Industry Ed with Richard: Incorporating Wood Beams in Design

Wood beams are very popular at the moment. HGTV shows have boosted the popularity of the “rustic farmhouse” look, and wood beams are necessary to achieve that look. I’ve had a lot of experience in designing with beams – I’ve been a woodworker for thirty years myself, and I own a mill. I know personally how difficult they can be to install. Still, clients love them, and the effect they can have on a design, and the finished space, is great. These are a couple of things to keep in mind, should your client ask for wood beams.

Structure

Any wood beams that you add to a design should appear to be structural. Not only is this in keeping with the rustic look, it’s also a more aesthetically pleasing look.

The beams need to be spaced about 4 – 6 feet apart, in order to reproduce the structural look. 

I don’t like beams along the wall; I think the look is inauthentic. However, half beams can be made to look like they’re sitting on the wall and extending over the post. If a client insists on flanking beams, I would steer them towards that option.

Ceiling height

You want to ensure that the beams are proportional to the space. As a general rule-of-thumb, you want them to be taller than they are wide. However, if the space has a low ceiling, or if there simply isn’t room for the beam system your client wants, there is a compromise.

  • ·         8′ ceilings – 6” wide x 4” tall  
  • ·         9′ ceilings – 6” wide x 8” tall  
  • ·         10′ ceilings – 8” wide x 10” tall
  • ·         11-12′ ceilings – 10” wide x 12” tall

If the house has a Cathedral peak, I would personally go with a 10” wide by 14” tall beam. Be careful not to overwhelm the space with too large of a beam. 

Materials

Adding beams, either during the build or after it is finished, makes this style more accessible.
You have two options when it comes to wood beams – solid or engineered.

Of the two options, solid beams require the most work. They need to be worked into the design from the beginning of the build, and there isn’t much opportunity to change the design once the framing has commenced. Special equipment – lifts, braces, etc. – is needed to install them.

It’s difficult to get a permit for reclaimed wood beams in a structure. Most solid beams added today are cut from new wood, which is prone to warping and settling. It is also difficult to match solid beams. Years of aging cause changes in color and warping. However the authentic patina, as well as the unique history behind each beam, makes solid beams unique.

The other option- engineered beams- is much less of a headache. Engineered beams are lighter and easier to install. 

Process

Another consideration with designing wood beams is when in the process the beams will be added. Structural beam and post systems will need to be installed by the framing carpenter at the same time as framing materials.

The benefit of engineered beams, like the ones we make at The Olde Mill, is that they can be added later, either after the home is built or at any stage in the renovation process. This gives you flexibility when it comes to planning your job’s timeline.  

And He said Let there be SkyLight

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Skylights are an effective way to bring natural light into a space in a interesting way. As well, they can make a big difference in making the space feel more open. The sky is endless, and including skylights makes your ceiling endless too.
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Skylights got a bad reputation in the 70s & 80s because of all the potential problems they had: leaking, sweating, rotting, cracking (just to name a few). But from the ashes we rise… a lot has been learned and skylights today are made better than ever. Many companies today are selling reputable and quality skylights. These skylights also come with a lot of technology we didn’t see in the 70s and 80s, like shading systems, rain censors, and venting units. 
Visually, you will find they are becoming very clean-lined and seamless. In general, there has been a movement (away from the 70s & 80s) to obscure the (literal) wall between the interior and exterior. More and more, we are bringing nature into the home, with plants, windows, and SKYLIGHTS. The more seam-less the skylight, the more obscure the exterior is from the interior!
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Good places to incorporate skylights:
  • interior rooms – rooms that do not have access to exterior walls for windows, like foyers, stairwells and hallways
  • additions – often times, with an addition you will be extending that roof line out (and down) which can diminish the amount of light available to the space, a skylight can really keep that space open
  • kitchens – this can really open up your kitchen to nature, as well has create good focal areas for parts of the room (over the island/dining area)
  • bathrooms – bathrooms are often smaller rooms in the house, incorporating skylights can really open these small spaces up – a great place to incorporate them is over an otherwise dark shower
  • upstairs bedrooms – some times these rooms have strong pitched ceilings – once again, this is a great way to open up a small or cramped space

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Some things to consider when choosing/installing your skylight:
  • get it from a good source
  • consider how you plan to clean it as well as shade it
  • consider your coordinates and the direction the sun will shine throughout the day
  • have an experienced professional install it
  • most skylights are meant to be installed on sloped roofs of at least 15 degrees
  • incorporate the proper flashing neccessary
With all that in mind, here are a few skylights you won’t be able to live without. And then He said let there be SKY-light!
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Trend Alert: Neon Lights

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If you had asked us a year ago what would be the biggest decorating trends of 2018, neon lights would have been pretty far down the list. In fact, it wouldn’t have been on the list at all. The fixtures had been decreasing in popularity over the past decade, with more inexpensive LED lights replacing them above restaurants, bars, and businesses.

But neon lights are having a big moment. After an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians showed the huge neon sculpture above Kourtney Kardashian’s bed, the lights’ popularity has exploded.

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It’s easy to see the appeal of neon lights. They’re vibrant colors and whimsical nature make them a great addition to any room. With the number of businesses producing these little lights rising every day, you’re sure to find a neon light that fits your budget and your style.

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If you’re thinking about incorporating this trend in your own home, here’s a couple of rules to keep in mind:

Let the lights be the focus

Neons are always going to draw the eye. Their bright colors and whimsical configuration mean that other accessories or decorations in the room will play second fiddle. To keep your space harmonious, don’t put neons too close to anything with a busy print or pattern. Solid colors and natural materials are the best choices when it comes to displaying your fixture.

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Make it personal 

It is inevitable that guests will ask about your new neon sign. The vibrancy of the pieces make them great conversation starters. You need to be prepared to explain your choice, whether it be a phrase or an icon.

Choose something that has a great story. Do you really like Walt Whitman quotes? Have you always wanted to open a cabana bar? Be prepared to explain your choices each and every time you have friends or family over.

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Experiment with color 

In the past 100 years, the only real advance in neon sign technology is the widening of the fixtures’ color palette. The original neon signs were only available in reddish orange (the color neon produces), but, now, there is a whole rainbow of colors at your disposal. White neon lights are popular, but you can also do yellow, magenta, chartreuse, and any colors in between.

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