Designing for ping pong

For years I've answered that perfect question from potential clients, "And do YOU live in one of your timber framed homes, Jonathan?" with a thoughtful glance, a slight shake of the head and, "Well, no, I'm still practicing on others." Most were okay with my peculiar sense of humor. This last trip east with visits to a few recent projects and an open house reminded me that the best humor has roots in truth. I remain shocked at how much the homes we design and build for others encompass our own dreams and goals.

Take Jon and Bee Perkins' place. Visiting them in Geneseo last week was a riot, as I got to tour some recent touches, like a transplanted barn they'll use for cars and parties, and a finished basement with wine cellar and... a ping pong table. It wasn't three weeks ago that I had put my size 14 foot down to my wife and co-designer Maxine and said, with impressive ferocity, "I worked my whole life for this house, and by golly it's going to have a dedicated ping pong table space." (Really, the conversation went about that way. Silly how life can be at times, no? Who needs John Wayne?) "And furthermore, the ceiling fan will have to move away from that table!" Oooohh, I am so tough!

So when visiting John and Bee, I knew something was up. Came time to go downstairs and John couldn't contain himself. "Hey, do you play?", pointing at the bright blue table with innocent-enough looking paddles and cute white balls laying about, trying to be, well, casual. Beat me six or 8 times straight, before I could count to 21, for God's sake. That did it, I knew I had been prescient indeed about that ping pong table. You'll get yours, John Perkins!Turns out ping pong is rocking this year. A table was seen at Tina and Harold's at their open house to benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times. We also got this one from Doug and Melanie in the Catskill Mountains, first shots of the just finished game room. So okay hear this: I challenge all comers to fierce and fabulous ping pong on my own home turf... once I get it done.



A timber frame raising is fun. When I was younger, I used to say that this was the frame's, and perhaps therefore the project's, most glorious day- naked against the sky, powerful visuals of structure and craft. Of course, the sun is ALWAYS shining in these stunning images of timber frames.

Now I know that it is Thanksgiving Day, or Family Reunion Day, or whatever occasion there is to put the finished space, the completed home, to its rigorous test of being functional, nurturing, inspiring.

Thus it is with even more excitement than the frame raising that the wall panels (having been pre-built months ago,) are lifted into place and roof tongue and groove is installed. These truly define the interior volumes in which we will spend so much of our lives. The window and door openings, so long a theory, now frame the views they were designed to frame, and control the traffic and our relationship to outside spaces that beckon.
NOW we're having fun.


becoming 8 years old

Today my last child (my second great gift,) had his 8th birthday anniversary. Here he is.


Timber Frame!

"Severe storm hits Portland area," read the Sunday Oregonian. It went on with this first paragraph: "A short but severe thunderstorm Saturday afternoon killed one person, cut power to about 30,000 people, capsized two sailboats, clogged traffic and knocked over trees across the Portland area."

We were okay, and feeling a bit strange/lucky/special when the storm hit at about 3:30, not ten minutes after I had raised a glass in thanks and good cheer to all who had just helped cut and raise a timber frame home that will be my family's personal shelter, New Energy Work's western show home, a LEEDS-H Platinum candidate and a culmination of the design and craft-intensive building we have worked so hard to achieve over the last 25 or so years.

That's a great deal to ask of these posts and beams, of these craftsmen, of this design process. And the timber frame represents not only an important structural and visual element, but the very real and symbolic backbone of our effort, expressed and to be seen by all who may.

So it is that we make a big deal of raising day. Lots of people came for a bit or longer. We shared hot coffee and muffins in the morning, soup and bread at lunch, a beer and glass of wine as we toasted the day's work. We watched skilled joiners and frame climbing. We dodged a few showers and that one smallish wicked tempest. And generally, we appreciated the building of shelter.

Can't help but send some thanks: Nick Harville and Rogue Breweries for extraordinary beer. Susi and Chris from Christopher Bridge Winery for a case of pinot gris and pinot noir, both recent double gold winners. Oops, all gone. Marco's for soup. Yes. Daughter Sierra who came down from Seattle and high school chum Bill who came up from Ashland. Corrie for organizing and cheering. Dean and Irene's tents and photos. John Santana for a subtle hand on the crane.

For years people have told me our co-workers at New Energy Works are special. Saturday I got to see our newer Mcminnville group step up to their own plate. Val, Doug, Adam and Justin got the stage call. They didn't disappoint. And of course Iain Harrison, our manager out here who preceded me west from Farmington, kept the pace and the humor. Nos vidas son buenas, por supuesto!