Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Wright’

Windows, Walls, and Loft Stairway

October 5, 2009
Kelley worked hard to select the windows for Bunny Vista, and he was excited to see the sunset reflected in them.

Kelley worked hard to select the windows for Bunny Vista, and he was excited to see the sunset reflected in them.

The crew has installed most of the Bunny Vista windows. They will wait until the drywall is in the timber frame room before they install the front windows and French doors in that room. I think the windows are beautiful, and when Kelley showed me how easy they are to remove for washing, I thought about my mother sitting on the window sill struggling to wash the double hung windows in the house I grew up in. I am so glad Kelley picked windows that are beautiful and energy efficient and ones that will be simple for him to keep clean.

The kitchen has casement windows. The one at the left was damaged on arrival, but the replacement is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. The cypress siding is here for the shed addition, and

The kitchen has casement windows. The one at the left was damaged on arrival, but the replacement is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. The cypress siding is here for the shed addition, and the crew will start installing it this week.

Lewis has almost finished chinking the log section.

Lewis chinks the office office.

Lewis is putting a layer of Permachink on the office wall. He put the first exterior layer of chinking on this wall early in the summer.

Kelley has finished building the staircase for the loft. It is beautiful. The treads are cypress and the stringers are white pine. He and Lewis worked hard to design a beautiful staircase that would not be so steep that it would be difficult to get to the loft.

If you stand between the kitchen and the mudroom and look through the timber frame, you see the loft staircase against the interior log wall of the office.

If you stand between the kitchen and the mudroom and look through the timber frame, you see the loft staircase against the interior log wall of the office.

The treads are protected with paper and tape, but you can see the beautiful cypress wood on the underneath edges. I love the staircase.

The treads are protected with paper and tape, but you can see the beautiful cypress wood on the underneath edges. I love the staircase.

The View from the loft

The view from the loft

Another view from the loft, including a look at the hearthstone.

Another view from the loft, including a look at the hearthstone.

Advertisements

Topping Off the Timber Frame

June 17, 2009

Last Thursday was the start of an intense week of building at Bunny Vista. With the arrival of Jordan Finch and his crew, the number of workers at the house doubled. Lewis, Braxton, and Aaron worked alongside Jordan, Justin, and Mike to add another beautiful element to our new house. Jordan’s crew had been working on the timber frame at Jordan’s workshop in Mount Jackson for many months.

All Thursday afternoon, the crew unloaded the frame and laid it out on the house decking. They joined the wall posts to the top plate and added cherry braces while the walls lay flat on the deck. On Friday, they raised the timber frame, beginning with the west wall. They attached the floor beams for the loft, laid the loft floor joists, and raised the east wall. They maneuvered the giant cherry sling braces into place and added the four principal rafters. On those two days the men worked very hard and very long, and at the end of the day on Friday, we stood on the deck with the amazing timber frame structure surrounding us. It was very emotional for all of us.

Jordan used three woods in the timber frame. Most of the timber frame is made of cypress, which Jordan bought from a sawmill in South Carolina; it is very clear and has a lovely soft color. Kelley tells me cypress was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite wood. Cypress is widely used in Japan, where builders often bury it for years to deepen the color. The cherry for the braces came from a sawmill here in the Valley; the sling braces on two of the bents are about twelve feet long, eighteen inches or so wide, and six inches thick. Kelley and Jordan sawed them at the Taylor and Boody sawmill so that they retain what Kelley calls “live edges”–the edges are not sawed but follow the natural outline of the tree. They will make a stunning frame for the stone fireplace at the south end of the house. Kelley really admires the handplaning job that Mike did on the cherry, not the easiest wood to plane. The top plates run the full thirty-five foot length of the frame and are made of very dense yellow pine; Kelley and Jordan chose this wood because they were able to use one timber for the entire length of the room.

At the top is the yellow pine top plate

The top plate is yellow pine. The post is cypress, as are the beam running perpendicular to the top plate and the girt directly above Kelley's head. The braces are cherry, which is my favorite wood. In this photo, the crew is preparing to join the first sling brace to the frame.

