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Woodland Jewel

Woodland Jewel: A Michigan lakeside home makes the perfect rustic retreat built with Insulspan panels that enabled a nearly 7,000 square foot complex design to be enclosed in three weeks

Timber Homes Illustrated • June 2002
Story by Colleen Morrissey • Photos by Roger Wade
Reprinted with permission. © 2001 by Goodman Media Group Inc.

The owners of this distinctive-looking home had long been interested in having a summer place on Lake Michigan. When several lots opened up on a previously unavailable stretch of shoreline, the couple jumped at the chance to own a home along the water.

They chose a timber-frame home for the property after admiring a friend's place that had been built by Riverbend Timber Framing of Blissfield, Michigan. After working with a local architect to hammer out the details for a vacation home that could be used year-round, the owner says, "We fiddled with the plan ourselves for a while and then we gave it to Riverbend, who took it and ran with it."

Riverbend's Jim Balmer designed the frame to fit the couple's floor plan. "I did bubble diagrams and sketches to show them what the frame was going to look like," he explains.

The design process lasted about a year. When the plans had been finished, Jim handed the blueprints over to Stewart Elliot, a project coordinator at Riverbend. Stewart worked with the couple's builder, Easling Construction Company of Leland, Michigan, to raise the frame properly. In just about three weeks, the three-story, 6,735 square-foot timber-frame home (including insulated wall and roof panels) was closed-in and ready to be finished.

The home was built to accommodate guests, especially grandchildren. It features four bedrooms, including two on the lower level with their own private baths where the kids make their home while visiting. The couple also placed a family room on this level so that the children can entertain themselves while the adults chat in the upstairs great room. To give the kids easy access to the outdoors, this level was designed as a walkout basement protected by a covered patio.

Visitors entering the home find themselves engulfed in the warmth of wood. Starting in the entryway, tongue-and-groove pine and fir paneling covers all of the interior walls, while down below rough-sawn maple tops the floors. "The couple wanted a wood look on the inside," says Jim, "to complement the Douglas fir frame. The paneling has a similar color and grain pattern."

The focal point of the great room is the home's round-stone, wood burning fireplace. The gray and putty colored stones blend in naturally with the light tones of the home's Douglas fir frame and all-wood walls and ceilings. An oversized couch and armchairs, paired with an Oriental rug, give this room a casual feel. And while the timber-framed ceiling raises the roof in this section to nearly 23 feet, the soft tones of the wood and hearth combine to make this room a cozy and inviting place to relax.

While the great room's massive hearth serves as a dominant feature, there is also an intricate bit of timber-frame engineering in a round-shaped alcove off to one side of the greatroom. In the roof, Jim designed a timber-framed octagon to support this section of the home, which faces the lake and contains a small game table. The octagon features a decorative boss pin, which holds the elaborate timber frame structure together. "There are two sets of roof rafters here," Jim explains. "All of the upper and lower rafters are brought together into the face of the boss pin. It is suspended from the roof by triangulation."

Overlooking the great room is a loft that leads to the master bedroom suite, which includes a master bath with a whirlpool tub and a walk-in closet. Down the hall, above the home's two-car garage, is an extra room that the homeowners made wheelchair accessible by installing an elevator, which serves all three floors of the home. Because visitors are usually famished after an active day out on the lake or hiking in the woods, the dining room plays a key role. While guests can grab a quick bite to eat at breakfast at the kitchen's eat-in bar, the informal dining room is where the couple likes everyone to gather and discuss the day's events. While enjoying home-cooked meals, guests can enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan through a series of floor-to-ceiling windows, which make this country-style dining room the room with a view. In contrast to the great room, Jim designed the dining room to have a low, heavily beamed ceiling to create a feeling of intimacy.

The kitchen, which opens to the great room, blends in seamlessly with the room it faces. To help it keep a low profile, most the appliances were hidden underneath cabinetry facings to match the tone and look of the wood in the rest of the home. Marble, cut to resemble small tiles, tops all the countertops, the backsplash protecting the wall behind the range and island workstation. To one side of the kitchen is a small built-in desk with a six-shelf cubbyhole for storing cookbooks and other handy kitchen references. Facing the kitchen is a walk-in pantry.

For the outside of the house, the couple wanted a combination of the two home styles they both admired: Adirondack and Victorian. Jim took the couple's ideas and combined elements of the two styles. While most of the home's Adirondack features can be found inside the home, the home's long broad porches and timber-framed deck supports hint to an updated Adirondack look. Many of the home's Victorian features are found in the home's exterior details, such as the pointed turret-like roofs and the choice of window shapes and styles.

Since the couple purchased this particular lot because of its views of Lake Michigan, they wanted to make sure that they had plenty of access to the outside. As a result, their home has extensive decking on both the main and upper floors. Thanks to several sets of thoughtfully placed French doors, the couple and their guests are always only a few steps away from enjoying the wonderful view.

Like all good grandparents, the homeowners don't mind their grandchildren using the home in the winter as a base camp for ski trips with their friends. Just as long as the kids promise to visit them come summertime, too. Not to worry, though, no matter what time of year, the retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan is an inviting and popular place to be.

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