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A Custom-Designed Timber Frame Home in New England

A New England couple lends a hand in building their Nordic nest in Maine's ski country. See how this custom-designed home went from cut-up blueprints and tape to a reality.

New England Timber Frame HomeKarl and Kym Wadensten like to get their hands dirty—literally. And nowhere is this more apparent than their timber home. With some help from their Lindal Cedar Homes broker Dominic Vingiano, the couple got to work redesigning the house with nothing but a printout of their basic floorplan, a few pairs of scissors and a whole lot of scotch tape. "

Most people would have said this isn't the way you do this," says Karl. "But Dom said, 'If you guys want to cut paper, I'll cut paper with you.' " While many homeowners tweak their flooorplans, Karl and Kym made major changes to the home's parameters, including adding an inviting entrance way with an overhang. The result: A welcoming, practical and eco-friendly home in Sunday River, Maine, where the Wadenstens have spent nearly every winter weekend since it was completed more than two years ago.

Twist of Fate

With four young children and their own construction-materials business to take care of, Karl and Kym are well versed in the hands-on approach. Nonetheless, it was fate that got them started on their home-building project. For years, Karl's cousin Thomas had urged him to buy land close to where he went to school in Bethel, Maine. He even went so far as to email Karl photos of available property he'd stumbled upon during a hike. "He told me that I had to come up to Sunday River because the property was awesome," says Karl. Soon the Wadenstens—who live in Matunuck Beach, Rhode Island—found themselves in the market for property in the Sunday River area after a fruitless search for an existing second home. They fell in love with two adjoining lots before they even recognized that they were gazing upon the scenic spot Thomas had sent them photos of years ago. "It just had a calling," recalls Karl. "It was destiny."

Family Affair

As for the type of house they would build on the land, well, it turns out that was destiny, too. "I just had a vision of something Nordic," says Karl, whose parents emigrated from Sweden. Typical of the Wadenstens' style, they supervised the two-year construction of the house themselves, sometimes making the fourand-half-hour drive up to Maine just for the day. But it wasn't all drudgery. "We had a blast," says Karl. "The kids were totally involved, we had cookouts, and the contractors were treated like they were part of the family."

Of course, like any construction project, there were a few mishaps, including the time a trailer slipped into the foundation and bowed it out 3 feet. But the fun moments are what the couple remembers, like getting to know the retired engineer from Connecticut who built and delivered the cupola that tops off the garage. They also cherish the time they discovered a stone dealer while driving the back roads of northern Maine. The man had a treasure trove of exotic specimens, such as the Pakistani onyx used in the bathroom counters. "The whole experience was a big adventure," says Karl.

Green House

While the Wadenstens maintained a laidback attitude while overseeing their building project, they were serious about one important part of the design process: Making the home as energy-efficient as possible. First, they replaced all the indigenous vegetation dug up during construction for shading. Then they used blown-in insulation throughout the house, along with Low-E windows in every room. And, of course, staying warm is the main concern most of the year. "We knew we wanted to use radiant heat because it's the most efficient," explains Kym. Hence, cement was the most practical flooring. Karl and Kym then applied an industrial acidstain to finish the floors.

Radiant heat, which also emanates from the sidewalks (goodbye snow shoveling) and garage floor, can be turned on remotely. And as if that weren't enough, the entire property is wired with closed-circuit television. Wondering if the snow conditions warrant a trip up to the house? The family logs on to their secure web site to check the camera positioned on a yardstick that measures the snowfall. The house's builder, Bruce Lilly, jokes, "Karl can lie in his bed and tell if his front driveway is cleared just by looking at his television." The lighting, too, is designed for maximum practicality. Some 300 lights, the majority of which are low-voltage and recessed, are preprogrammed into six different settings for each room. With the push of a button in the master-control center (the home's boiler room) the house can be lit for entertaining.

Perfectly Paired

The house, primarily made of cedar, has accents of American and Brazilian cherry in the kitchen and master suite, and other species throughout, including white and red birch, and Douglas fir. Overall, the decor is Kym's selfstyled "mountain house and industrial." She says her aim was to work with the colors of the unearthed boulders outside. For example, she matched the cultured rock of the fireplace to a river rock found in their yard. Most of the pieces found in the house came from the couple's travels or were custom made, like the leather cigar chairs made by Karl's surfing buddy Mark Mascheroni.

"Everything in the house has a little story about people we've met," says Karl. If they had to do it all over again, Karl says there are a few things he'd change, such as building livable space above the garage, closing off the master suite for greater privacy and increasing the square footage of radiant-heat walkways. But overall, the couple is pleased with the outcome, says Kym, "You drive up, get out of the car and immediately feel a sense peace and serenity."