NY was one of the first steps to designing the couple’s home. Ty Allen, AIA, our design build manager and architect, met with Larry and Nancy on their site to explore the possibilities. Ty shared with us a bit about the overall project and process:

Ty explained that the site offered a good combination of open space and mature woods. There was a desire to embrace both with this custom home.

“When we walked the site it became clear we could create a design that would give Larry and Nancy a home which engaged with both the surrounding woods and open spaces. We knew they wanted something of manageable size and easy to maintain where they could enjoy their retirement,” Ty shared.

We talk more about the Commons in a previous post. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

Physical connections to outdoors were key to all areas of this home. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

“Inside and out we focused on scale. There is an open living space, or commons as we sometimes call it, which keeps a lower more intimate volume and open floor plan for kitchen, living, and dining all with physical connections to the outdoors.” Nancy and Larry are also avid antique collectors who took special care in placing pieces of sentimental value throughout each room.

The design gives an intentional nod to traditional farmhouses common in the region. Overall the home is about 2,000 sq ft in size. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

Farmhouse homesteads influenced the home’s design, precipitating a long front and steeper pitches. “We knew we wanted the home to speak to the agrarian surroundings. The repeating posts across the front facade allude to classic farmhouse design of front porches and the board and batten exterior siding solidifies the aesthetic relationship.”

Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

The screen porch extends into the woods, immersed in nature while still providing shelter. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

Woods march around the field concealing a nearby gorge and creek. They created an ideal opportunity to connect the home, and those who live there, with nature. “Tucking the home against the wood line was the first part of engaging the land,” Ty explained. “A timber frame screen porch extends into the trees on this side of the home. Inside the porch you feel enveloped in the woods with the sounds of the creek babbling–it’s a great space to relax.”

“Then there is a terrace on the east side that’s open, but covered, offering some protection from the elements while allowing a peek of a creek and lake in the distance. Finally, from the front of the home, the field rolls away providing separation from traffic and neighbors, and inviting wildlife, such as Larry’s bees, to make their home. Each condition of these elements encourages interaction with nature in different ways. Overall it creates a transition from field to forest,” continued Ty.

Master suite with forest views. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

Guest loft bedroom. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway.

The timber frame loft offers more secluded space and continues the celebration of the couple’s sentimental antiques. Photo (c) Scott Hemenway

The master suite is situated on the lower level with smaller privatized spaces, including guest rooms, upstairs. From the second level a longer view of the nearby waterways takes focus. “I would wager one of the best parts of this location for Larry and Nancy is the very short distance to their daughter and grandson’s home. I’m sure the guest spaces will have plenty of attention and enjoyment.”

The frame was enclosed with our High Performance Enclosure system including SIPs on the roof, t&g, and windows

After the high performance enclosure was in place, our timber frame team returned to raise the exterior porch frames and accent pieces, all custom finished to a subtle earth tone.

Ty explained: “We had multiple teams involved in this project: design, timber framing, and construction. The frame is enclosed with our High Performance Enclosure system including SIPs on the roof, t&g, and windows. This approach has proven to eclipse or exceed Passive House or better levels of air tightness. It should make for a comfortable and efficient structure that Larry and Nancy will enjoy for years to come.”

This is a ‘full timber frame’ with the entire structure created by a traditional mortise and tenon timberframe construction. (As opposed to ‘hybrid timber frames’ which incorporate a timber frame core or other components with stick frame construction.)

Larry and Nancy’s home is all timber frame, ideal for open spans and providing a natural, biophilic appeal.

Raising day is always a celebratory occasion for homeowners, family (human and other!), friends, and our teams.

Asked what he enjoyed most about the project, Ty said, “The people. I’m so grateful for the trust and opportunity Larry and Nancy gave us to design and raise their forever home. Regarding the process itself – I enjoyed keeping to a modest scale on a site that allowed multiple points of engagement with the environment which is different from many of our projects that have a singular focus on ’the view’, for example.”

If you’d like to see this project and others like it on our website, please visit our Case Studies. Or if you’re interested in starting the process for your forever timber frame, reach out to us today.