Strength And Permanence

Filed in Feature Homes by on December 17, 2013

fiedlerTravel broadens horizons and engenders an appreciation for home. It was 30 years of living the life of a military career and the travel inherent in that life that shaped the timber frame hybrid home George and Mary Lou Fiedler built on a part of his grandfather’s original farm near the central Minnesota community of St. Stephen.

“Everywhere we went, we either bought or built a house,” says George in his sun-lit dining room, timbers soaring above. From Texas and Mississippi to Nebraska and Colorado, the Fiedlers experienced the homes and living styles typical of those regions. Washington state and Alaska gave them tastes of the West and remote corners of the Northwest. The Aleutian Islands and Korea gave them a taste of the exotic. Their final military home, with George’s work days spent at the Pentagon, perhaps had the most influence on the design of their current home.

“I loved the plantation homes of Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley,” says Mary Lou, also noting an appreciation for the history and architecture of Washington, D.C. The strength, durability and permanence of the large sturdy structures appeal to both George and Mary Lou.

5221945544_4e7943ed83_zFor the last 15 years of his military career, George planned the home they would build upon his retirement. The two went to countless home shows and tours of homes, and they fit Mary Lou’s vision of strength and permanence.

But, though they agreed on the overall design, they weren’t sure they wanted to live in a seasonally cold climate.

“George didn’t like winter,” says Mary Lou, but they reasoned that if they built a well-insulated home and included fireplaces and in-floor heat, it just might work to return to the community where they had both grown up.

A timber frame structure is made of heavy timbers constructed with lap jointing or mortise and tenon joints. Insulated panels enclosed the home on the outside of the timbers. While George wanted the soaring ceilings and exposed timbers of this style of building, he knew that wiring and plumbing are difficult to conceal. He concluded that framed insulated panels would create the house of their dreams.

In 2005, with sons Adam and Jake already grown and on their own, George and Mary Lou wrapped up their military travels and moved back to Minnesota to put down roots and build the home from the precise floor plan George had designed. George served as the general contractor and worked with home designer Stephen Rudnicki of St. Cloud and builder Ben Miller of Blue Ox Timber frames of Alexandria.

“It was great working with George and Mary Lou. They had a clear vision in what they wanted in a home and ironed out the design with Rudnicki,” Miller says. “Rudnicki listened to the couple’s very specific wishes and created a comfortable traffic flow, window views that captured the country landscape and a roof design that embraced their inspiration for living in the country.”

5221945474_f44db50bf0_zMiller, who has owned the timber frame construction company for several years, says he enjoys the challenge and beauty of creating custom homes and has worked with home owners in building their dream homes throughout the United States and even into Canada. He focuses on quality energy-efficient homes and said the Fiedler’s combination of timber framing, structural insulated panels and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system works well.

With the construction crew lined up, George and Mary Lou carefully analyzed the lay of the 20 acres of land and oriented the house for a bright and warming southern exposure.

All of the careful planning and attention to detail paid off. The Fiedler home lies at the end of a driveway that curves casually through a wooded remnant of the 190-acre Fiedler farm. The house is faced with carefully chosen gray stone, which is also used on the interior fireplaces. George installed the gray synthetic slate roof made from recycled tires, as well as the siding, oak floor and trim. He put in a mile of tubing for a 22-zone sprinkler system and landscaped the lawn surrounding the house. Windows are set low to the floor to allow for unobstructed views, which were meticulously planned. Even the laundry room and master closet offer lovely landscapes. Ornamental grasses, Russian sage, sedum, dogwood and flowers edge the stone pavers on the walkways and steps leading to the expanses of lawn, larger trees and woods beyond.

The arched and mullioned windows throughout the house have double-paned glass, while the conventional topped windows are triple-paned with interior shades. The sunroom is a favorite place to view the outdoors, with both exterior walls almost entirely made of arched windows. The upholstered rattan chairs and settee came from a shop in Korea where Mary Lou worked while living there. A Chinese floral silk rug under the coffee table is a focal point of the room, accented by framed crane designs hand-stitched by artisans in Korea and give to George as a going-away gift.

5221945596_5aa6af38ae_zKorean and Chinese accents are displayed from the sunroom through the living room, formal dining room and breakfast area. A see-through gas fireplace adds ambiance to both the breakfast area and the living room. Mary Lou’s collection of bird cages and cloisonne-like vitreous metal-on-copper bird sculptures add colorful three-dimensional appeal. Carved birds and lath art enhance both levels of the home, the lower level exhibiting a nautical theme that’s evidence of Mary Lou’s love of the beaches of the eastern U.S.

The lowerl level has a full kitchen and granite countertops, as do the bathrooms and main-level kitchen. A door of the lower-level kitchen leads to the brains of the house, a room that houses the two geo-thermal units that heat and cool the house (along with the 800 feet if trenched-in coils surrounding the house) and two on-demand water heaters.

“We never run out of hot water,” says George. A collection of mysterious drawer-like objects line a corner of the utility room. “They’re wreath holders,” admits Mary Lou, who loves to decorate and change the decor with the season. A room at the end of the lower level, the decor room, has shelves and storage space for even more.

The Fiedlers appreciate all of the storage space in their home. George admits he loves to organize things. A destructive storm swept through the area in August, but by late fall George had already cut and stacked the 100 trees that blew down. The damaged cupola had been replaced, the electronic arm on the entrance gate and been repaired and everything was back in apple-pie order.

The Fiedlers hope to do more traveling, but only on  short term basis – and always returning to their Stearns County timber frame haven.

For more photos of the Fielder Feature Home scroll down for the slideshow. 

by Nancy Lesman

Photography by Bryan Wendland

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