A Romantic  Timber Frame Getaway

The Timber Frames

SME Cabin Escape
Dragonfly downstairs
Observation Tower
Timber Frame
Shadow Mountain Escape by night

The Timber Frames

All Shadow Mountain Escape structures and landscapes were designed by Ralph, a retired soldier, who has a passion for design and history. He holds a degree from VA Tech in Landscape Architecture. Following completion of our concepts and basic designs, we rely on the timber framer for design input and completion of engineering and construction drawings. During construction, the timber framer and a host of local contractors are relied upon to complete the unique structures. Most of the landscaping, maintenance, and much of the natural stonework is done by Ralph. Although Karen runs all aspects of Sales, Marketing, and most administration for our small business, she plays an invaluable logistics and general support role during all construction phases.

In 1994, we started to build our home. Ralph spent his childhood in Germany (his mother is originally from Germany) where his passion for historic structures was sparked – specifically timber frames. Karen also shares a passion for European design and culture as she is also from German roots from her mother’s side and we both remain in contact with our near and distant relatives now in the Hessen region of Germany.

After much research, we found several companies in Virginia who still practiced the nearly lost art of timber framing – which seems to be enjoying resurgence in the 21st century in some parts of the country. Ultimately, Dreaming Creek from Powhatan, Virginia, owned by Bob Shortridge (a brilliant artisan and wood worker) was selected to build the structures of Shadow Mountain Escape. Following our concept and basic design, the timber framers detailed the design, completed the structural engineering, and cut and erected the frame.

The original timber frame (our home) is inspired by old country style homes in parts of Germany and respects simplicity and the local materials indigenous to older farm homes in this area of the Blue Ridge. Building by using Timber Frame construction proved to be quite a challenge. The Timber Framing Company only cuts and raises the frame. Given this, dozens of local contractors of all sorts from near and far were coordinated and synchronized to complete just the initial phase of the project. Since no one in the Page County area had built a Timber Frame home, it was a challenge and adventure for the contractors in the area. Despite the “pains”, our love for timber frame structures was reinforced and we prepared ourselves to launch into the next phase of making Shadow Mountain Escape a reality.

After building the original timber frame structure in 1994 (now our home and office), we oriented on securing enough surrounding land to preserve the environment we so cherished and to ensure sufficient building space for follow-on structures. Protecting our views, maintaining ecological balance, and ensuring seclusion was of paramount concern. By 1997, with some significant luck involved, we finally purchased the adjacent land making up Shadow Mountain Escape’s current 15-acre compound in Jewell Hollow. After the land was secured, we focused on the next phase of the project – designing and building the Timber Frame lodge and salt box style barn.

The SME Bear Dance Lodge (Dragon Fly – Bumble Bee) and the Barn (Butterfly) were built in 2002. We designed the structures to maximize guests’ privacy while preserving the views and surrounding woodlands. The Lodge was initially designed to have a 50ft. tower; however, while we were finalizing the drawings the county denied approving the 50ft. tower. Following significant design changes and many months, we created an alternative design and floor plan which was better than the original and retained an observation tower.

The Lodge was constructed while we were living in Europe. When we learned that our stay in Europe would be extended with a move to Italy for a few years, we knew we needed someone “on the ground” to oversee the construction process. We hired Ralph’s father to manage all the contracts, contractors, and to keep the schedule on time. We couldn’t have finished the project on-time without him! He was a retired Army Aviator who maintained a “tight” operation. He lived in Williamsburg and made over 50 roundtrips to the property to oversee the project.

The SME Bear Dance Lodge – comprised of the Dragon Fly and Bumble Bee cabins accepted the first guests in August 2002. The Butterfly loft was opened May 2003. The Lodge and barn sit on our 2nd 5-acre lot. The 3rd 5-acre lot will remain wooded without any structures to preserve the sense of space and protect the invaluable ecology surrounding Shadow Mountain Escape. In June of 2011 we completed our fourth timber frame rental cabin and named it the Ladybug. The Ladybug is also a uniquely designed authentic oak timber frame and it is located directly across the deck from our home office. Although the Ladybug is the smallest of our cabins, its romantic charm and European décor have made it a favorite for many couples.

The last timber frame construction on our property was the addition to our home. This included completing the stone courtyard and “gothic tower.” Completion of this project in 2017 provided a much-needed expansion to our personal living space and an additional laundry/storage room.