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A Carolina Getaway Refreshes a Florida Family
Story and Photos by Franklin and Esther Schmidt
Reprinted from Timber Homes Illustrated, Fall 1999
Dan Robbie built the house that proves you can get away from it all. Almost a mile up in the mountains of North Carolina, the 5,200-square-foot timber-frame retreat has quickly become their home away from home.
Their 12-acre parcel of rugged mountain land allows plenty of room for all. Since finishing the house in 1996, they have made a concentrated effort to spend every spare minute at their getaway. They think nothing of packing up the entire clan and driving eighteen hours from their everyday home in Florida, even just to spend a few days in their very special mountain retreat.
The Robbies took the first step toward making their dream getaway a reality in 1995, when they started to design the house with their builder, Mark Kirkpatrick, president of Mountain Construction Enterprises of Boone, North Carolina. A builder of custom homes since 1981, Mark is a dealer for Hearthstone, Inc., which produces log and timber frame homes in Dandridge, Tennessee.
"We wanted a custom designed home with the best craftsmanship available," Dan recalls. "Although I had a pretty good idea of the floor plan we wanted, our major challenge was siting the structure. The ideal building location was on three sides. Setting the house on this spot, that was a real engineering feat. We had to bring in loads of fill dirt and rock, and that involved a lot of work. But we wanted this view because from here, we face three major mountains: Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain. There are ski resorts on those slopes, and at night they're all lit up. It's a spectacular view."
Once Dan and Mark came up with a house design and floor plan that they all agreed was both practical and beautiful, Mark sent their sketches to Hearthstone. The company's architectural department drew up blueprints.
Construction began almost immediately with the raising of the frame. Its posts and beams are fashioned from sturdy oak. All are drilled, mortised and pegged, without a nail or metal fastener anywhere in the structure. "We engineered the frame for 150 mile per hour winds," Mark notes.
Once the frame was up, the crew enclosed the home with expanded polystyrene EPS panels, which consist of oriented strand board around a foam core. The wall panels are 5 1/2 inches thick, providing a snug R-24 efficiency rating. Similar but thicker panels for the ceiling produce an R-34 rating.
The exterior walls are faced with a combination of inch-thick interlocking cedar siding and Virginia field stone. Interior walls are framed and covered with Sheetrock.
Situated up the steep and winding road that threads through the woods, the house looms dramatically against the backdrop of the mountainous terrain. With wooded trails to the left and right, the vista of the mountains comes into view sweeping 180 degrees around the back end of the house.
The interior is almost as dramatic as the outside view. Floor-to-ceiling windows, wood inside and clad outside, located at the far end of the living room bring the mountains into view the minute you step inside. A great room with a 28-foot cathedral ceiling is straight ahead. A library with a more modest 10-foot ceiling is to the left. To the right are the kitchen and dining room. There are five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a powder room on three levels, including the fully finished basement. A deck extending across the rear end of the home expands the living space and lets the family enjoy the outdoors.
The highlight of the home, of course, is the wood, starting with the golden oak timber frame. The timber posts and beams are 8 by 8, the roof purlins are 6 by 8, and the rafters are 8 by 10. All of the wood has been sealed with a mixture of tung oil and clear mineral spirits. Floors are random-width No. 2 common oak, stained dark with a custom-blended walnut color and sealed with three coats of satin polyurethane.
"Getting the floors just right wasn't easy," Dan says. "I chose the floor coloring by staining sample pieces. It was difficult because some of the floor boards were redder than others. I worked with 12 to 15 sample pieces to get the color I wanted. I knew I didn't want light-colored floors. I wanted a contrast with the rest of the wood in the house and to bring out the knots in the floors."
Despite the fact that the house is timber frame, Dan wanted some feeling of large round logs incorporated into the house. They opted for round logs from Colorado for the entrance hall and mantels in the great room and dining room, and round bent wood on their highly unusual and sculptural stairway. "Everyone who visits asks us about that stairway and rail," Dan says. "It looks like one piece of wood, but actually it is made of several pieces that were bent into shape using water and clamps. It's really a piece of artwork."
Thought and care went into every stage of design, construction and decoration of the Robbies' house. An example is the heating-cooling system. Mark was well aware that high in the mountains, even on the warmest days of summer, it's rarely hot enough to need air conditioning. Instead, he installed remote-controlled motors to open and close the tallest windows in the great room so that cool mountain air could flow into the hottest part of the room. The house is heated by a propane heat-exchange system with three zones: one in the basement to warm the great room level and two units upstairs to heat the family bedrooms and study.
Dan's wife wanted the house to appear simple and uncluttered. She ordered all of the furniture from Huggett and Scheard Design Works in Miami, Florida. She also included local art and antique objects acquired from the many shops in the mountain towns of North Carolina. "I would describe the look of this house as Western and rustic, as opposed to Southwestern, which reminds me of peachy colors," she explains. "We felt that the neutral tones in the great room heighten the beauty of the wood."
The favorite room in the house is the kitchen. With the breakfast bar that separates that room from the more formal dining room, it is the hub of family "hang out time." With state-of-the-art appliances, among them a six-burner gas stove, they cook Southern meals that make the Robbie household a favorite for family and friends.
The Robbies especially enjoy their getaway because the have full, busy lives. Dan is the former president of Joe Robbie Stadium and former vice president of the Miami Dolphins football team. The house in the mountains gives the family a place to spread out, relax and spend time together.
Dan and Mark's shared goal was to build the finest custom home possible. They are satisfied they have done exactly that, creating the perfect place for a young, active family. The home is every bit as comfortable to live in as it is magnificent to look at. And such a delight that the Robbies agree, nothing could be finer that to be in Carolina.
Hearthstone is the premier manufacturer of log homes and timber frame homes. Located in East Tennessee, our designers can provide breathtaking log home and timber frame home plans from our collection, or from your designer's or architect's plan.