Tracy M. Ruff
In New York’s breathtaking Catskill Mountains, Windham Mountain boasts more than 45 ski slopes. The winter sky’s bluish-grey tones envelop the snow-covered mountains. Along one of these pristine slopes sits an elegant timber-frame home. From the outside, the exterior resembles a traditional ski lodge with the warm natural elements of timber, stone and red cedar. Unknowing to the skier passing by, the home’s 8,400 square feet features a massive timber-frame structure. Architect and planner, Eric Smith of Eric Smith Associates in Boulder and Steamboat Springs, Colorado, designed the home to fit seamlessly into the landscape. “With such a narrow site from the road to the slope,” says Smith, “I was concerned about having a sizeable and contemporary home, but not too rustic.”
In order to get the most from the site, Smith designed a three-level house with a walkout basement. “Having done a lot of timber-frame homes, I thought about the frame from the beginning of the design.” Smith says. “I kept in mind the modules and the frame itself. Then, I made the decision early on as to where the timber frame would occur.” Smith worked closely with the design team at the timber-framing company that supplied the frame, Woodhouse, The Timber Frame Company
in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, to ensure that the frame and design would match structurally as well as aesthetically.
With timbers spanning the two main levels of the home, Smith balanced the house by creating two wings. When entering the home, the owners can see straight through to the main patio and out to the ski slopes. “The goal of the design was to open up the home and embrace the ski area,” Smith says. On the left of the home, the massive great room features ceiling-high windows. To finish this level, to the right are two bedrooms and the garage. Upstairs, the master bedroom suite connects via a bridge to the home office. “When the owners want to be undisturbed to work from home or extended weekends, they can have privacy and work while there is activity on the main floor.” In the lower level, four more bedrooms, an exercise room and a family room help fill the space.
To build the home, the homeowners were referred to Dick Jordan of Brainard Ridge Associates in Windham. Jordan is a custom homebuilder, developer and local builder/dealer for Woodhouse. Because of his experience with building timber-frame homes on Windham Mountain, Jordan streamlined this challenging process. “We build on the slopes,” he says, “and nothing is easy. You just have to make the best of a logistical problem.” To better manage this large job on mountainside property, Jordan had all of the materials off-loaded at a flat site nearby. The supplies were then transported to the site in phases, as they were needed. This cut down on materials sitting on the site and risking damage, like fragile windows and doors.
In the front exterior, the home’s features are a prelude of what’s to come once inside. A structural timber frame supports the entryway roof while timber embellishments frame the windows and garage. Adirondack granite stones travel from the driveway slightly ascending the garage and then onto the sidewalk and curved walls onto the front porch. More stone continues up two stories to the roofline. Warm-toned red cedar shingles wrap the home. The expansive windows share a glimpse of the interior, showcasing wood beams throughout.
The three-level home makes the best of its narrow site. Multiple decks and patios take advantage of the mountain views. A deck off the master bedroom overlooks the valley below, while a patio sits adjacent to the ski slope making it an easy ski-on, ski-off feature, or even better, a post-skiing soak in the hot tub.
The home’s timber frame consists of Douglas fir posts and beams. Mortise and tenon joinery connects the timbers — and pegs secure them in place. The pegs were left uncut to create a more rustic look. All of the timbers were chamfered, sanded and stained. “All of the timbers are finished like a piece of furniture,” says Jordan. The other wood elements compliment the timber frame. The pine decking also has a warm stain. The walnut floors are hand-planed and oiled. Wood trim frames the windows and doors creating a cohesive element in each of the rooms. In the basement, additional timber elements continue the rustic look.
Warmth is high priority in this cold climate. To add comfort, radiant floor heating on each level covertly emits heat throughout the interior. The frame itself is wrapped in high-efficiency structural insulated panels (SIPs). Outside, the driveway, sidewalks, steps and terrace feature a snowmelt system that is very useful in the Catskills. The outdoor technique uses an ethylene glycol mix run through pipes to heat the stone and melt the ice and snow. And, after a vigorous day enjoying the slopes, shoveling the walkways is the last thing the owners wanted to be doing.
8,400Architect: Eric Smith Associates Timber Provider: Woodhouse, The Timber Frame Company