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Matter of Time: Planning a Traditional Timber Frame Home

Something old becomes something new when longtime Carolinians build a traditional timber home to replace their beloved summerhouse.

It’s a feat many homeowners have tried to achieve—to create a traditional home that’s at once inspired by history and modern in its craftsmanship and amenities. It’s a challenging project to take on, but deciding to build a timber home definitely makes the task easier. Just ask Bill and Joellyn Gibbons.

Their timber home, which is situated on close to an acre of land in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, was constructed on the site where a hotel was built in the 1880s, but later torn down in 1942. The Gibbons eventually bought the property and built a summerhouse, which was destroyed in an electrical fire in 2003. Yet, from the tragedy came the opportunity to build the home of their dreams. And that’s exactly what they did, all the while leaving certain elements of their previous home intact, such as the original hedges in the front and side yards that were planted 50 years earlier. “We wanted the home and its furnishings to look like a home that was built in the 1920s,” explains Bill, who is semi-retired from the furniture textile industry.

To achieve that goal, the couple worked with an architect who suggested a timber-frame structure. Made from a hand-hewn, distressed white oak framing package from Boone, North Carolina-based Harmony Timberworks (previously Harmony Exchange), the home required quite a bit of custom craftsmanship, particularly for the curved ends on the outside rafter extensions, rafter tails and beam extensions. Bill and Joellyn helped their architect design the home. “The architect gave us six different rough design scenarios, and we picked the one that would work best,” recalls Jim Kanagy, sales representative for Harmony Timberworks.

The Gibbons, who broke ground on their four-bedroom home in 2003 and moved in less than two years later, say outdoor living space was one of their top priorities, as evidenced by the 14-by-48-foot double-decker porch and two outdoor fireplaces. “We did a lot of living on our previous home’s porch,” says Bill. “Now we have 1,300-square-feet of space and an amazing view.” Designed in an L-shape, the home also sits on an angle, specifically chosen to capture natural light. “Our home never gets direct sunshine,” says Joellyn. “The sun comes up in one corner of the lot and sets in the other, so we wanted a many doors and windows to let a lot of light in.”

For the kitchen, the Gibbons salvaged cypress siding from their previous home’s exterior and used it for paneling, while yellow pine was used for the floors. The rest of the home features a mix of stone flooring, complemented by knotty white oak, which creates abundant rustic charm. The home’s five interior, wood-burning fireplaces are crafted from local stone cultivated from the region. The Gibbons worked closely with a local interior designer to create an Old English aesthetic. “It’s a mix of new and antique,” says Joellyn, who spent two years collecting furniture and decorations while the home was being built. “We were always on the hunt. It was a lot of fun.”

These days, the Gibbons are enjoying their timber home and sharing it with family, friends and the local community. “It’s the perfect house for entertaining,” they say, recalling a recent holiday that found them hosting a party for 200 guests. Reactions to the house are always positive, says Joellyn, who especially enjoys the home’s well-lit, open floorplan. “Everyone seems to love our home because it’s casual and not the least bit pretentious. It’s calm, serene and comfortable,” she says. “Our place is the perfect tribute to our beloved vacation home, but with a whole new feel.”

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