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When "Almost Heaven" Takes the Form of a West Virginia Timber Frame

A wrong turn on a West Virginia highway puts one couple on the right path to the timber home promise land.

Written by Griffin Suber
Photography by Joseph Hilliard


Some homes are planned years in advance and are meticulously thought out along the way. Other homes are products of pure happenstance. This 3,900-square-foot timber frame — a regal stand-out perched on the highest hill of its golf course-adjacent suburb — is actually a bit of both.

The house, itself, was the product of a meeting at a 2014 Log & Timber Home Show, and its planning involved interactive 3D modeling, artisan finishes and materials from all over the country. The location, however, only happened because homeowners Susan and Jim Mayer took a wrong exit off the highway.

“We happened upon Shepherdstown, West Virginia,” shares Susan, “which turned out to be a surprising compromise between everywhere else we were looking.” 

The Mayers’ home is a custom design based on of Heavy Timber Truss & Frame’s “Long’s Peak” plan. The original layout had the wrap-around porch that Susan wanted, but they made plenty of personal changes, such as moving the master bedroom upstairs and adding a matching garage with its own timber truss on the front. They swapped the dining area and the kitchen, adding on a bar section and bumping out the side of the house 7 feet to enlarge the dining area. But in order to serve the family meals the couple envisioned, they needed an exceptional space to prepare them.

“I carried a picture of a kitchen I wanted from an old catalog for, I don’t know … 74 years,” Susan says with a laugh. “My builder, John Hobday, suggested I go to Mountaineer Kitchen in Martinsburg. I walk in and they had this exact wood with the same stain I’d been wanting, and I fell in love with it.” The cabinets are made of rustic alder. The darker, almost gray tone, of the wood clearly differentiates the space and it a great contrast to the Douglas fir timbers, which are rubbed with a Danish oil. An abundance of open shelving keeps everything from cookbooks to spices to wine within easy reach.

Re-imagining the floor plan and its accompanying design elements was made easy by 3D modeling technology. “The virtual touring allows people to see what it is that they’re going to build,” explains Kevin Perdue, a representative with Heavy Timber Truss & Frame. “Along the way, they can compare between, say, purlins or rafters or nothing at all. We can show them all three options so they can make their decision without having to have materials on site.”

For instance, Susan is a big fan of the mountain rustic aesthetic popular in the Carolinas. She found a local artist, Tim Wahlberg, who makes twig furnishings and asked him if he’d be able to craft a twig staircase. Using rhododendron, they turned what would have been an ordinary safety component into a show-stopping focal point. Susan wanted the same twigging for the exterior porch, but her local homeowner’s association forbade anything too rustic. “Using the 3D modeling, I designed the balusters on the exterior porch, something that would pass their scrutiny,” says Kevin. “We were able to supply her with initial design concepts that she could then share with the HOA.” 

With the Mayers’ home, everyone was on the same page from the beginning. The builder and timber provider walked the land with the couple when they first purchased it, and everyone huddled around the same table during the design process. But, even after all the fine tuning, the best thing about a home is often something that happens by pure happenstance.

“My number one favorite thing is the quiet,” sighs Susan. “To walk out at night, we’re up on a knoll, you forget what stars look like living in the city. Every time I walk in this house or see it from the road as I’m driving in, I just feel happy and grateful and amazed that we built this house.”


Home Details

Square Footage: 3,911

Bedrooms: 3   

Baths: 3 full, 1 half

Timber Provider: Heavy Timber Truss & Frame

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