We get contacted by architects and designers in the early design stage all the time and many of these projects never break ground. When Melody Jackson, of Metafour Designs, contacted us for a consultation, I figured this was just another concept going nowhere. Boy was I wrong about that. Her customer, Dale Torok, was planning an ambitious and stunning redwood addition to his home in Lexington, Kentucky.
Dale’s first cousin, Mark Wareham, is an accomplished architect in Los Angeles so Dale invited him and his wife to come out and discuss possibilities. At this point Dale did not have a picture in his head about what he wanted. The day after Dale’s invitation Mark’s mother, ILA Wareham, called and said “Mark tells me he is coming out to your place to visit, do you have room for me because I want to come too!”
Aunt ILA was 89 years old at the time “A real pistol” as Dale calls her, ballroom dancer, square dancer and ball of fire. ILA Wareham had been selling real estate in the Altadena CA area for many years. On the second morning of the visit Aunt ILA came downstairs holding a manila folder and said “OK Mark, I have given you and Dale a day to come up with design sketches without any interference, now I want to show you what you need to do”.
She laid down the folder and said “Mark, do you remember in 2009 when this home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. came on the market? Only the 2nd time it had ever been offered since it was built in 1949? I think it would be perfect for what Dale is doing. You can use it for inspiration.”
Dale immediately fell in love with the Lloyd Wright designed Dorland House - built from rose colored concrete blocks with long ceiling beams, solid wood grain accents and lots of glass - and his design was born - photos of the Lloyd Wright house that inspired Dale's design.
“I liked everything about the place except the brick. I prefer natural stone and knew I wanted to use stone from the beginning” Dale said. “I also knew I wanted Kentucky River Marble. I had toured a house with Kentucky River Marble and those were the things I wanted to incorporate.”
Below is the Kentucky River Marble Dale eventually used for his exterior walls and interior accents.
Crafting the Design
Mark and Dale sketched out the basics of the design and Aunt ILA returned to Los Angeles very pleased. Dale wanted higher ceilings and a sharper angle. A spacious design allowing for the inflow of natural light during the day and the radiance of his lighting system into the night - a place both appealing and inviting for entertaining guests.
Needing a local architect to finish the design and move to building plans, Dale turned to his friend and custom cabinet maker Terry Craycraft and asked if he knew any architects he could recommend. As it turns out Terry did, his cousin, Melody Jackson.
Jackson graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor degree in architecture and stayed on to get her masters in architecture. She came back to Lexington and worked with a couple of architecture firms and was offered a professorship in the College of Architecture at the University of KY. The year before Dale contacted her she had stopped teaching and begun to freelance for individual projects so she could have more time at home with her children.
Dale showed her the inspiration pictures and the sketches he and Mark had come up with and she said “I would LOVE to design this project for you”.
A huge Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. fan, she was crazy about the design from the very beginning.
“Rarely in my business do you get to work on something as unique and original as this and even more rare is being lucky enough to get a client like Dale” she said.
“My biggest concern was to fit this addition in with Dales one acre yard and garden.”
The yard and garden had manicured oriental trees and a two tier Koi fish pond (Dale’s pride and joy) sporting 25 Koi, some weighing up to 25 pounds.
Building the Plans
Jackson contacted our company to source the redwood for interior soffits (ceiling) and exterior walls July 2011 at the beginning of the design to plan process. Melody and I went over the designs and discussed several options for the wood ceiling, exterior soffits and beams. Dale settled on a Sap B Grade redwood pre-finished with redwood tinted stain to tone down the contrast between the lights and darks of sapwood. The interior was to be stained with 2 coats of polyurethane added.
The exposure of the beams in the design presented a challenge because Dale wanted them to match the soffit and ceiling panels. To order redwood beams size and scale was not in the budget so we suggested wrapping the beams.
Beam wrapping is where we used *Glue Laminated beams and then wrapped them with 1” redwood boards to create the appearance of redwood beams. (This is a great tactic for creating an awe inspiring appearance without a jaw dropping price).
In order to figure out the redwood beam wrap Melody had to draw a special key for us so we could figure out what materials were needed where.
As you can see some very intricate calculations were going to be used in order to wrap those main beams with redwood.
