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Outside In: A North Carolina Timber Home

A mountain home connects with its natural surroundings through an open design and ample outdoor space.

 A gradually sloping small-pebble driveway leads to the front of this Blue Ridge Mountains home. The exterior of the home is painted dark brown to match the tree trunks in the surrounding forests.
A gradually sloping small-pebble driveway leads to the front of this Blue Ridge Mountains home. The exterior of the home is painted dark brown to match the tree trunks in the surrounding forests.
Story by: Robert Kiener
Photos by: Roger Wade

If you want to know what makes Wanda and Lyle Hinshaw’s 5,000-square-foot North Carolina home so special, make a beeline for their kitchen. That’s what most visitors do. “It’s the fireplace that draws them in,” says Wanda, with a smile. “Some people said I was crazy to want a fireplace in my kitchen, but they change their minds when they see it. It really makes the whole house feel warm and cozy.”

That warm, cozy feeling is the exact result that Wanda, a former innkeeper and keen cook, and Lyle, a retired college professor, wanted to achieve when they began drafting plans for their three-bedroom Blue Ridge Mountains home around 2001. “We wanted an open plan, but we also didn’t want our home to feel massive,” remembers Wanda, who grew up nearby. “A timber-frame design gave us the feeling of openness, and we were careful to add some special touches for coziness.”

That kitchen-located Rumford fireplace — comprising Virginia fieldstone and topped by a sturdy cherry wood mantel — was inspired by a childhood memory of Wanda’s. “A friend’s aunt had a fireplace in her kitchen, and everyone always gathered there,” she recalls. “I knew that guests always gravitate to the kitchen at parties, so I wanted to give them a special treat when they came into ours. They love it, and so do I when I am cooking.” She positioned the marble-topped island, including a cook top and sink, directly in front of the fireplace in order to view the fire burning as she cooks, she admits.

Among the Trees

Because the home’s steep, three-acre site boasts hundreds of pine, poplar, magnolia, maple and other tree species, the Hinshaws wanted to take full advantage of their natural surroundings. “Bringing the outside in was very important to them,” notes local builder Tom Philipp, who is also married to Wanda’s sister. He advised them to cut some of the pines he thought were too close to the house, but Wanda insisted they stay put. “And she was right,” the builder says. “They frame the house beautifully.”

The timber-frame design allowed the couple to fill the house with massive windows that capture the peaceful views. “We are taking full advantage of our site,” says Wanda as she points to the lushly wooded forest visible from most of the home. “It’s like we are living in a tree house.” That tree-house feel is intensified by the expansive deck and porch that run the length of the house and expand the usable living space. Wanda confesses that she and Lyle eat almost every meal on the deck during the spring, summer and fall, and love to entertain out here.  When the weather permits, homeowners Wanda and Lyle Hinshaw love to hold dinner parties and dine outside on the home’s inviting porch.

A Plan Comes Together

Designing the house was a collaborative effort. Wanda and Lyle roughed out a floor plan and enlisted the aid of their builder and their local home designer, Nancy Harrison, to get it down on paper. “I had lots and lots of ideas I’d torn out of magazines and floor plans I’d seen in books,” says Wanda. Final plans dictated timber-frame construction for the central portion of the home and stick-built construction for the side bedrooms. French doors that open from the bedrooms onto the home’s roomy deck continue the home’s indoor-outdoor theme.

Harmony Timberworks, a 30-plus-year-old timber framer in nearby Boone, North Carolina, supplied the timber frame, using a computer-controlled Hundegger cutting machine to cut the Douglas fir. “Our guys then hand-finished the pieces and we dry fitted the entire frame to double check it,” says senior timber-frame designer Dan Kiser. The company sent out an on-site advisor to help the builder and his crew assemble the timber frame. The entire house was completed in 2002 after an approximately one-year construction period. The Hinshaws later added a detached garage.

Natural Finishes

Taking their cue from their location, the Hinshaws finished the house with natural materials: The floors are pine or cherry, the ceilings are yellow pine and the custom-made cabinets are mostly cherry. “I was worried about mixing different woods, but they all seem to go together,” says Wanda. She even painted some of the wood dark purple to match the grass cloth wall covering above the fireplace. She also incorporated a selection of carefully chosen antiques to give the modern home an eclectic flavor.

For some homeowners, building their dream house can be an exasperating process. “I’ve done a lot of remodeling, and my husband always says, ‘You’ve never seen a wall you didn’t want to move’,” Wanda notes. “But this went so smoothly, thanks in large part to being able to work with my brother-in-law and other great people.” As she stands at her island kitchen and looks across to the roaring fire, she confesses, “I loved doing this house — every minute of it! We got exactly the home we wanted.”

Tour the North Carolina Timber Home

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