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Backyard Building Inspiration of Every Shape and Size

A log or timber structure doesn’t have to be a residence. From man caves to woodshops to pool houses – we explore the versatility and creativity of log and timber design and construction.

Written by Donna Peak
When most people think about building with logs or timbers, they envision a full house with several bedrooms, adjoining baths and the standard living/kitchen/dining great room. But logs and timber frames have many other applications than primary residences or even vacation cabins. Sometimes, all you need is a private sanctuary right in your own back yard.
The projects we examine here are exactly that — escapes from everyday life. Call them outbuildings, accessory dwelling units, man caves, she-sheds or any of the other monikers these structures have taken on over the years, these buildings are at once unique and united: They all showcase the creativity of log and timber frame design and construction.

The Paschke Pool House

Designed as a backyard playground where a busy couple and their family can escape the stress of daily life, the recreation compound consists of an in-ground pool, a hot tub, a tennis court and the centerpiece: the timber framed pool/guesthouse.
With 1,296 square feet of interior space and an additional 1,056 square feet of covered pavilion, the structure has the rooms you’d expect to find in a guesthouse: a living area, a small kitchen, a bedroom and a bath. But this structure also sports a locker room fit for the finest country club and a full-scale outdoor kitchen and bar.
The owners had an architect friend design the building and came with plans in hand to Johnny Miller, owner of Ohio-based OakBridge Timber Framing to craft the impressive wood frame. “It’s only 200 feet from their residence, which is conventional construction,” says Johnny. “So, for the pool house, they wanted something special — a place where they could feel they were ‘away’ without leaving home.”
The frame consists of striking Douglas fir timbers, with a massive 12-by-24-inch ridge beam, which, according to Johnny, does all the heavy lifting in terms of carrying the structure’s load. The interior truss work is king-post style, but it’s very widely set to allow for a more spacious, open interior. “The rafters of the ‘truss’ actually act as braces for the ridge beam more than as a traditional truss that would distribute the load,” Johnny says.
Outside, a king-post truss was, again, customized. This time, the bottom chord is angled downward. “This was an aesthetic feature the clients wanted,” Johnny explains. “There was a massive amount of beams coming across, and they were looking for a little more height in the center, so we angled it.”  The modification called for the use of an exposed metal plate (an element not found in traditional timber framing) to structurally support the truss, but fortunately, the clients requested a slight industrial vibe to the structure, so the plate fulfills two purposes: it supports the design while it gives a bit of an edge to a time-honored way to build.

The Latsko Man Cave

Framed with cypress with a scissor-truss bent and stained with Sherwin Williams “Covered Bridge” shade, the 16-foot-deep overhang is the gateway to a 1,296-square-foot man cave to end all man caves. But it took confidence, determination and a smart construction crew to bring this grown-up clubhouse to fruition.
“The building is only about 150 feet from the owner’s house, but it was way up on a hill!” exclaims Bruce Bode, owner of Heavy Timber Truss and Frame — the timber crafter behind the project. “We built everything down on flatter ground and used a monstrous crane to get the timber bents up to the site.” Once up there, the ground was terraced using mammoth boulders.
Inside boasts a wide-open space. The centerpiece is a professional-grade bar topped by a prismatic-black granite slab with a chiseled edge. Seated at the bar is the man cave’s own permanent barfly — a carved-wood guest who greets everyone who joins him with a raised pint in hand.  Even the half-bath continues the tavern theme — the sink is crafted from an old whiskey barrel and the urinal is a converted keg.
The owner loves sports and is an avid golfer, so in addition to the bar, the hangout boasts a full-scale golf simulator inside as well as a putting green outside. The extensive use of glass in the structure blurs the lines between interior and exterior.
Beautiful building materials aside, it’s clear that this place was built to have a good time all the time. “It’s totally designed for recreation,” Bruce says. “It’s a place to kick back and have a really great party.”

