A Luxurious Timber-frame Home in Vermont
December 14, 2020
A family eschews the traditional log cabin aesthetic for an elegant Vermont retreat.
Text by Robert Kiener Photography by John Bessler Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent
We call it our ski house, but it’s so much more than that,” says Kristie Smith as she explains how she and her husband, Kevin, decided to build a three-story timber-frame home in Wilmington, Vermont. “It’s really our second home. Our retreat. Or, as we often say, our ‘happy place.’ ”
The New Canaan, Connecticut, couple and their five children fell in love with this ski and recreational area in the southern part of the state during regular pilgrimages and finally decided to take the next step. “We didn’t want a condo,” says Kristie.“We wanted something more permanent and hoped to feel part of a neighborhood.”
With the aid of local builder Ryan Holton, the Smiths found a tucked-away, gently sloping, two-and-a-half-acre lot that even boasted a small river running through it. Holton, owner of Moosehead Cedar Log Homes and RH Log Works, also helped them customize the six-bedroom, log-cabin-style house that blends nicely with the heavily wooded lot.
“Ryan was an excellent collaborator,” says Kristie. “He and Kevin worked together to tweak the design until we got everything we were hoping for.” Changes included extra and enlarged windows to take full advantage of the lot’s views, a ten-foot-high, light-filled basement level, and an enlarged kitchen. “We reconfigured the layout to give the Smiths more kitchen space, so they were able to add an oversized island,” says Holton.
New Canaan-based interior designer Lisa Hilderbrand joined the team just as the home was being framed and helped Kristie create the interior. “Both Kristie and Kevin told me they didn’t want the typical yellowish log cabin tone inside the home,” she recalls. The couple wanted something warmer—more restful—that would not compete with the views outdoors. Adds Hilderbrand, “We worked together, with very patient painters, to come up with just the right color—not too light, not too dark of a stain—for the oak logs in the great room. Upstairs, we whitewashed the [main] bedroom walls. Others were wallpapered.”
Hilderbrand selected a color palette for the interior that complemented the views outside. “We went with a lot of neutral colors such as ivory, gray, khaki, and black and white,” she explains. “I also chose texture more than a lot of bold patterns, but nothing too precious. Again, we were going for a cozy, calm, welcoming look—one that didn’t clash with the beautiful woodland views.” Floors are radiant heated and comprised of quarter-sawn, random-width oak.
The aforementioned kitchen, which now opens to the rest of the main floor, has become the heart of the home. “The owners can be working in the kitchen and still be part of the action,” says Hilderbrand. The focal point of the space is a five-foot-long, eight-burner, red-enameled Lacanche gas range from France. “We dubbed it ‘the Ferrari,’ ” says the designer. Kevin was so taken with it that he asked Hilderbrand to custom design a burnished-steel and rubbed-brass hood to complement his new toy.
Kristie confesses that the most frequent comment she hears from guests is, “We see why you love it up here.” She explains, “We got exactly the home we were hoping for. It is as cozy as it is comfortable.”