*Note Glue laminated beams are used when beams are too big to create with one board. 4- 2x10’s will be glued together to create an 8x10 beam. Glue Lamination is an affordable way to create structurally sound beams 20 or more feet long.
To add to the complexity the interior package was going to be finished with 2 coats of urethane and the exterior with an exterior stain.
Each window you see (highlighted in yellow) had to have 6 pieces of redwood, the face to be covered with 6 inch wide panels and then two-3 inch panels leading back to the window itself ( 3 pieces inside and 3 outside). The interior had to be coated with urethane and the exterior with exterior stain so each set would have a different finish requirement.
Remember, these materials were going to show up in wrapped and banded units so it was imperative that the builders know what pieces are meant for which beams.
Melody and I spent hours figuring out the materials list for this project as well as a “Key” for the builders to guide them in using the redwood in the proper places. This was the most complex project I had done to this point (and it was a blast).
We decided that the large cross member beams on the ceiling would not look right wrapped so I suggested they use Douglas Fir beams because Doug fir resembles redwood under stain. I had seen another customer of ours do this and it worked very well.
Above is the Fanelli Redwood Timberframe home we used for inspiration which used Douglas Fir beams stained "redwood" in place of redwood beams. As you can see they are a good match to redwood’s contrasting dark heart and light sap wood of the rewood siding installed immediately above.
After a few revisions Melody and I were satisfied we had the materials list as close as we could get it. The important thing when doing a beam wrap style design is to leave room for the builders to trim the wood to make it fit.
In wood projects there is no such thing as perfection so margin of err has to be factored in. On every 8 inch exposure Melody and I calculated a 1x10 to give the builders room to cut to fit on jobsite. While this creates more waste it gives the builders the ability to adjust to slight variations in the beams themselves and custom fit every one.
Constructing the Dream
The biggest challenge was the huge center beam, 50 feet long and weighing 1 ½ tons. Melody had to hire a structural engineer as the city wanted to make sure of the integrity of the beam and that the walls could support its weight.
“They had never seen anything like it” she said. It had to be installed with a huge crane. Rocky Hall, 75, and his grandson, Joe, handled the framing.
Joe started working with his grandfather almost 20 years ago as a carpenter after school and summers when he was about 12 or 13 years old. These two men framed this entire project. On very few days they brought in a helper or two, but most of the heavy lifting and framing was done by just the two of them.
Stanley Kelly, 75, is a Kentucky treasure when it comes to stone masonry. He has specialized in restoring many historical structures in Kentucky, including the stonework at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill and the 1796 Liberty Hall in Frankfort, KY.
The Kentucky River Marble was dug out of a mountain on Clay's farm with a bulldozer in slabs from 4 to 12 feet long and up to 2' thick. They drilled the slabs using wedges to break them into movable pieces and took them to a limestone quarry near Lancaster, KY where the Joell Ford, the owner of the quarry, used a huge hydrolic powered rock breaker to shatter the big marble wedges into design size pieces.
The exterior and interior stones were individually shaped by Dales' friend Stanley Kelly and his son Clay, two of the three man team of stone masons that laid all the stone, inside and out.
Dale found his beautiful and unique carved mahogany door at Doors 4 Home.
Terry Craycraft did all the custom woodworking - from the curved walnut front cabinets to the specialty moulding for the doors and windows. The window frames and transom windows were built in two stages so that the outside of the window could be framed in Redwood. Once the glass was in place, Terry crafted the inside half of the frames and sills from mahogany.
The interior raised paneling, the bar cabinets, the bathroom vanity, the stair and balcony bannister, crown molding, door trim, etc., are all made of mahogany. The curved stairs to the raised kitchen are tongue and groove oak wood flooring with walnut pegs for the floor of the upper area.
Dale had his introduction party planned for Sunday May 27th (Memorial Day weekend) and I told him I was going to crash it to get pictures of the finished product (and possibly a little revelry).
When I got there I was literally astonished at how amazing the finished structure looked inside and out! This was some of the best craftsmanship I have ever seen in my life. These guys really did an incredible job with the whole thing.
The shape of the room looks like the bow of a ship coming into the yard. It goes perfectly with his manicured yard and garden. All things come together in this place through the hard work of the design/build team and the thoughtfulness of the collector himself. Nothing in this place was done in a hurry- everything was carefully crafted to preserve his existing yard and integrate harmoniously.
