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Ultimate Timber

by Regina Cole on August 3, 2016

in Revival Today

A neutral stain on the cedar shingles is augmented by a lively blue-green on the trim. Photos by Greg Premru

A neutral stain on the cedar shingles is augmented by a lively blue-green on the trim. Photos by Greg Premru

Inspired by Greene and Greene, fine woodwork in mahogany enhances an elegantly rustic timber-frame house in the woods.

Before he retired, John Laupheimer worked as an investment manager. But an avocation that predates his professional life still occupies him today. A skilled furniture maker, Laupheimer made the cherry dining table and chairs in the recently completed house he and his wife, Debbie, built in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The subtle curves, pegging, inlay, and elegance of the furniture were inspired by the California architects Greene and Greene, their motifs minutely observed and flawlessly executed.

“I got into woodworking in school shop,” Laupheimer says. “Since then, I’ve built 12 guitars, a 21-foot gaff-rigged sailboat, and a lot of 18th-century reproduction furniture.”

New inspiration came from a long-ago magazine article about Charles and Henry Greene, and Laupheimer has been smitten ever since. Building this timber-framed house was an opportunity for the couple to pay homage to the Greenes. Thus, the entry is a symphony of stained glass and mahogany, inspired by Pasadena’s Irwin House; the staircase is modeled on that of the Bolton House, also in Pasadena. In the soaring great room hung with reproduction William Morris tapestries, John Laupheimer’s furniture is very much at home.

The soaring living room looks to the garden. On the upper wall are reproductions of British designer William Morris’s “Search for the Holy Grail” tapestries.

The soaring living room looks to the garden. On the upper wall are reproductions of British designer William Morris’s “Search for the Holy Grail” tapestries.

“We love this house,” Debbie says. “It’s so warm, and at night it glows. All the wood makes me feel good.”

Jim Driesch, Director of Design at Timberpeg, worked with the Laupheimers to create the 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom house fashioned of Douglas fir posts and beams, spruce ceilings, and red-oak flooring. “It’s a stylized Arts & Crafts house with an open space on one side and the bedrooms on the other,” Driesch says. “Under the cathedral ceiling, the great room encompasses the living room, dining room, and kitchen.”

The home office also serves as a den with Arts & Crafts furniture and comfortable leather seating.

The home office also serves as a den with Arts & Crafts furniture and comfortable leather seating.

An attached garage and a several outbuildings, including, of course, a workshop, cluster around the one-and-a-half storey house, which is sheathed in stained cedar shingles. Window lintels that extend beyond the frame hint at the Greenes’ cloud-lift motif.

“If Greene and Greene had designed this house, the roof pitch would have been far lower,” John Laupheimer says. “But this is Massachusetts, not California. We also have double-glazed windows and foam insulation in the walls and ceiling.”

A magnolia in glass creates a beautiful entry at this shingled timber-frame house in Massachusetts.

A magnolia in glass creates a beautiful entry at this shingled timber-frame house in Massachusetts.

Landscape architect Kerry Lewis of Newton, Massachusetts, helped site the house, ensuring that it nestles into the landscape. She designed a planting scheme for the surrounding two and a half acres, using native plants such as low-bush blueberry, American beech, red and white oak trees, perennials, and grasses. Near the foot of the driveway, a sunny meadow is planted with native wildflowers. In early June, it’s a field of naturalized blue lupines.

“The owners did not want foundation plantings or formal beds,” Lewis explains. “It was all to be very natural, sprawling, and a little rustic.” A magnolia tree near the front door strikes a rare formal note. The stained-glass and mahogany entry, created by the homeowner with glass artist Louis Michael Pulzetti, echoes the magnolia’s large leaves and pink flowers.

Under a soaring ceiling stands the dining room furniture made by the homeowner, who designed the table stretcher to be higher than usual for comfortable leg room.

Under a soaring ceiling stands the dining room furniture made by the homeowner, who designed the table stretcher to be higher than usual for comfortable leg room.

“We designed the interior around the rugs,” says John, who inherited part of a collection of Eastern rugs assembled by an uncle in the 1920s. A particularly precious one, a late 19th-century Kuba with a green border, hangs on the dining-room wall. Traditional upholstered pieces and Arts & Crafts reproductions join John Laupheimer’s handmade furniture; the result is style-specific but unfussy.

Reissued Arts & Crafts furniture is the perfect fit for a new Arts & Crafts house.

Reissued Arts & Crafts furniture is the perfect fit for a new Arts & Crafts house.

The master bedroom suite is on the first floor, along with a home office or den. Upstairs, the steeply pitched rafters called for some interesting design solutions, such as a shower stall placed in the middle of a bathroom. A loft balcony overlooks the soaring living room. Exposed wood is everywhere: “We love the color of the Douglas fir, and it will get more red with time,” John Laupheimer says.

“We have no wasted space,” Debbie says. “We use all the rooms…I like that the first floor offers everything we need. However,” she adds, “I am not fond of one-storey houses.

Convenient to the dining end of the great room, the kitchen has a large central island and granite countertops.

Convenient to the dining end of the great room, the kitchen has a large central island and granite countertops.

“What I like best about the house,” Debbie reveals, “is the way it engages the outdoors.” John says that, despite all the wood and his fine furniture, the house was affordable to build. “Those Greene and Greene originals—they were brilliant, but not affordable.” He heads back out to the workshop, where he’s making a pair of Greene and Greene-inspired end tables.

The door is patterned after that of the Greenes’ Irwin House. Glass artist Louis Pulzetti spent an entire summer piecing together 1,400 pieces of stained glass.

The door is patterned after that of the Greenes’ Irwin House. Glass artist Louis Pulzetti spent an entire summer piecing together 1,400 pieces of stained glass.

Glass Magnolia
Greene and Greene’s “Ultimate Bungalows” in California are noted for their magnificent stained-glass and wood entries. In homage, the Laupheimers engaged New Hampshire glass artist Louis Michael Pulzetti, whose company, Emmet’s Hill Wood and Glass, is known for art lamps, screens, and other glass and wood furnishings. This has been Pulzetti’s largest commission to date.
“In a book, we found a picture of the Duncan Irwin House and decided to create a similar design, but in mahogany instead of oak,” Pulzetti says. “John and Debbie wanted a tree. When I suggested a magnolia, Debbie’s eyes lit up.”

He created 34 panels with 1,400 pieces of glass to depict a blooming magnolia tree branching to fill the transom and sidelights. Each panel has a three-quarter-inch copper frame, and each individual piece of glass is outlined in copper foil.

The work of Louis Pulzetti, of Emmett's Hill Wood & Glass.

The work of Louis Pulzetti, of Emmett's Hill Wood & Glass.

To meet energy-conscious building codes for new construction, a layer of clear glass insulates the exterior of the stained glass. “It also protects it from potential damage from branches and the like,” says Pulzetti. John Laupheimer built the mahogany doors that frame the glass picture.

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