What makes a dream home? Is it kitchen cabinets, ample storage, a three-car garage, and a whirlpool bath? Is it warmth, character, versatility, beauty, a sense of peace? There may be as many answers as there are homeowners. But there's something more that transforms a house - even as impressive as the ones built by Tedd Benson and other timber framers (see story at right) - into a real home.
The first "house" my husband and I lived in was a small, seventh-floor apartment at Fort Knox, Ky. It had a bed that folded down from the wall and a kitchen less than four feet across. But we were ecstatically happy because we were together.
I was surprised to hear a colonel's wife bitterly complaining at living in the same circumstances. I now understand that she had been used to nicer quarters, but she taught me an important lesson: A happy home doesn't depend on physical surroundings.
Mr. Benson understands this. In his book "Timberframe," he writes that clients request a dream home, one in which to raise a family and build lasting memories. He sees these requests as having a deeper meaning: "Home design is not really about physical matter - the concrete, brick, stone, and wood - but about the people who will inhabit the home, how it functions for them, and how it might enrich their lives.
"Designing homes to reach this higher goal requires humility and listening skills," he says. Valuable skills not just for the builder, but also for the occupants, who want to make a house - whether humble or a mansion - a true home.
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