From out of the woods

Cou­ple’s tim­ber­frame dream home was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one in­volved

Times Colonist - - Front Page - SANDY DE­NEAU DUNHAM

Ex­ten­sive tim­ber­frame ex­per­tise was not ex­actly a pre­req­ui­site when Daucey and Pat em­barked on build­ing their dream home in the el­e­vated woods near North Bend, Wash­ing­ton.

Turns out they as­sem­bled just the right dream team, any­way — and just the right dream home.

“We had a cou­ple act­ing as their own gen­eral con­trac­tor [with no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence], an ar­chi­tect [Larry John­son, of The John­son Part­ner­ship] who had never de­signed a tim­ber­frame and a con­trac­tor who had never built a full-scale tim­ber­frame,” says Daucey. What could go wrong? Or, bet­ter: Look what went right. Their rus­tic tim­ber­frame home — metic­u­lously con­structed with gi­ant “free of heart” beams of Ore­gon fir, and filled with sal­vaged trea­sures they started amass­ing dur­ing the “only dream­ing” phase — is a soar­ing trib­ute to hard work, dra­matic de­sign and years of gritty per­se­ver­ance.

Af­ter es­tab­lish­ing a bud­get (no easy feat) and a de­sign (con­sid­er­ably eas­ier once there was a bud­get), Daucey says: “The con­trac­tors were hired to pro­cure the tim­ber, do the join­ery and erect the frame.

“The balance was our re­spon­si­bil­ity. We were to have the foun­da­tion and sub­floor com­plete be­fore the tim­bers could be erected.”

The balance is dizzy­ing. The cou­ple did all this them­selves (with credit also to a team of will­ing neigh­bours): • Com­ple­tion of the stud walls (in­su­la­tion, Sheetrock and paint­ing) and the roof (roof deck, in­su­la­tion, shake roof); • cedar-sid­ing in­stal­la­tion; • plumb­ing in­stal­la­tion; • win­dow and door se­lec­tion; in­stal­la­tion and fin­ish­ing;

Some things they did more than once, tem­po­rar­ily at first, for the oc­cu­pancy per­mit, and then the way it was en­vi­sioned: Sheetrock walls, then wood pan­el­ing; com­mer­cial-car­pet floor­ing, then fir (with tile in the kitchen); a ply­wood counter to hold the kitchen sink, re­built with fir by their son-in-law.

“We put an [eight me­tre] beam in place our­selves,” says Daucey. “We had to in­stall it onto two sup­port posts and two end brack­ets [2 1/2 me­tres] in the air.”

And then there’s the fire­place: a mas­sive, tow­er­ing cen­tre­piece in the liv­ing area, com­pletely cov­ered with tons of hand-picked river rocks. As in: The cou­ple picked out every sin­gle rock on that fire­place. By hand. At a quarry in Is­saquah, and along the Sno­qualmie River, back when that was a per­mit­ted thing you could do, Daucey says. They sep­a­rated them by size and proudly pre­sented them to the ma­son, who, Daucey says, replied: “You’ve got half of them.”

“In short,” Daucey says, “We were hands-on dur­ing the en­tire project. We were in­volved in every as­pect ex­cept ac­tual join­ery. I was six feet tall when we started this project. It wears you down.”

Daucey and Pat, the par­ents of two now-grown chil­dren and grand­par­ents times two, mar­ried in 1970. He was a pi­lot for the U.S. Air Force, and when they ini­tially re­lo­cated to a rental in North Bend, in 1983, it was Move No. 11 for the young cou­ple.

They were think­ing of buy­ing a home, as young cou­ples do, un­til th­ese five un­du­lat­ing acres at the dead-end of a two kilo­me­tre-long gravel road spoke to them. The site is so re­mote, Daucey says, “In 31 years, we’ve never had a trick-or-treater. And once, a friend came over and had to stop in the drive­way for about 40 elk.” (When vis­it­ing, you’re bet­ter off fol­low­ing the lum­ber­ing elk than your spiffy GPS.)

“We had pur­chased a va­cant lot in the moun­tains,” Daucey says. “If we were to live there, we had to build a house.”

Says Pat: “I just wanted a lit­tle cabin in the woods.”

“Lit­tle” is sub­jec­tive, of course, but this feels a lit­tle like an en­tire lodge.

At 2,300 square feet, the home has two sec­tions and a whole lot of tim­ber: The “wing,” ba­si­cally a 22-by-30-foot rec­tan­gle, Daucey says, holds the two bedrooms their son and daugh­ter used when they were kids (each with a loft), a bath­room for each of them, the laun­dry room and the en­try foyer. The main, more-an­gled sec­tion houses lu­mi­nes­cent cleresto­ries, that mas­sive stone fire­place, a base­ment, a kitchen, a pantry and a sit­ting nook. Up­stairs, on its own, among the trees: the master bed­room, bath and bal­cony nook.

Just in­side the main en­try, a spe­cial carv­ing cap­tures the “What could go wrong?” spirit of a slightly green tim­ber­frame team — in an op­ti­mistic, rem­i­nis­cent way.

“Af­ter the house was built, I hired the con­trac­tors to work with me to fin­ish it,” Daucey says. “We get three times as much rain here as Seat­tle: 2,700 mil­lime­tres a year. We’d be work­ing, with the rain dump­ing, tarps flap­ping like a pi­rate flag in a storm. A tim­ber­framer would say, ‘It is only a pass­ing storm.’ To­ward the end, he says: ‘I’ve got a friend that owes me a carv­ing.’ I showed him the beam. He said, ‘What do you want on it?’ ”

It reads: “It is only a pass­ing storm.”

The deeper mean­ing, says Daucey: “No mat­ter how bad things get, we’re go­ing to get to the sim­ple part and the next phase.”

This spe­cial tim­ber­frame home seems sim­ply lovely now but, of course, there al­ways could be an­other phase.

“I still have my tool­belt on,” Daucey says.

Daucey and Pat Brew­ing­ton’s home out­side out­side Seat­tle demon­strates one of the best uses for old growth tim­ber. The front of the home is built around gi­ant trees and nurse logs.

The Brew­ing­tons stand on the tim­ber land­ing be­tween the up­per master bed­room level and the main liv­ing area.

A sit­ting area off the kitchen features tim­ber beams and is filled with an­tique lamps the Brew­ing­tons have col­lected over the years.

The Brew­ing­tons’ kitchen features a ma­hogany fix­ture (far end un­der the win­dow), which is an old beer cooler from a de­funct ho­tel.

Above, one of the beams, just in­side the front en­try, has a carv­ing that reads “It is only a pass­ing storm,” a ref­er­ence to the stormy, rainy weather the cou­ple en­dured dur­ing the build.

At left, the down­stairs shower features a tile and river-rock wall.

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