By Catherine Van Gilder | Photos by Franklin & Esther Schmidt
When visitors ask Barbara and Andy Twigg how old their house is, they mean: was it built in the 18th century, or early in the 19th? It looks, after all, like a house firmly rooted, with board walls and stone fireplaces, old doors and well-worn floors. The truth is a surprise: The house, as it appears today, was built in 1995.
“The newel post came from a shop on the Eastern Shore,” Barbara says, explaining that, for years, she and Andy would find odds and ends in antiques stores, kids in tow. Vintage pottery sits on a kitchen wall shelf made up of reclaimed lumber. Almost every one of the doors in the house is antique, to the builder’s chagrin. “Each door was a different size, and had to be custom fit,” Andy says. The double doors came from the church Barbara attended as a child. Vintage lighting fixtures were brought along from their previous dwelling.
The Twiggs had restored an old house, and appreciated quality and character, the wood trim and wide-board floors. But they had missed closets, energy-efficient windows, a finished basement, and an open floor plan. They began to think about building a new “old” colonial house, using vintage and authentic building materials. After a year-long search, they found a verdant plot surrounded by a Civil War-era rock wall. With bucolic views of church steeples and blue-tinged mountains, it was the perfect place to build.
Lucky for the Twiggs a bevy of skilled family members were on call—talented carpenters, stonemasons, drafters, and electricians, not to mention a brother who is an antiques dealer always on the lookout. A neighbor introduced another brother to his future wife on the job site.
Andy had a local mill make fluted trim, copied from that in their first home, for this project. Authenticity was important to the couple, who searched out historical reproductions when an antique element could not be salvaged or found. Colonial-period colors—mustard, sage green, brick red, and ivory—run throughout the house. (Painting was Barbara’s job.) Vents, electrical paraphernalia, and some appliances hide behind cabinets or decoration.
It’s the two-story log cabin, a more recent addition, that most creates the sense of history. “I’ve always wanted to live in a log cabin,” Barbara used to lament. Then her son found one, a relic, in a friend’s back yard. Painted yellow, orange, and red, it was being used as a storage shed. “They sold it to us for $750!” Andy laughs.
Friends and family helped move the cabin piece by piece. It took two years to reassemble it. “We were in a constant work zone,” Barbara recalls. Every board had to be power-washed, hand-stripped, and sanded. Badly deteriorated logs were replaced with reclaimed timbers of cedar, oak, and even American chestnut. Fresh chinking was added between stacked logs, an arduous task: “My sons helped me on that one,” Barbara says.
Every year in late fall, the Twiggs open their doors as part of a craft-studio tour. Barbara sells her own utilitarian creations, including the same kind of hooked and “penny” rugs made from wool strips that her great-grandmother once made. What’s ahead for this industrious family? Andy grins. “A timber frame barn, vintage, for antique cars,” he says. They’re on the lookout.Published in: Early Homes Early Homes Fall/Winter 2010