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Reader Spotlight: A Cozy Timber Retreat With Scandinavian Roots

When one charming timber cottage just isn’t enough.

 Compiled by Griffin Suber
If you ask Larry Larson why he built a timber home compound in northeastern Iowa, he’ll tell you the purpose was investment and legacy, along with paying homage to his ancestral Scandinavian roots. But his wife, Gail, laughingly insists her husband simply needed more space to store his tools. The couple worked alongside their architect daughter-in-law, Jill Porter, to create a hygge-inspired home. The following is taken from a Zoom interview with Larry and Gail about their cozy retreat.
Larry Larson: The glaciers bulldozed Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, all those 10,000 lakes Minnesota is so proud of, but not this area. That means the valleys are still here, the river bottoms, the rocks on the sides of the hills. The roads don’t follow the points on a compass, they follow where the river goes.
Our property is about 30 acres. When we decided to build, we wanted to use the Scandinavian style. It’s very evocative of the style in Northern Germany and especially Sweden where farmsteads grew not by adding to a building but by adding another building. You’ll see as many as five or six buildings in a Nordic homestead.
In one of our buildings, the timbers forthe timber frame came from a barn blown out by a tornado about 30 miles away.
We call the side building “the studio,” which has four sides, but the fourth side is screened-in porch (you can’t live in Iowa with the mosquitoes unless you have a screened-in porch). It looks out toward the woods with the wildlife, the flowers and the tall-grass prairie. It’s absolutely stunning.
The sauna area is in the garage, which we call the “guest quarters.” One of the workers who came by said everything he’d need to live is contained in that building.
I get a great deal of satisfaction from closing my eyes and imagining that someone could still be using this structure two or three hundred years from now. It should happen, based on the strength of the timber frame. Everything else will follow.

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