LYNWOOD LOUGH grew up looking at barns in Harrisburgh, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley. He learned about cat's mouth cuts, post and beam, mortise and tenon, shiplaths, and other building terms carpenters use. And he learned how to use woodslicks, a wide chisel that when you find one in an antique store will cost you $125 now.
About a year ago, he and his wife Irene and their children, Gregory, 17, and Jill, 16, started to build their sixth house. So Lough thought about the old barns, their stability, warmth and drama. Irene Lough thought a barn would make a great place to show off their collection of quilts. And it would fit right in with the country pleasures, such as riding, possible on the 25-acre estate they owned on Mountain Road, outside of Haymarket, Va.
"We tried to find an old barn to remodel into a house," said Lough, "but we couldn't find a good one, so we decided to build one from scratch." What the Lough family didn't stop to think about was the current interest in country-style furniture, decorating and architecture. They just knew they liked the look.
Irene Lough baked an apple spice cake the other day so the house would have a cinnamon scent to add to its natural pine and cedar scents. Lynwood Lough welcomed us at the bottom of the slightly precarious new slate walk that wanders up the side of the hill to the house.
"I tied a rope all the way around where the house was going to go to keep that bulldozer from leveling everything," Lough said. "The natural growth was good, even the rhoidodendron was here when we came, too."
Even so, there's art as well as nature -- whiskey barrels of plants and in between, wood shavings to keep down the weeds.
The parking area is at the side of the house, as well as the entrance to the six-car (big enough, Irene Lough likes to point out, for a Mercedes-Benz and a Cadillac) garage tucked into the lower floor. The side view, going up four steep stories, is rather awesome.
From the west, the formal front, the house, though still enormous, seems more like a native growth. We walked up the wooden steps to a wide, thick deck, the size of most people's living room. The deck is made of pressure-treated wood. The exterior of the house is all cypress siding.
The big double front doors, as well as the garage doors, are made of Morance wood, a custom job by Herndon Lumber Co.
When Lough threw open the doors and we went inside, we caught our breath. We were standing in the Great Hall, as big as in some of the Great Houses of Britain. The center of the 30-by-50-foot room is a 36-foot-high atrium. At the far end a stucco fireplace chimney rises up all three floors. The fire opening itself is 6 feet wide and 4-foot high. A slot holds wood. Part of the Lough basket collection sits on the wide hearth.
Balconies stretch along two sides on two floors. The sitting areas are under the balconies. Sofas on either side face into the room. Rocking chairs, another of the Lough collections, are added seating. In one area is a glass-front cabinet (from W. & J. Sloane's, though it looks old) full of pewter and foxhead drinking cups. Under the other balcony is a wonderful old pine cabinet full of 50-year old Lionel trains. "They belonged to my uncle," Lough said. "I can't believe what they're bringing at the antique shows."
Two rooms on either side of at the front of the house narrow the entry. On the right is a library/office (not yet put together because Lough says he's used to operating from his shirt pockets). On the left is what Irene Lough calls the "formal powder room." First there's a fair-sized cloakroom with two huge coat closets, then the lavatory room and an enclosed toilet. At the back of the house is another powder room, but then it's a long way across the Great Hall.
At the other end are two dining rooms on either side of the open kitchen. One side has a big mill pattern made into a glass-topped table. The pattern, a complicated affair of laminated woods and gears that looks like a sculpture, is topped with glass. On the other side is a refectory table with leather-covered chairs. The kitchen has pass-throughs with open shelves on three sides, the back side to the big deck which stretches across the back of the house. Sliding glass doors and a big sliding glass window face the deck from the dining rooms and kitchen.
We had our choice of stairs to go up. We took the scenic route, up the front stairs. At a window on the second floor at the front of the house, Irene Lough has arranged another one of her vignettes -- a rocking chair, a basket with a quilt artfully arranged, and a gun cabinet.
Jill's bedroom is on one side, Gregory's on the other at this end of the house. Two other bedrooms and two baths (one on each side) are along the balcony/hall. The master bedroom and bath is across the back of the house. The large room also has a fireplace, set into the house's main chimney, with, of course, a rocking chair in front of it.
The Loughs, who don't believe in unnecessary frills, have no beds, just mattresses on the carpeted floor, and no curtains, since their views are so private.
On the top floor, the eaves come down fairly low on each side, but there's plenty of room to walk through to the aerie, with more rocking chairs, and even a wet bar.
The Loughs built the house themselves, with some help. Lough and Gregory did the construction work; Lough the electrical, plumbing and heating; Jill and Irene Lough the "go-for" work. In all it took them about 11 months. All the interior wood is natural pine, left unfinished, "because we like it better natural."
But now that it's all finished, with pots of flowers hanging on the entrance and everything well nigh perfect, the Loughs are thinking about the next house. "We figure if we could get $300,000 for this one," Lough said, "we could build up an underground house.We've got this great place on the Hill. . ."