Timber-Framed Treasure

A couple embraces country living in their barn-inspired home.

The venerable barn has stood as an icon of Ohio’s countryside for centuries. So when a New Albany couple decided to build a second home in rural Coshocton County, they embraced the timber-framed concept — complete with a traditional Amish barn-raising event — for their hilltop abode.

“It was my husband’s big ol’ idea,” says the homeowner about her spouse’s dream to have a place in the country with pristine views and lots of personality. She says he met with three different realtors and scouted some 25 properties but didn’t find a match until he spotted a postage-stamp-size ad in The Columbus Dispatch classifieds: “Property for sale by owner — 70 acres and great view.” The land was a perfect fit, with its perch upon one of the county’s highest points and its character-rich features, including four ponds, a meandering stream and original homestead foundation and fireplace.

The couple eagerly purchased the property and started making the one-hour trek to the site in an all-wheel-drive Pacifica SUV — the only car in their family that could forge the creek and climb the steep slope to the hilltop where they would discuss plans for their new home.

Truth be told, the homeowners originally thought of building a cottage, but as new empty nesters they decided to create a larger home to host family gatherings with their two grown children. Working with architect Tim Carr of Westerville and builder Joseph Shrock of Loudonville, they asked for an open, timber-framed home with lots of windows.

“We want a barn that we can live in,” they told Carr.

The architect designed a gambrel-roof barn, with dormers, typical of the dairy barns built in the early 20th century. Back then, this roof-design innovation significantly increased a barn loft’s storage capacity and allowed farmers to feed larger herds through the winter. For this couple’s home, the roof design allows space for charming upstairs bedrooms with sloped ceilings and dormer windows.

Since many barns of the period featured attached silos, one was built for this home as a fitting addition for the octagonal sunroom and lower-level workout room and office.

To honor the natural setting, the couple intentionally chose local materials, employed local craftsmen and artisans and aimed to make the home as sustainable as possible — for example, installing a geothermal heating system and using structurally insulated panels.

For the frame, Shrock partnered with Oakbridge Timber Framing in Howard. At Oakbridge’s facilities, joiners handcrafted timbers from locally harvested white oak trees, then delivered them to the site for an old-fashioned, barn-raising celebration. The homeowners, contractor, architect, timber framers and their families — 100 people in all — gathered, and many wrote their names and messages on wooden pegs used to join the timbers. While the signed pegs aren’t visible once inserted, they’re symbolic for holding the home together, as well as holding special memories.

Next, the frames were raised with a hydraulic crane, then hand-fitted and pegged together.

“It was like putting a puzzle together,” says the homeowner. The Oakbridge team offered a blessing, then all enjoyed a traditional Amish meal of chicken, noodles and homemade pies.

With the frame in place, Shrock’s crew completed the exterior with typical barn finishes, including board-and-batten siding, a standing seam metal roof, foundation stones salvaged from a local church and cross-braced garage doors. And, of course, the Ohio State Buckeye-loving homeowners delighted in choosing their exterior colors of classic barn red for the siding and gray for the silo.

Inside, the Amish builders’ generations-old craftsmanship shines in the rich cherry floors, the kitchen’s custom Shaker-style cabinets and the lower level’s built-in cabinets of walnut milled from the trees cleared to electrically equip the home. The two-story great room features a soaring stone fireplace and the beautifully exposed timber frame that’s accented at night with track lighting.

Interior barn elements include sliding barn doors, a stable door from the kitchen to the sunroom and an open stairwell leading to a loft. Still, as enchanting as the interior may be, it’s the panoramic views that command attention. Appropriately, Shrock framed these views with bays of windows made from native hardwood lumber by Ohio-based Malta Windows. At the end of the project, he surprised the homeowners with an antique barn hook to hang at the peak of the windows and complete the barn detailing.

To furnish the house, the couple turned to Donna Rosenthal of Bella Casa in Columbus, who had worked with them previously on their New Albany home. Walking the property one fall afternoon, Rosenthal and the home-owners were inspired by the beautiful reds, golds, oranges and browns and decided that would be the color scheme.

With palette in hand, they chose comfortable, classic furnishings for laid-back country living and brought in art and accessories that echo the setting. The powder room is accented with leaves gathered from the property and artfully glazed on the walls. Interspersed throughout the home, antique grandfather clocks from the homeowners’ three-generation clock collection fit perfectly with the natural woods.

Upstairs, the loft space was outfitted with a game table and comfortable furnishings for reading. For the guests’ bedrooms, elements reflect the personalities of the homeowners’ children — lively hues and patterns for their artistic daughter and nature-inspired colors for their son, whose room includes throw rugs woven from recycled and hand-dyed seed bags.

Today the couple, often accompanied by friends and family, welcomes escapes to the country. Fortunately, there’s now a half–mile drive complete with a wood-planked bridge to make the trip to the hilltop less of an adventure. Still, exciting activities await, whether it’s sledding down the hill, exploring the property on ATVs, fishing the ponds, spotting wildlife from the deck or cooking pie-iron treats over the fire pit.

At the end of the day, the homeowners watch the sun set over the rolling landscape and are reminded of what drew them to the property: the peace that the countryside so graciously offers.