232 Rebecca Street, Fayetteville

2350 square feet, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, open plan (unfinished, deliberately… if you don’t have imagination and a bit of money, this house is not for you). Utilities have been recently upgraded… metal roof, ductless heat/cool, French doors, lots of glass, lots of wood. There’s an old saying about boats, “if you have to ask the price… you can’t afford it.”

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Good Bones

… that’s the term architects and realtors like to toss around (as though they know). Roy Brumfield built this house in 1947, on a ledge of very solid limestone safely above Scull Creek. It was, according to a later owner… cold, dark, damp, and miserable. The newer construction is timber framed with well-insulated vaulted ceilings…incredible light, amazing acoustics.

Thirty years ago, I was walking home from a carpentry job near Wilson Park, stopped to talk with a friend in this front yard and ended up fixing a broken window. That was the beginning of a relationship that ended abruptly four years ago with Alice’s death. All the additions and alterations along the way were simply about making Alice’s house more comfortable and hospitable. And it is comfortable… but far from finished. By my hand, it may never be. I am looking for someone who wants to live in this neighborhood, who can appreciate what is here and work with it. This house needs love, laughter, children, music… and I want to build another house with what I have learned and acquired by building this one.

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There are some things that cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things, and because it takes a man’s life to know them, the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave. —Ernest Hemingway

Really good design doesn’t just happen, nor does it come from a blueprint. It comes from a lifetime of thinking, reading, sketching, measuring… building things that don’t work as well as things that do work well. When it does happen… it’s magic. We all solve problems according to our experience, the tools we know how to use, the materials available to us. This house represents my particular approach to structure; my ethics of salvage and the creative re-use of wood, stone, brick, glass. Essentially, building a house is about keeping out the weather but letting in the light, hopefully creating a space that people want to settle into, a nest. Having achieved that, letting go is difficult.

It may not matter much to you that the front porch was built with beams hand hewn from a maple tree that stood on the same spot, but blew over in a windstorm… or that the corner connection is an English tying joint, a form that goes back at least to the 12th century… the brass door handles… the quote from Chaucer carved into the living room’s main beam. You may not notice the light on foggy winter mornings coming through that high gable window with the diamond panes, while a fire burns in the soapstone stove… or that the wood ceiling seems to resonate with a softly finger-picked guitar. You may not see the garden… most people don’t. Most people don’t live here. That’s a good thing.

Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience! —Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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