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A Canadian Lakeside Timber Frame

A cherished lakeside lot that was the site of many long-held memories now serves as a fresh start for a Canadian family and their new timber frame home.

Photography by Mira Timber Frame


The owners of The Jackfish Lake Retreat have enjoyed their lakefront lot for years — long before this charming bungalow graced its grounds. Originally, the family owned a 600-square-foot cottage on this property, and they were very attached to all the memories they’d made here. The loss of their grown son to meningitis was a somber reminder that capturing every moment was of utmost importance. So they decided that one of the best things they could do was have a larger place where they could all be together at the lakefront lot they loved. It was a case of right location, wrong house.

The couple sold and removed the tiny cabin from the lot, essentially leaving a blank slate to design and build this brand new 2,245-square-foot timber frame bungalow, with the help of Mira Timber Frame in Alberta, Canada.

“The location spoke to having a timber structure; it’s so integrated into the woods, the landscape and the lake,” says Trudy Gauthier, Mira Timber Frame’s design manager. “Plus, the home is low maintenance, and the structural insulated panels (SIPs) used to enclose the frame are highly energy efficient in their colder Canadian climate.”

The lot was a bit of a challenge, as there’s a 35-foot drop from the front to the back. But in the end, it gave the design/build team a unique opportunity to build a “garage under the garage” for added storage.

Inside, Trudy concentrated on securing a direct line of sight from almost every room in the house, resulting in an inside/outside connection throughout.

“It was designed around the front door, the staircase and the view beyond. We were very strategic about planning the other rooms around this foyer and center line,” Trudy says. “When you walk through the front door, it was all about having a direct line to the lake. Everything else is peeled to the side … the fireplace, the kitchen … the focus is on the water view and the open timber structure.

“Their floor plan is multitasking,” Trudy continues. “As entrepreneurs, the couple ran their business from their house, before they sold it, so they were there 24/7. But this was also to be their retirement home. It needed to offer high levels of function and relaxation.”

To achieve this, it took multiple floor plan renditions to get the right traffic flow and privacy levels. “With timber framing, we can do some big spans across and get some open, dramatic roof lines, but this plan took some maneuvering. It didn’t happen overnight,” Trudy says with a laugh.

Not only do the owners love to surround themselves with family, they are part of a dinner club, so they entertain a lot. “They’re cooking all the time,” says Trudy. For this reason, the outdoor living space was just as important as the inside. The covered deck boasts a dining area and outdoor kitchen. “We can get some beautiful winter days, where it’s nice to be outside, but you need protection from the wind. Covered decks give that extension of the living space and connection to the outdoors,” Trudy says.

The frame is a hammer beam truss system fabricated from Douglas fir finished in an oil-based stain that has just the slightest pigment, allowing the rosy undertones of the fir to come through. The pine tongue-and-groove ceiling has a blond hue, so there’s rich contrast between the wood species.

“When we build, we almost build backwards. We construct the posts and beams and roof rafters — the frame. But then we apply the tongue-and-groove ceiling (after the electrical is run) and then come back with the SIP walls and roof panels,” says Trudy. “It would be quite laborious to cut each piece of T&G and apply spacers, not to mention when you have tall ceilings you’re on scaffolding. We find it saves our clients time and money to build ‘backwards.’ It’s even less expensive than applying drywall to the ceiling.”

The exterior is clad in stucco and cultured stone — both low maintenance finishes that allow the owners more time to enjoy the house and spend less time taking care of it. A number of exterior timber accents hint at what’s inside, but they aren’t structural. “We call them ‘trim-ber’ frames,” Trudy says with a chuckle. “It adds just enough embellishment to the outside.”

But it’s the memories that remain, and the new ones that are made every day, that give this charming home its true beauty.


Home Details

Square footage: 2,245 (not including basement)

Bedrooms: 2   

Bathrooms: 1 full, 1 half

Timber Frame Provider/Builder: Mira Timber Frame


See also A Contemporary Canadian Timber Tree House

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