The posts flare at the top and are narrower at the bottom. Jordan specified that the lumber be milled so that the bottom of the tree (the famous butt swell) would at the top of the post to support all of the joints in that area.

The sling braces have "live edges," which are not sawed but follow the natural line of the curved tree trunk.

The sling braces have "live edges," which are not sawed but follow the natural line of the curved tree trunk. The heartwood of the cherry tree is the reddish color we always associate with cherry. It's really interesting to see the contrast between the heartwood and the sapwood on these braces.

Kelley recruited Nick and Erin to help him put finish on the cypress ceiling boards. Although they spent several hours on this project Sunday afternoon, they were not able to finish. There were a lot of boards.

Cypress ceiling boards

Cypress ceiling boards

On Monday morning, the timber frame crew returned to Bunny Vista to add the common rafters and the cypress tongue-and-groove ceiling.

Jordan and Lewis consult about rafters at the fireplace end of the timber frame.

Jordan and Lewis consult about the rafters at the fireplace end of the timber frame.

Rafters

The larger rafters, visible at the right and the left, are called principal rafters. The common rafters (there are four in this photo) are the smaller rafters between the bents.

After putting the rafters in place on Monday, the builders were able to apply finish to the rest of the ceiling boards, saw them to length, and nail half of them to the rafters.

Justin saws a ceiling board.

Justin saws a ceiling board.

Almost finished with half of the ceiling.

Almost finished with half of the ceiling.

At the end of the day, we had a “topping off” ceremony, which is a traditional centuries-old ceremony among timber frame builders. It marks and commemorates the completion of the timber frame; it recognizes and honors the builders. One important component of the ceremony is the nailing of the “whetting bush” , an evergreen bough, to the highest point of the frame. The origin of this tradition is obscure, but it is probably Scandinavian. Possibly, nailing the evergreen bough to the timber frame once offered appeasement to the gods for using the wood of the forest to build a structure. It may also serve to give thanks to the forest for providing wood for a new home. Kelley climbed onto the roof of the log house and nailed the whetting bush to a principal rafter of the timber frame. Jordan read a traditional German topping off toast and a house blessing which our friend Emily brought to us on Friday. Then he smashed a wine glass against the foundation of the house, and we served our first meal from what will soon be our kitchen.

The whetting bush

The whetting bush

Today, the rest of the ceiling boards went up. Tomorrow, Kelley and Aaron will drive to Winchester to pick up the panels that will insulate the ceiling. Thursday, the builders will add the panels to the ceiling, and we will be on our way to the next house-building adventure.

The final ceiling boards and the whetting bush

The final ceiling boards and the whetting bush

Bunny Vista and How It Came to Be

May 20, 2009

After nearly five years of planning, scavenging materials, and finding the right people to help us, we are building our new house. We are calling our estate Bunny Vista, although Kelley knows he will endure torment from the manly men building the house–a little laughing at ourselves always helps keep everything in perspective, even the building of a house.

Bunny Vista is Kelley’s brainchild. It has three basic elements: a log cabin with two log rooms connected by a dog trot (breezeway), a timber frame great room, and a shed addition across the back of the cabin and timber frame. The shed addition houses the master bathroom, a hallway and small open office, and the kitchen. Beneath the house is a basement. Peter Aaslestad is our architect. Lewis Wright is our builder. Jim Roepke laid the stone for the foundation of the log section, Jordan Finch is building the timber frame, and Beth Young is the interior designer working with me on the kitchen. Kelley will be doing most of the interior finishing, including cabinets and trim.

About five years ago, Kelley came home from work and told me that he had found a nineteenth century barn off Stingy Hollow Road that was about to be torn down. It was built of handhewn red and white oak logs, and Kelley believed that he could salvage the logs for a house. He asked if I was interested in building a log house, and the project was on.

