Timber Homes Illustrated – December 2001



Story by Scott A. Murray & Heather Anderson
Photos courtesy of Thistlewood Timber Frame Homes (Ted Yarwood)

An Ontario couple shares their enjoyment of timber framing....

Even from a distance you can sense this house is special. As you meander up the winding driveway and draw closer, the imposing silhouette of the stone exterior fades to reveal pleasing architectural details with Old European influences. The graceful curves of the timber framed front entry porch greet visitors like outstretched arms. The stone and brick details around windows and doors are attractive features that further enhance the interesting architectural theme.

Inside, as you step across the threshold and enter, your senses are soothed by natural light, bursts of color and the subtle aroma of pine timbers. The warmth and patina of the natural wood is complemented by earthtone-colored walls and the fond appeal of a fieldstone fireplace. Spectacular hammerbeam bents in the great room and the satin sheen of hardwood floors beckon visitors to explore.

You quickly realize this truly is an awe-inspiring home.

This is the home of Len and Cathy Kuipers and their three daughters - Kaitlyn, Tyley and Jordan.

"Even before we knew about timber frame homes, Cathy and I both liked home designs with spacious floor plans, abundant natural light and interiors finished with wood" comments Len when asked about the features of the house they like best."When we found out about timber framing at home shows and in magazines, we both just knew that this was exactly the style of home we wanted to build some day."

Len and Cathy both grew up in the local area near the small town of Brighton in eastern Ontario. Len fondly reminisces about playing in his grandfather's barn as a child and climbing across the big timber beams in the hay loft. This early love of architecture and timber construction never waned. Len began his career in the family building business and now Len and Cathy own Len Kuipers Construction Ltd., a well respected custom home building company in the region.

Their new home was actually the fifth design contemplated by Len and Cathy. Once they found the perfect 15-acre site atop a steep ridge close to town, the final decisions regarding their house design could be completed. The spectacular view of Presqu'ile Bay on Lake Ontario to the south easily determined the best views the property had to offer. As with many custom home designs, these design details cannot be confirmed until the special features of the property on which the house will be constructed have been considered and incorporated into the final plan. When locating the house on the property, Len and Cathy used aerial photographs and a compass to assist them. "We wanted a south-facing exposure but slightly east of due south." explains Len. It didn't take long to realize that a few more degrees toward the east would have the great room facing directly toward the Presqu'ile Bay lighthouse. "It just seemed like a logical landmark that we should use to locate our home" says Len. "We tried to take advantage of the natural sunlight in both winter and summer months." The Presqu'ile lighthouse is located on a long peninsula and is part of a scenic provincial park. The word Presqu'ile is french for "almost an island," a fitting description of this slender spit of land that is visible from the great room.

The timber frame system was designed and produced by Thistlewood Timber Frame Homes in Markdale, Ontario, and Len is now an Authorized Thistlewood Dealer. "We enjoy our home so much, we thought it would be nice to share our love of timber frame homes with our clients," explains Cathy when questioned about the mutual interest she and Len share in timber framing. "This house began as a long-term dream for Len and I and now we live in and enjoy that dream everyday" she confides. "The house suits our needs and those of our daughters perfectly."

When asked about the stunning fireplace, Cathy relates that the whole family had a part in its creation. "We loved the idea of a fieldstone fireplace and thought it would be the perfect complement to the pine timbers. The girls joined us and took part in hand-picking every stone from the property. It was a great experience to share together as a family and the fireplace serves as a daily reminder of an accomplishment we created together."

No matter what the occasion, the house provides the perfect backdrop for both casual and formal entertaining.” We often light a fire when friends drop by in the cooler weather. We love the warm comfortable atmosphere that a natural fire brings to the room. The house can have the feeling of a cozy northern retreat for smaller groups and, at the same time, provide ample space and atmosphere when the occasion is larger and more formal. The home seems to mold itself to any occasion" says Cathy.

Cathy's grand piano is a special gathering place for friends and family alike. Cathy is an accomplished pianist and her music seems to whisper through the timberwork. "The acoustics in the timber frame great room are wonderful. The timbers provide excellent resonation and the notes carry true and clear" says Cathy. Visitors who have heard Cathy play remark about the crystal clear quality of her music. It’s a marvelous union of fine acoustics and talent and the results are nothing short of soul stirring. At Christmas, friends and family gather around the piano and up in the loft to sing Christmas carols. The whole house reverberates with the voices of young and old who have come to help celebrate the season.

Cozy, quiet areas throughout the home offer peaceful spaces to read or relax. "The girls love to sit and read in the loft." says Cathy of her daughters. The timbers of the dormer above create a special 'nook' to read or study and the comfortable furniture seems to beckon to anyone with a few moments to spare.

Len and Cathy's home is not entirely framed with timbers but is rather a hybrid design that combines traditional timber frame as well as conventional construction methods. The front entry, great room and upper loft form the centre core of the house and is flanked by conventionally framed wings on either side. "We wanted to continue the timber frame theme in the dining room and kitchen so we added timber ceiling beams to the plan" explains Len when asked about how he and his crew constructed the house. "We wanted the full timber frame theme of the great room to flow into other adjacent areas of the house and we're very pleased with the result."

Another special feature of this unique home is the home office and building product show room over the garage. Len and Cathy run their business from home and really like the convenience of not having to drive anywhere to go to work. There is a side entrance that allows clients and visitors to come and go without interrupting the privacy of the rest of the house. Being on the upper level has its advantages. The panoramic view from Len's desk to the water is nothing short of breathtaking.

As with many home-building projects, the Kuipers’ home is the successful culmination of many years of planning. The decision to build a timber frame, the search for the perfect location and the successful design and construction were all part of the path that led the family to the realization of their dream. "We truly enjoy our home" confirm Len and Cathy when asked about the features they enjoy most. "People who visit are simply amazed when they see the tight fitting joinery of the timber frame. Everyone is impressed by the fact that the entire timber framework is held together with wooden pegs alone."

Len and Cathy's home will last for centuries, a legacy of heritage and tradition to pass down to future generations and a place where many happy days and memories will be shared.