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A South Dakota Timber Frame Home Filled With Surprises

Throw all your assumptions about timber homes away, because a dramatic surprise is in store for everyone who enters this magical South Dakota timber-framed home.

Written by Karen Marley
Photography by James Ray Spahn
 Photos: James Ray Spahn
Some things are not as they appear. Timber homes, for example, don’t often define themselves by their exteriors. With the ability to wear any skin with ease, a timber home can be masked, revealing itself only once you open the front door.
Set on a slope in South Dakota’s Black Hills, a masterpiece home of this variety surveys its views of forests and mountains. The front elevation, with its curved centerpiece along with macadamia-colored stucco siding and a standing seam copper roof, give the house a contemporary look. These fire-resistant materials are a practical choice for living near a large swath of forest.
The only clue that this is a timber home is the king-post truss over the front door situated near the double-deep, three-bay garage. The front entry, modeled after barn doors from the prestigious Biltmore Equestrian Center in North Carolina, hints to the family’s equine interests. Beautiful? Definitely. But if outer beauty attracts, inner beauty captures your attention and holds it. And nothing prepares you for that first look inside. 

The vast, 43-by-43-foot octagonal centerpiece is everything all at once: Cozy. Spacious. Rustic. Contemporary. Spaces are distinct but lack walls. Breathtaking features command attention without competing. All of it is supported by a gorgeous display of an intricate and masterful feat of timber frame engineering and construction. In a word, it’s fantastic.
“It’s really fun to see people come into the home not expecting anything and see the grand timbers,” says homeowner Jane Lockwood.
Never has the term “great room” been more apropos to describe a space that functions as the foyer, kitchen, dining and living room. Timber home great rooms are common, but as you absorb this space, you realize what’s unique about it: Outside of the walls, there are no visible posts or anything to break up the expanse of wide-plank white oak flooring.

A stone firepit that could be equally at home outside marks the octagon’s center. Floating above the firepit is a handmade, oxidized metal hood. The timbers appear to open like an immense umbrella over the hood.


“In effect, we designed the house around that fireplace. Specifically, around the size of the flue. The flue’s diameter was dictated by the height, draw and function,” explains Chris Wood, vice-president of Tennessee-based Hearthstone, Inc., the company responsible for engineering and constructing the spectacular timber frame and trusses. 

The home’s unique octagon shape came from an architect who designed it for another home that Hearthstone built in Virginia a number of years ago. For the Lockwood residence, Hearthstone duplicated the design but on a smaller scale. Each panel measures 17-feet-10-inches. Perimeter walls were constructed with 2-by-6 conventional framing and drywall.

The timbers are vacuum, kiln-dried Douglas fir that has been planed, smoothed and stained dark to contrast sharply with the white walls. Hearthstone engineered the eight trusses and joinery with a modified hammerbeam design. To accommodate South Dakota’s heavy snow loads and the strain it puts on houses, the joinery required steel. Eight dormers brighten the upper space.

“Every beam was necessary for structural integrity,” explains Chris.

Because the framing and floating flue created such a vast space, interior-design creativity played a tremendous role in making the space fit everyday life. A long wooden table with an iron base establishes the entry. Overhead is a wrought-iron chandelier with a mica shade. Behind the table, a leather chair transitions the space to the other living areas. Ottomans can be moved up to the central hearth.


A local cattle rancher/craftsman created all the custom cabinetry in the kitchen. Granite counters with a leathered texture and rough edges contain every color of the interior’s neutral palette, including black, white and rust tones. The granite’s movement is especially visible on the large walnut island. The backsplash is a simple painted wall, placing the emphasis on the room’s other finishing materials. 

Layered lighting was the secret to giving definition to the very open home’s different zones. Recessed LEDs, under-cabinet lighting, chandeliers, track lighting and sconces were designed to provide different moods.

“Sometimes, when we’re eating, we just use the dining lights and the firepit. It feels like an intimate dining room!” exclaims Jane. 

The great room may be planned around the fireplace’s flue, but the rest of the house — the master suite and the family room wings — were designed around the great room. Hearthstone constructed decorative scissor trusses for the family room and arched trusses for the master bedroom that were installed by the builder.


In addition to the octagonal great room, the house has another unexpected delight: the game room. Located downstairs and painted in a Mid-Century pale green, the game room is loaded with vintage activities that would look at home in a town fair. Restored pinball games, slot machines and even an antique claw game keep guests entertained for hours. The cheerful back wall is filled with restored antiques of the sort one would find in candy stores and garages.

Outside, the home is no less dramatic. The exterior landscaping features a one-mile path around the property. A four-tier waterfall burbles merrily nearer the home and attracts wildlife. The house may captivate visitors with unexpected design, but its best feature is its welcoming nature. “Every room is a hangout room,” says Jane. “It really is my dream home.”


Home Details

Square footage: 6,622

timber provider: Hearthstone, Inc.


Home Details

Square footage: 6,622
Timber provider: Hearthstone, Inc.

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