Every visble piece of wood above and below is a redwood beam wrap. The integration of redwood over the beams is immaculate.
To be honest I was a bit worried about the whole beam wrapping idea. Yes we had done it before but never on this scale. The installers were craftsman and did a fantastic job!
Inside I saw the big beam wrapped in redwood and was equally impressed with what a great job they did on it. I could not see any discernible seams. Master craftsmanship at its finest!
As we had hoped the Doug Fir rafters under stain blended very well with the redwood board on the interior.
Lloyd Wright and his famous father seem to have been modern well before their time. That blend of modern and traditional is what makes their designs so appealing. Dale seems to have the same ability with his collecting. Everything in this place blends and converges to create a distinct feeling of welcome and warmth.
Natural lighting has been incorporated into his design with walls that are almost entirely devoted to window space. The open air spaces create an ideal environment for an entertainment room complete with pool table and grand piano.
Dale was involved in every step of the process and acted as his own General Contractor on the project. He had envisioned a place where his friends could gather and have a good time.
Like every other facet the granite chosen for his counter tops was integral to his design. He was not happy with the stone he was seeing locally- it had too much sheen and did not match his design ideas so he went on a search and found Triton Stone online. At Triton he found Orite. Once he saw it he knew it was perfect. The low gloss finish and natural colors matched the redwood and created the right “feeling” to integrate into his overall décor.
From design inspiration late February 2011 to the coming out house warming party May, 2012 was 15 busy months. After grading, pouring the foundation slab and framing the building they lost two full months waiting for the special order Douglas Fir beams to arrive from California so they could put it under roof.
Melody confessed they were still moving furniture in on Saturday to get things ready for the big day.
Inside and out this place is designed for entertaining guests.
After all last minute preparations the party was ready to begin!
A Live Blue Grass Band was performing outside.
While inside - a couple of Dale’s guests were playing some pretty mean blues on that piano.
And the party was a smash hit!
It is rare in my business that we get to come in at the design stage and be as integral to the process as we were here. Even rarer do I get to attend the Christening party (to my regret) but this project was very special because of Dale. He is the consummate host and has very discerning tastes as a collector.
From the hand crafted sculptures to the hand carved Mahogany doors Dale made his imprint on every element.
During our interviews I had asked Dale how much of a role price played in the decisions he made.
“Price is always a factor but you don’t want to compromise what you truly want. In my case I love the process of looking and collecting so I am able to find what I want at a price I can live with.”
In his words I found something that exemplified this project and life in general- “love the process”.
Being involved in this project from design to christening was challenging and exhilarating at the same time and to me that is what life is all about.
Craftsman Builders & Homeowners
Dale Torok - Home Owner - Lexington Kentucky
Project Summary: In July of 2011 Dale's architect, Melody Jackson of Metafour Designs, contacted our company to source the redwood for interior soffits, ceilings, beams and exterior walls. Melody and I went over the design plans and discussed several options. The 30" exposure of the beams presented a challenge because Dale wanted redwood to match the soffit and ceiling panels. Large timber All Heart Redwood lumber for structural support of this size and scale would be prohibitively expensive. I suggested wrapping the gluelam structual beams with 1" Clear All Heart Redwood boards.
The Wood Species - Redwood
The Wood Grade - B Appearance grade (very few knots) All beam wrapping and soffit was Sap B redwood except the exterior 1x12” fascia. For this Dale used an “All Heart” B grade to add contrast and extra durability for the most exposed element.
The Patterns - The pattern for soffits inside and outside- 1x6 T&G “V” Groove (5 inch exposures). Redwood trim board included 1x4", 1x6", 1x8", 1x10" and 1x12" widths. Surfacing for all soffit and fascia wrap was smooth face out.
The Factory Finish - Olympic 717 “Redwood”, Semi Transparent, Oil based stain. The interior soffit and beam wrapping also included 2 Coats of Clear Polyurethane finish. All of the interior and exterior redwood components were finished at the factory (only the Douglas Fir Beams were finished on site by the builders).
The Cost - The entire finished redwood package of redwood soffit, trim and beam wrapping stock came to $16,792 (including a little extra redwood T&G Melody piggy backed for her own home).
Here’s to the dream - CB