The Manly Woodshop

Attorney by trade; master woodsmith and beekeeper by avocation. That’s the man behind the Manly woodshop. And the timber frame company behind the structure is OakBridge Timber Framing.
The 3,108-square-foot barn-style building is framed with white oak timbers crafted into a unique hammerbeam/king-post-with-struts combination truss system. At the end of each vertical truss member is an embellishment called an “acorn pendant,” a detail that was repeated on the staircase’s newel posts. “The acorns were my dad’s idea,” OakBridge owner Johnny Miller says of his 83-years-young father who still comes into work every day. “Altogether, he hand-carved 13 acorns in the house — it’s the most acorn pendants I think we’ve ever had,” Johnny says with a laugh.
The ceiling is covered in warm Douglas fir tongue-and-groove and perched in the center is a working cupola that allows natural light to filter through the building’s core.
Back on the ground, the floor plan is divided into three distinct compartments: the living area, where the family hosts get-togethers; the woodshop; and the “bee room,” where the owner extracts his own honey from his hives. But the shop is the heart of this retreat, located just a stone’s throw from his daily residence. Custom made sliding doors keep sawdust from penetrating the other spaces in the structure, while the rustic wood floor, laid in a chevron pattern, is a forgiving surface when it comes to showing dings or wood shavings. But when the entire structure is a testament of what you can accomplish with wood, a little leftover sawdust never hurt anyone.

The Hilliard Tea House

When architectural photographer Joe Hilliard and his wife moved into their 1930s bungalow on Indiana’s St. Joseph River 20 years ago, they discovered an old boathouse foundation buried under a pile of leaves and brush along the water’s edge. After years of using the exposed concrete platform as a place to relax along the river, they knew they wanted to do something more with it but couldn’t find a fitting structure — that is until Joe met builder and timber craftsman Greg Leman. Greg specializes in unique projects, including Japanese tea houses. The Hilliards knew they’d found the outbuilding for them.
The main structure of the tea house is built from a white oak center ridge beam, 5-by-5 vertical ash beams, and 1-by-3-inch ash stringers which were bent to achieve the curved roofline. The floors and railings are made from black locust. Sikkens/PPG ProLuxe oil-based stain in natural cedar was used to protect the timbers and decking. The roof is covered with hunter-green metal and the exposed sides of the concrete slab were finished with cut rocks sourced from a stone house which had been torn down.
The space between the timbers is filled with Sto Corp. stucco over cement board that would be able to withstand the northern Indiana winters, and for those cold winter evenings, Joe and Greg installed a sunken fire pit out of firebricks salvaged from an old potter’s kiln.
In the end, Joe and his wife, Jacquie, have a perfect waterside perch to enjoy a morning cup of coffee together or an adult beverage with friends at dusk. In fact, according to Joe, “Not much tea is actually consumed here; unless you count Long Island Iced Tea.”
Love this idea? Check out this floor plan: Japanese Tea House Pavilion Floor Plan by Davis Frame Co.

The Karchner She-Shed

When the farmland on which you plan to build your dream log home comes with  several rundown outbuildings, the natural thing to do is refurbish and enjoy them! Such was the case with this adorable timber she-shed.
Located just a stone’s throw from the owner Melinda Karchner’s log cabin, the shed’s original siding and windows were in such bad condition they had to be replaced, but the interior timbers and metal roof were salvaged and restored to their former glory.
“The place was overgrown with vines and there were critters in there,” Melinda says with a laugh. “It was pretty nasty, but I wanted to preserve it.” Where the original timbers couldn’t be saved, Timberhaven Log & Timber Homes provided circle-sawn timbers to replace them. Melinda stained those timbers with ZAR walnut stain and the aged effect the combination created makes the new wood nearly indistinguishable from the old.
For contrast and freshness, the interior walls were painted a crisp white. The new Weathershield windows (which match the main log house) provide the uninsulated building with some energy-efficiency, and to keep the space warm during Pennsylvania winters, an antique cast-iron stove (that Melinda also salvaged and cleaned up) was converted into a charming electric space heater. The floor is a concrete slab covered in durable vinyl plank flooring that mimics barnwood. Above, the rafters are open to the underside of the standing-seam metal roof — a feature which makes the most soothing sounds during a summer rain shower.
Now the roughly 400-square-foot mini-barn is her pastoral retreat, filled with antiques and treasured heirlooms. “I’ve had so much fun decorating it and making it ‘my place,’ especially at Christmas,” says Melinda. “Every piece in here is personal and meaningful.”
P.s., This space was a winner in our Best Log & Timber Homes of the Year contest! See more here!

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