A soon-to-be retired couple builds a small timber home that lives large in North Carolina.
Story by Nancy Berry
Photos by Roger Wade
Nearing retirement age, Randy and Cathy Clement began dreaming of building a small Craftsman-style timber-frame home somewhere in the mountains where they could spend leisurely days golfing, mountain biking and hiking. The Michigan couple began their search a little farther south of their home state ending up in Murphy, North Carolina — the heart of the Appalachian Mountain Trail. When they saw a building site for sale on a ridge overlooking the Cherokee National Forest, the couple was hooked.
“The views were breathtaking; you could see for miles,” notes Cathy. “And the people in Murphy were so friendly and welcoming — we knew this spot would be the perfect place to retire.”
The couple quickly purchased the lot and began planning their cozy house. They were familiar with Riverbend Timber Framing, a well-established Michigan company that has been designing and crafting timber-frames for more than 30 years. They met with sales representative Shirley McLaughlin to decide on one of the company’s many hybrid timber-frame house plans.
“They liked the Tecumseh plan, but it was too large, and the layout wasn’t quite right for their needs,” says McLaughlin. “They were looking to downsize.”
Riverbend architect Fred Frier worked with the couple to reduce the original 2,800-square-foot plan to 2,300 square feet. “We took about two feet off of each room,” notes Cathy.
To create a more compact plan, the architect tucked the garage underneath the house rather than next to it. The living spaces — great room, kitchen and dining room — open onto one another to maximize the living space.
“This layout is a great way for the cook to stay connected to guests,” notes Cathy.
Another way the architect extended the living spaces was through the use of outdoor decks and a three-season screened-in porch.
“We practically live out on the porch 11 months out of the year,” notes Randy. “The porch has a built-in grill and a dry-stack stone fireplace for cool nights.”
The use of porches and decks blurs the distinction between the indoors and outdoors.
Another trick that makes the home feel larger are the great room’s cathedral ceiling and its wall of windows, which frames the forest and mountain views perfectly. Three oak hammer beams offer dramatic effect.
“We love the look of oak,” notes Cathy. “And we used FSC-certified oak timbers from Michigan for the timber frame — a little piece of home in our new location.”
The couple also chose hand-hewn oak flooring. Builder Bill Berg of Berg Mountain Homes of North Carolina explains that all the carpenters, masons and craftsmen were local.
Once the timber frame and energy-efficient structural insulated panels (SIPs) were in place, the builder and the Clements employed other space-saving techniques throughout the interior spaces. Instead of purchasing free-standing furnishings, they opted to incorporate built-ins wherever they could. For instance, the master bedroom closet has a built-in armoire. The kitchen’s center island houses the microwave and wine fridge. In the laundry room, built-in cupboards offer great spots to store detergents and cleaning supplies.
Although the house is compact, over the Thanksgiving holiday, 10 adults slept comfortably in the house. “The first month we were in the house we had everyone to Thanksgiving, and the oven was not working,” says Cathy. “We cooked the whole dinner on the screen porch grill — turkey, pies and all.”
The couple couldn’t be happier with the whole outcome of the process and can’t wait to embark on their relaxed, pared-down lifestyle in their mountain home, “Hawk’s Tail.”