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Enjoying the Lake View Straight Through

A spectacular piece of property deserves a house that does it justice, and that’s precisely what one Ohio couple achieved with their timber-framed home.

Written by Adam Headley
Photography by Kris Miller


It had to be just right. The line of sight from the entry of the spacious timber home all the way to the lake and beyond was too picturesque, and Steve and Susan Tilley were determined to capture it.

“We spent about a year designing the house, and we wanted the center to dominate everything so that you could look straight through and see the lake when you walk in the door,” explains Steve. “When I bought the property and I pulled in to look at it the first time, I knew where the house and the lake would sit.”

The Tilleys invested in 85 acres in the hills of an ancient glacier bed just north of Newark, Ohio, and right away they carved out the 10 acres for their home site. Steve got his hands dirty from the start. He actually built the lake, which he speaks of proudly, and invested his own time, talent and a new track hoe to move large rocks around, one weighing a hefty 65 tons. His additional handiwork includes the construction of a 14-foot-tall stone wall that runs the length of a patio he completed and beyond, as well as much of the additional outdoor space, and massive stone steps from the house down to the lake.

“You couldn’t walk through the valley where the house sits at first, so I cleared it,” says Steve with a wry smile. “Behind the house is a 200-foot elevation and a pond that feeds a waterfall which cascades down to the lake. We wanted to build the lake first, and then we tore out a rock ledge to build the house. It sits right in there.”

The Tilleys constructed a 12,000-square-foot barn about 300 yards from their home’s footprint and lived there during construction of the house, which began in 2013 and lasted about three years before they turned the key in the front door. All the while, they watched the magnificent marriage of manmade ingenuity and nature take shape.

For as much as they enjoyed working with the outdoor spaces, when the time came to design the home itself, the Tilleys turned to OakBridge Timber Framing of Loudonville, Ohio, a family business now in its 37th year of operation. The folks at OakBridge grasped the vision and helped Steve and Susan make their ideas come to life.

“We took the design process in phases from concept through drawing and engineering and then put the white pine timber package together and installed it,” recalls OakBridge president Johnny Miller. “We did the dry-in with the tongue-and-groove in the roof and the structural insulated panel system that completed the envelope and got it ready for windows. One way we got the design just as they wanted was with a steeper pitch to the roof. We used white oak for the timber frame. It’s well-known for its resistance to rot, and it’s hard. They wanted it to be low maintenance, and it’s the wood of choice.”

Steve is the owner of several companies, including special event planning, lighting and printing enterprises. While he used his talents to put together the complementary aspects of the home, even building his wife a wedding cabinet that stores her dress and the cowboy boots she wore on that special day, Susan used her experience as an interior designer to make the living space sparkle. The cabinetry is white oak harvested on the Tilley property, while the flooring is hickory, and some impressive cherry lockers were custom made for the garage area. 

Through the entire process, the partnership with OakBridge was a positive experience with shared confidence. “They do exactly what they say they are going to do,” Steve comments. “There are over 300 timbers in the house, and I was out here on raising day to help them. We made it happen and shut the crane down at 9:30 that night. We were like a family.”

For the Tilleys, design centered not only around the outdoor space, but also the best use of indoor utility and aesthetics. Planning for convenience and future years, they installed an elevator, and the doorways were built wide enough to accommodate wheelchair access. They tracked the sun in order to locate the best positioning of windows to promote a natural ambiance in the bedrooms and measured the ceilings in the living area to an impressive height of 38 feet.

“We love the grand scale of everything,” relates Susan, “and we wanted to have spaces that fit our family. For example, we didn’t need a formal dining room. We spend a lot of time outdoors and have five grandchildren, so we can spread out when we’re all together at the same time.”

The Tilley home includes three floors with the primary suite on the main and a “sports bar” in the basement along with a gym, therapy room, wine room and bedroom. Approximately a mile of pipe was laid to accommodate the in-floor thermal heating and cooling system, while the impressive fireplace stretches 80 feet from the lower to the main level. According to Johnny, it is probably the heaviest fireplace in Ohio with an arch stone that weighs roughly 3,000 pounds, chiseled to size and laid by local Amish craftsmen.

For the Tilleys and their OakBridge partners, the project was truly a grand design, conceived around that magnificent view and built with timeless materials to provide lasting memories.


Home Details


Square Footage: 5,200

Bedrooms: 3

Baths: 3

Designer/Timber Framer: OakBridge Timber Framing


See Also: A Crowd Pleaser on the Water

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