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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Dream House Plans

Monday, March 17, 2014

Do you have a dream house in your head?
I did, for eight years.
Then the dream became a reality.

Our dream house in Spring 1988,
after moving into it in Fall 1987 

How did my dream begin? 
Beautiful homes built using antique timbers from old barns 
that were light filled and spacious were 
featured in several national magazines in the 1980s. 

Of course, today we collect pins on Pinterest 
instead of magazine clippings. 
for what inspires me now. 

While attending graduate school
at the University of New Hampshire
during the summer breaks between teaching school years,
I saw beautiful new houses for middle-income families 
that were built with cedar siding and
with post and beam details in the interiors,
reminiscent of old barns with soaring open spaces.

Research to find sources is easier and faster
today by using the Internet.
Back in the 1980s, I found addresses from ads
in magazines and wrote letters requesting information.

Here's a house built by the company I found that was in our price range.

Sawmills in the 1980s were not uncommon in New England,
and they offered floorplans with "kits" for post and beam houses.
Plans varied from those that used expensive antique reclaimed
barn timbers to ones that used less expensive
newly-cut posts and beams.

And, the best part, the company I found in our price range 
would create a custom floorplan "kit!

The photos, faded and distorted, 
show parts of the custom blueprint for our house 
that was used by the builder over 25 years ago. 

A Palladian window was one of the features in 
magazines that was high on my "want list." 

Before contracting with the sawmill to cut a custom "kit" 
for us, we toured the sawmill in person.
We also toured houses in all stages of construction 
being built using posts and beams from the sawmill.  
Sawmill River Lumber Company was in Leverett, 
Massachusetts, and we toured it while visiting 
my sister who lived in New Hampshire. 
It was only about a 2-2.5 hours drive, 
which is just a short drive in the country for a Texan. 

The Sawmill River sawmill was built in 1750 and 
used water power from the river to cut timbers for 
Great New England Post & Beam Houses for over 200 years. 

Our timbers were cut using  
Sawmill River Post & Beam's saws powered 
by electricity, not water. 

We sent our builder and his construction foreman 
to meet with the sawmill architects and 
to see post and beam houses under construction. 
Construction totally different from 
Texas ranch-style houses framed with 2x4s. 

Then we sent our house plans that I drew 
on graph paper to the sawmill architects who 
drew the architectural plans. 
The mill's in-house plans included 
calculating cuts for how all the posts 
and beams would be joined. 
 Each piece of wood was numbered 
so the construction crew would know how 
to put the house frame together. 

This joint is at the corner of the fireplace 
on the second floor in my house. 
Yes, those are year-round fairy lights on a grapevine 
twining around the beams.

These are my hand-drawn details on graph paper 
for my kitchen that our cabinet maker used. 
I taught high school math for 29 years which came 
in handy to calculate the diagonal dimensions. 
The date I drew these was July 4, 1987. 

Recent research on the Internet did not yield current 
contact information for the Sawmill River Post & Beam Company 
that created our house. 

If you are thinking about building a custom home, 
here are my suggestions on how to get started. 

Next in the series will be 
that shows how we put together 
the custom cut posts and beams. 


  1. Great post! We built our dream home 7 years ago and I love living here. Pinterest wasn't around then either so I had a folder full of magazine clippings and drawings that I did. I think it might be harder to decide on things now with Pinterest because there are soooo many options! I loved seeing your old blueprints. I'm glad now that I held on to ours and didn't use them in a craft project!

  2. Hi Judith, So enjoyed this post and the great info. I saw your comment on Rooted in Thyme and that you are in north Texas so I had to come over and say hi since I live here too in Flower Mound.
    So nice to meet another blogger in Texas. I am originally from Michigan but moved here many years ago and love it.
    Your blog is lovely and I so enjoyed my visit.
    Have a wonderful Wednesday and let's hope we warm up like the pretty day we had yesterday soon.

  3. Amazing photos! I'm pretty sure my father designed and built your home. He owned and operated Eastern Timber Homes in Leverett, MA right around that time. The company is now called Classic Colonial Homes.

    I love the picture of you in the old mill. We still own the building today and just recently did a large restoration.

    1. Thanks for the update on the status of the sawmill company... Your father may very well have been the one who created the actual blueprints from my hand-drawn graph paper plans. Our builder was a local Texas builder.

      I would love to see a photo of the old mill's restoration.


  4. Wow! That's very impressive! I'm more than positive that it will take more than eight years to turn a goal like building your dream home into a reality. Kudos to you for attaining your goal on such a short span of time! I'm sure it took you a lot of willpower and self-discipline. It must've been difficult, but it's definitely worth it, right? Congratulations! All the best! :)

    Naomi Walters @ Chicora

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