Tag Archives: interiors

Reclaimed Wooden Beams

Reclaimed Wooden Beams

We often discuss the importance of developing a storyline when creating or re-imagining a historic home. Doing so provides a creative script for our design team (and our clients) and helps us communicate the romance, character, and stories of that home. One way we bring that script to life is by introducing authentic architectural elements such as reclaimed wooden beams into our home designs. These beams provide a direct connection with the past while telling a wonderful story of their own.

The wooden beams in this master study date back to 1682.

Reclaimed wooden beams are just that – beams claimed from a previous lifetime. Most reclaimed wood is salvaged from centuries-old barns or homes where it underwent years of extensive weathering. The original timber had to carry the weight of structures built by settlers developing our farming industry hundreds of years ago. Many of these felled trees were already 200-300 years old – but considered “virgin growth” because they had never been cut before. Today, many trees are genetically augmented to grow more quickly, but at that time, trees grew at slower pace creating tighter growth rings and a denser consistency, which enhanced the overall markings and character.

The three most common types of reclaimed wooden beams are hand-hewn, rough sawn, and re-sawn beams. These styles serve varying design rolls and are differentiated by the process used to square the wood. Before the mid-1800s, sawmills were uncommon in rural areas, so hand-hewn beams (the most labor intensive) were cut and shaped by the blows of an axe. Hand-hewn beams often display unique tool markings within the wood, and because of their rich authenticity, we often use them to add rustic character when re-imagining historic homes.

Here, the beams picture frame the ceiling shape to provide a structured appearance. The flat stock bordering the rough sawn timber lends a more tailored look.

With the rise of machinery, saws eventually replaced the work of axes, and beams were cut and shaped with large, circular blades. Reclaimed rough sawn beams often display the original teeth marks from the blade, and, like hand-hewn beams, they are historically desirable in classic restoration. Lastly, reclaimed re-sawn wood beams provide a more finished design option; having been deliberately shaped over the years to show fewer markings, they offer a more refined look.

In this kitchen, the reclaimed antique beam is inserted to the underside of a cased beam to give the ceiling more vertical depth.

Centuries ago, wooden beams were strictly used for structural support within a building. Today, we introduce them as an architectural detail that adds age and patina to a space. They can picture frame the shape of the ceiling, giving it a more structured appearance while adding rhythm and scale that might otherwise not exist. While they work particularly well in dens, studies, and kitchens reclaimed beams can also add warmth and history to bedrooms and transitional spaces.

This master bedroom’s antique-wooden beams add to the rustic theme of this reimagined fisherman’s home.

When creating a storyline, we imagine how certain parts of a home were added on to or reconfigured as families grew over generations. For example, when designing a particular home on Martha’s Vineyard, our script said that, in the early 1800s, the midshipman’s barn was carefully attached to the original 1790’s main house. When re-imagining that space from a barn into a family room, we introduced a trussed ceiling using reclaimed beams to provide an authentic structural appearance while adding texture and character into the space.

In the barn vernacular, the space allows for a trussed ceiling that appears more structural than decorative.

Reclaimed wooden beams represent an important design element that directly connects us with the past by infusing a space with warmth and history. The character and imperfections of the wood provide us with tangible, visual hints of years gone by, reminding us of the craftsmanship, romance, and stories the beams could tell if they were able.

Soaring Ceilings

Soaring Ceilings

Few architectural features add character and grandeur to a room like a cathedral ceiling. Sometimes called the “fifth wall,” ceilings represent an important opportunity to express creative architectural design and to emphasize a home’s style and theme.

The height and shape of a ceiling have the power to change a room’s atmosphere and positively impact the overall aesthetic. Because of its raised position, ceilings are among the first things we sense upon entering a room: our eyes are drawn upward as we subconsciously calculate if the space feels open and airy or restrictive and closed.

This great room’s clerestory dormers and antique-beamed ceiling create a bright and timeless environment.

Cathedral ceilings are sometimes confused with vaulted ceilings, but each has its own distinct design pitch. Cathedral ceilings typically feature straight sides, designed to slope upward at the same angle as the roofline, allowing the room to open up to the highest possible point. Vaulted ceilings, on the other hand, are traditionally curved or domed and do not necessarily follow the roof pitch.

The ceiling’s gentle curve in this living room is an example of a vaulted ceiling.

Cathedral ceilings have the capacity to make a space visually larger and airier, and because additional windows often accompany higher ceilings, the room receives more natural lighting. Extra yearlong lighting – particularly here in New England – is always welcome, whether in the kitchen, living room, or bedroom.

The beadboard cathedral ceiling and wonderful lighting help create a quintessential cottage bedroom.
Cathedral ceilings offer a wonderful way to expose and celebrate wooden beams.

To recall the craft and quality of historic homes, we often use reclaimed beams or antique wood when designing our client’s ceilings. Cathedral ceilings offer an excellent opportunity to emphasize beam features and create warmth and rustic character within the home.

With its beamed cathedral ceiling, this kitchen exudes a bright, farmhouse feel.

While cathedral ceilings increase the visual look and feel of a room, the space can still be designed with intimacy and elegance in mind. Beadboard walls, which lead to a trussed ceiling, for example, create a room that is both grand and intimate.

Articulated trim and antique wooden beams serve to frame and emphasize the ceiling.
This family room, with its soaring trussed ceiling, still exudes a sense of intimacy.

Cathedral ceilings are an important design element used to create architectural impact within a room, create an added sense of space, and effectively emphasize the home’s aesthetic tone and style.

“Ahearn White”

“Ahearn White”

Paint Secrets Revealed

Today we are going to tell you a secret. It’s something people ask us all of the time – and we understand why. Choosing the perfect paint color is hard, especially if – like us – you love the look and timeless sophistication of white interiors. But white color choices can be positively daunting. With literally hundreds of white paints and finishes to choose from, what, we are asked, is our signature, “Ahearn White?”

Let’s first consider why white paint can be so tricky. The lighter the paint color, the more affected it is by light. White is highly reflective and can take on endless characteristics based on the time of day. For example, depending on a room’s lighting, a shade of white with no apparent sign of pink or yellow in the paint sample can suddenly take on those color hues during the day. And, with its high reflectivity, some whites can read as stark or institutional, while others can feel too neutral, lacking in depth. So, the question then becomes, what white is just right?

The paint color we use on every house interior, coined “Ahearn White” by our countless clients, is a shade that reads beautifully throughout the home’s changing light. We want our rooms to exude the feeling of antique white during the daytime without appearing overly yellow when transitioning to the evening. And, we long for a white that feels neither too warm nor too cool. So, through endless trial and error, we found a color that meets or even exceeds our client’s expectations for the perfect white.

Are you ready?

Our signature white is a combination of two colors from Benjamin Moore’s off-white color collection: 50% China White and 50% Linen White. Believe it or not, Linen White itself is a compilation of 152 white and off white colors! And, China White, described as having “the soft, subtle patina of fine china,” is decidedly sophisticated on its own. The combination of these two colors results in a gorgeous and highly versatile shade of white we use in all of our homes.

To create a seamless flow throughout the house, we paint all of the larger main rooms in this color using flat latex on the walls and ceilings and Satin Impervo on the trim and millwork. The color provides a gorgeous foundation from which to layer furniture, texture and color – and to highlight interesting architectural details.

People often joke that if they win the lottery, we will be their first call. In the meantime, we thought sharing our signature “Ahearn White” would make the overwhelming choices in paint colors a bit less daunting. It’s our secret to you.