In May of 2008, a two hundred year old timber framed church changed ownership. Ellen Bargeron had visions of a sanctuary nestled among elderly trees, a stream fed pool, and a small rolling cemetery. The bulk of her dream was realized two and a half years later when she moved into her code compliant home in its nine acre woods, 16 miles from its original location. No stream ripples nearby, but one grave sadly graces the grounds.
The building was a primitive 30 x 50 feet rectangle with small doors and windows. The heart pine, hand hewn timber frame structure is intact. The walls were extended up two feet to better display the timbers, keeping the original ratio of the gabled roof. Larger and more numerous windows and doors allow more natural light. All doors are eight feet solid fir and French glass paned. All downstairs windows are triple and functional. They nestle against the timber at the top, reaching to 32 inches above the floor in the side rooms and 24 inches in the big room. The width of all functioning windows is similar; those upstairs are double, rather than triple. The 4x4 foot window in the master bath is fixed.
The front entrance remains on the long south wall of the house; a side entrance opens into the kitchen. A large back porch extends almost the width of the north wall, its high roof designed to allow an unimpeded view of the woods beyond through two sets of double doors. These doors open completely connecting the big room with the porch.
The renovation design utilizes natural resources, energy efficiency, and links the inner and outer spaces. Passive solar details, cross-ventilation, thorough insulation, water conservation, and underground utilities are only part of the overall plan. Minimal trees were removed for the driveway, house site, and the corridor for transporting the building.
An interior wall and ceilings were added on each end to facilitate private spaces with open lofts above. The east end houses the master suite with bedroom, bath, study, and laundry; above is a parlor. The west end houses the guest bedroom and main bath with a spacious kitchen open to the big room; above is another bedroom. The ceilings in these rooms are 12 feet, lofts are gabled from 11 to 7 feet, while the big room’s gable is 22 to 15 feet.
The 13 feet by 28 feet back porch is screened with one door opening to a small low porch on the west side. Its roof is gabled from 20 to 14 feet.
Given the plethora of natural wood in the interior, the trim, flooring, wall colors, counters, and fixtures were chosen for their simplistic harmony, consistency, and natural materials. All the trim (door & window frames, baseboards & shoe molding, bookcase edging) was cut from 150 year old Douglas Fir timbers. The flooring was milled from 150 year old heart pine timbers. The posts supporting the side porch are solid heart pine with cast iron capitals recovered from a 1920’s mill in North Carolina. All porch roof rafters are the original heart pine roof rafters of the church. Identical posts and rafters will be used for the front porch posts.
The house is indeed a sanctuary nestled among elderly trees. It is named for Ellen’s favorite tree on the property, the dancing white oak that overlooks the west end of the house and the 26 foot granite picnic table, transported from the original church site. It’s a place for celebration as well as contemplation.