After taking down the logs and storing them on John Boody’s property on Miller Farm Road, we were able to find a 4 1/2 acre lot also on Miller Farm Road. The minute I stepped on the lot, I knew I wanted to live here. The property is mostly pasture land and adjoins a pasture on the front and along one side. We have a small wooded area along one edge and across the back of the lot. The back of the property borders Sugar Loaf Farm. Across the road is Ox Eye Farm, where our neighbor has planted a beautiful vineyard. At night we can see the lights from about five houses, but mostly we see a sky full of stars. Our closest neighbors are cows, and every morning when I leave for work and every evening when I come home, I follow rabbits hopping up, down, and all around the property. I love our little lot.

We’ve been living in an 1100 square foot mobile home, which was on the lot, since April of 2005. Although I’ve enjoyed the many upscale conveniences of trailer living, I am hoping we’ll celebrate Christmas in the new house where not everything will be made of plastic.

So. . . right now, Bunny Vista has:

A full basement with a beautiful limestone foundation. Kelley and Nick spent many, many weekends moving tons of stone in Kelley’s old F150 from the foundation of an old barn near Stuarts Draft and carefully placing them on pallets here. The house has a poured concrete foundation faced with limestone. The basement will have two bedrooms, a tv room, a bathroom, and Kelley’s workshop. Because our lot is sloped, we are able to have a full walk-out basement with an entrance for Kelley’s shop and a separate entrance for the downstairs living area.

Two log rooms. One is the master bedroom and the second has been divided to house an office and the guest bathroom. The barn the logs came from was a double pen barn, which meant it had two rooms separated by an open area. Log cabins were often built in this way. Sometimes just one room was built at first, and a second was added later. The two rooms were separated by a hallway known as a dog trot. We have used the double pen design because it used our logs efficiently and because it felt historically appropriate. Unfortunately some of the logs Kelley salvaged from the barn deteriorated during the time we stored them. We were able to get replacement logs from Menno Kinsinger in Stuarts Draft.

One dog trot. The main entrance to the house will be at the back, centered between the two log rooms. There is a long hall, the dog trot, which stretches from the back of the house to the front. We have a small porch at the front with glass doors leading out. When the porch doors and the main entry door are opened there will be an amazing breeze–one of the advantages of pre-airconditioning dog trot houses.

A ceiling. Yes, indeed, the log room ceilings are up! They have eighteen foot long exposed pine joists, which Kelley and his friend Emerson Willard hand planed, and which have beautiful beaded edges. The ceilings themselves are poplar boards, tongue and groove with beading, and are already painted a soft white.

A roof. The roof over the log rooms and the shed addition behind the log rooms is almost complete. Tomorrow it will happen.

Decking. The decking is complete and ready for the timber frame, the kitchen addition, and the screened porch.

Storage for the lawn mower under the screened porch. And what storage it is! After Lewis’s crew laid the block foundation for the screened porch, Lewis covered the block with fantastic sandstone from yet another old barn, this one in Middlebrook. It has an amazing color and striation, all orange-y and tan and brown. We are planning to use the same stone for the fireplaces in the great room and the screened porch.

Many timber frame elements. Jordan has the timber frame elements well underway at his workshop in Mount Jackson. He is expecting to bring the pieces here early in June, and it will take his crew only a few days to erect the timber frame. Most of the posts and beams are cypress, but two of the bents are made from a crooked cherry lumber. They are amazing. I am studying Kelley’s timber frame books so I can understand what Kelley, Jordan, Peter, and Lewis are talking about. It is a different language.

So this is where we are–five years into the project, and perhaps only six months till we are able to move in. Kelley has many thousands of pictures, which I’ll be organizing and sharing in later posts so that you can see the elements I am trying to describe. I’m going to work to bring everything up to date gradually while I write notes and add photos about what is happening from day to day. It will be exciting when we start digging trenches for geothermal heat, pouring concrete for the radiant floor heating, and putting up the glorious timber frame room.

This house is Kelley’s dream and a true labor of love, the culmination of more than thirty years of working with wood and learning about traditional craft. Bunny Vista will be beautiful, because of Kelley’s vision, study, and patience. I am happy to be able to observe this undertaking, and I’m going to be tickled to death to live in this house.

Lots of pictures to come, when I learn how to add them to the posts. But here goes nothing. I’m pressing the Publish button.