The Guru of Timber Framing
Tedd Benson, founder of Bensonwood, has always put craftsmanship first.
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Christine and Tedd Benson’s sunny kitchen also showcases Tedd’s woodworking talent. He built the kitchen island out of cherry. The bar stools are by ClearLake Furniture in Ludlow, Vermont, and the cabinets are by Crown Point Cabinetry in Claremont.
Although he has been building homes for more than forty years, Tedd Benson is still humbled by his craft. Constructing a well-designed home is a near-religious experience for Benson, who helped revive the one-thousand- year-old craft of timber-frame construction—giant wooden posts and beams that are secured with joints, wooden pegs and braces. His timber-frame homes are energy-efficient works of art, with soaring open spaces framed by majestic wooden walls and beams.
Benson, founder and owner of the Walpole-based Bensonwood, appreciates good craftsmanship—any work, really, that’s accomplished by hand. “There’s something about approaching a job as a craft, whether it’s home-building, pottery, sewing or anything else,” Benson says. “You want to make it perfect and get it right. There’s a certain amount of humility because it’s an endless path, not a destination.”
An appreciation for simplicity
Photo by John W. Hession
Unique when constructed in the late 1970s, the great room’s soaring “timber frame within a timber frame” design gives the room a more human scale. The beams are made of salvaged Southern yellow pine. The Japanese-style hanging lights are by Cherry Tree Design in Bozeman, Montana.
Benson was enamored with carpentry and building when he moved to New England from Colorado as a young adult. Studying the timber-frame barns and Colonial homes he found across New England, he was interested in the methodology behind timber framing but also wanted to improve the quality of home construction. The simplicity and beauty of timber-frame construction became the foundation of his growing business, as he learned to combine his craft with contemporary building needs, such as high-performance insulation and modern mechanical systems.
Benson’s burgeoning passion became the foundation of his company Bensonwood, which now employs more than sixty employees. Bensonwood has developed a national reputation, not only for its artfully designed timber-frame structures, but also as an innovative builder of hybrid and energy-efficient homes and commercial buildings; the company also designs and builds prefabricated homes through its sister company, Unity Homes located in Unity and founded in 2012. But homebuilding isn’t the only thing that keeps Benson busy—he’s also published three books on timber framing (Building the Timber Frame House; The Timber Frame Home; and Timberframe: The Art and Craft of the Post-and-Beam Home) and helped establish the Timber Guild of North America.