New Home with an Old Soul

Timber Frame Homes Summer 2001 | Story by Michael Baxter | Photography by Laurie Dickson

Nestled along the bank of the Gunnison River in southwestern Colorado stands a Scandinavian-styled timber frame home of stucco with clean lines and fine wood details. Though relatively new in its construction and appearance, at the heart of this picturesque escape is an old soul of recycled timbers from industrial structures long forgotten and laid to waste.

Built several years ago by Nancy and Lee Rutherford as a family getaway far from their Gulf Coast home in Corpus Christi, Texas, the 2,300-square-foot house was a perfect choice for the south Texans. “With this incredible timber frame, it’s almost like a cathedral sitting in the woods,” Lee says. “Even today it still gives me a warm feeling, like a new antique.”

Designed by Bob Matthews of Mountain View Technical Services in Lake City, Colorado, the Rutherford house is a two-story timber frame hybrid. “The living room is full timber frame; then the remainder of the first floor area is post-and-beam timber up to the second floor,” Bob says. “Everything above that is conventional, except that we used a structural insulated panel design for both the wall and roof system instead of a stick frame.”

Mike McDowell of San Juan Timberwrights in Arboles, Colorado, created the Douglas fir frame for Nancy and Lee. “We really enjoy working with the old woods,” Mike says. “You may never know exactly where each specific timber came from, but at the time that this project was being done, we had timbers from several old sites on the West Coast in our yard. “It’s most probable that the wood used in this home came from the historic Longview sawmill in Washington and a second mill that was dismantled in Oregon.

“These timbers are mostly old growth that were cut in the days when trees were a lot bigger than they are now,” Mike says. “They are good-quality timbers; plus they’ve been in buildings for 50, sometimes 100 years or more. When we re-mill them, most of their shrinking has been done. It’s been four years since we put that frame in for Nancy and Lee, and you call go up there today and see that all the joinery is just like we cut it in the shop and put it up that day.”

Bob agrees that the choice to use recycled wood was a good one. “It’s gorgeous wood, and being dry, it eliminates any problems that you have with green-timbers,” he says.

The Rutherfords and their three daughters Kate, Lara and Jessica fell in love with the area after several years of volunteering at a nearby summer camp for children with serious illnesses. “We became enamored with Lake City, so in 1992 we began thinking about buying some land and building a home,” Nancy says. “We hadn’t planned on doing much with the property right away, but our kids accused us of wanting to wait until they were grown to build. They said that it wasn’t fair!” So, Bob was hired to begin the design process and the plan was put into motion.

Tagged to oversee the construction was local contractor Allen Brown, owner of AB Construction. “We had a few challenges during construction,” Allen says. It had the timber frame with stress skin panels on the walls and roof, part of it was traditional construction; then there was stucco on the outside with wood accents. I think that they combined everything that they could think of out there! But then that’s what made it fun!”

Thought not a large home, the open concept makes it appear more spacious. ” Downstairs we have the master bedroom and bath, living room, dining room and kitchen,” Nancy says. “Upstairs are two more bedrooms, the loft and a smaller attic room.”

Flanked on either side by windows, the centerpiece of the living room is the floor-to-ceiling cultured stone fireplace. “The man who did the stonework in the house is a real artist,” Lee says. “Fritz Mock graduated from one of the Ivy League schools and yet he has found his life’s vocation as a stone mason in a town of 300 people in Colorado.”

The cultured stones are in an assortment of earth tones chosen to complement the wood around them. Below, the red limestone hearth matches the spacious patio overlooking the river. A recycled timber matching the frame was used for the mantel.

A durable, weather-resistant stucco finish was chosen for most of the exterior, with a 3-foot band of cultured stone, similar to the fireplace, wrapping the base of the building.

“It’s a huge change from living at the beach,” Lee says. “In south Texas, the highest point we have is a bluff that’s probably 20-feet high, and in the summer the humidity is 100 percent and it’s 95 degrees. Our Colorado home is a very soul-satisfying place. It;s just a nice place to be.”

Home Details

Timber frame producer: San Juan Timberwrights
Bedroom quilt, Tiffany lamp, dining room dishes, living room vases and throw blanket: Overland Ranch Store
Designer: Mountain View Technical Services
General contractor/builder: A. B. Construction Inc.
Kitchen cabinetry: Highland Woodworks
Masonry: Fritz Mock

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