Beauty and the Beams: Reclaimed Wood for a Rustic Feel

January 17, 2014

Rough-hewn good looks and meticulous craftsmanship make a handsome barn-inspired Redding home both dramatic and cozy.

Text by Charles Monagan    Photography by Robert Benson    Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

It may not top the list of things a would-be buyer wonders about while house hunting, but in this part of the world maybe it should at least hold a place among the aesthetic considerations: what will the house look like—what will it feel like—when it’s snowing outside?

In the case of this baronial barn house in Redding, the answer is easy to guess: Let it snow!

Set on twenty-three acres of woods, rolling fields, and one gorgeous pond, this substantial yet snug dwelling is a cross between a modern Telluride lodge and the humble New England barns whose old boards lend it so much of its character. With six fireplaces making the luxuriant wood interiors glow, it’s a good place to ride out a storm, which, in part, is what builder Michael Greenberg had in mind right from the start.

“We thought that, given the nature of the property, something totally barnesque would work best, something that would feel like home in all seasons,” says Greenberg, whose Westport-based Michael Greenberg & Associates handles almost all aspects of its projects, including design, construction, millwork, and even landscaping. “Our goal is to be genuine and true to the location,” he says. “A lot of what we do uses reclaimed materials. There was a nearby barn that we dismantled, and a couple of other barns as well. A lot of wood went into this project.”

It is wood that seems to distinguish all of Greenberg’s projects, and wood that has given birth to a couple of his other Connecticut spin-off businesses, both located in Ridgefield. Good Earth Millworks specializes in hand-finished wood products, such as cabinetry, custom moldings, libraries, and wine racks. Riverbend Wood Floor Company salvages wood from old barns and industrial buildings and gives it new life as flooring or millwork. Both businesses played important roles in the building of the house in Redding, as did the firm’s resident architects and designer/craftsmen. “There’s such a good dynamic when you’ve got the designer and the shop working in sync,” Greenberg says.

In this house, those details are what give the house subtlety and refinement despite its size—6,800 square feet of living space, not including the basement, tennis pavilion, and guest house/garage—and a heavy helping of rough-hewn good looks.

The contrasts begin at the front entrance, where a golden chestnut doorway is set off against a facade of natural barn wood. The welcoming message is unmistakable. Inside, an enormous central hearth made from native fieldstone, some taken right from the property, soars upward through the beams and beyond to the roof. Nearby, tucked under an exposed second-floor walkway, is a cozy bar, where the barstool view through multiple windows takes in snow-laden evergreens. The dining area and kitchen, all contained within the same big open space, continue the snowy show and the showy indoor glow. The craftsmanship in the cabinets, window frames, center island, and even the stove’s exhaust hood stands out. And so does the richness of the flooring. “The floors are all reclaimed oak,” says Greenberg. “We bring it in from the field, re-mill it, and find a new life for it. We love to find distinctive properties and then build unique houses.”

The woodworking is especially bold in the crisscrossing planes of the main staircase. Here, rough-hewn beams and newel posts contrast with the lighter, more refined balusters, handrails, and treads. Diamond-shaped designs in the stairway are echoed in the big windows that accompany the ascent. The robust wood treatments continue upstairs as well, where the master bedroom’s soaring ceiling finds strength in its network of massive beams, and even the master bath raises the drama of its sinks and tub by placing them beneath proscenium arches of oak.

As for the restrained interior look, Paige Hammond, of Westport Interiors, had already worked with the owners for eighteen years on multiple homes and knew well their tastes and dislikes. She first learned of the property when the wife called her in a bit of a panic.

“You must come up here right away,” she said to Hammond. “My husband just went out for a ride in his car and he bought a house!”

Hammond arrived to find Greenberg’s work nearly done. Her plan was to keep the interiors as simple and easy as possible and let the architecture and the views out onto the property do most of the talking.

“The owners absolutely love the rustic design,” she says, “and we didn’t want to intrude on that. For instance, they wondered about an Oriental rug in front of the big fireplace, but we finally decided the focus should be on the room and the view out to the water, so we ended up with something plainer. Similarly, the window treatments, with only a few exceptions, are blinds that can all but disappear and let the views pour in.”

Color shows up here and there, as in the family room, where a dining table and banquette front a bow window. “This is where the family spends a lot of its time,” said Hammond, who enjoyed a free hand in picking out all the elements. “The reds in the rug, window seat, and couch lend some coziness. There’s some red in the grasscloth on the walls there, too.”

Hammond enjoyed working with Greenberg and his multi-faceted approach. “The chemistry helps a lot,” she says. “It’s always very nice when an interior designer can work so easily with a builder. There were no struggles. I’m not interested in being an architect, but I could bring an idea in—a tin ceiling in one room, for example, or the dining table in the family room—and we could figure out ways to get it done. By working together that way we could achieve what we were both really there for: to create a warm and wonderful space for the family. When they’ve got eighteen for dinner they know the house is working with them all the way.”

And if it just happens to start snowing outside, so much the better. •

Architecture and construction: Michael Greenberg & Associates
Interior design: Paige Hammond, Westport Interiors