Building his own home on his own land is a classic “guy” dream. However, Mark Ward took it to an impressive extreme.
Born and raised in Turlock, Calif., he made many trips to Nevada City to visit his sister and brother-in-law. He soon became smitten with this area and decided to purchase five acres off Red Dog, where he could design and build his own bachelor pad.
Inspired by Empire Mine’s impressive Bourn Cottage, Mark opted for an English-style cottage. After extensive research, he decided to modify plans he’d seen in a book. Now this sounds ambitious. However, Mark’s a methodical kind of guy with practical building savvy and a flair for art and a hard worker. The right man for the job. Equally important, he also knows when to ask and who to ask for special expertise.
Ground was broken in 2004, and with the help of architect Tony Rosa, the Tudor-style home was move-in ready in 2008. During these four, action-packed years, Mark learned or improved his design-and-craftsmanship skills, including tiling, woodwork and painting. Contractor Larry Reekers turned the framing process into a memorable learning experience to create a structure that will stand the test of time.
What a sense of achievement move-in day must have been. However, Mark’s move-in day was considerably different from what he’d originally imagined. After falling in love with this area, he fell in love again — with Lindsey Webster — a lifetime Nevada County girl who was teaching eighth grade.
Some bachelor pad this turned out to be!
Next came the children: Marilyn (named after Mark’s late mother) and Graham. Last year, Lindsey’s parents decided to downsize. With Mark’s encouragement, in-laws Ken and Jeanne Webster moved into the guest apartment above the garage where Mark and Lindsey had lived while the main home was being built.
“It works out so well,” Lindsey told me. “We’ve got three generations sharing meals, life experiences, laughter and love. It truly is a magical place to be. Mom has done a stunning job of creating more style and storage in their new home. Mark’s parents passed young, and he embraces my parents as his own family. There’s a vitality we share that is welcome and precious.”
“Bourn” again cottage
Besides its English influence, the 2,500-square-foot main dwelling is rich in wood and stone. When Mark first visited this area, he went to Empire Mine State Park many times and was so inspired by Bourn Cottage that he decided to replicate its distinctive, small-brick border around the wooden door. Rather than having a vast, open floor plan, Mark chose to make the rooms smaller, more intimate and purposeful. Since both he and Lindsey are tall, the work surfaces in the kitchen and in the bathrooms are extra high.
There are many intriguing touches, such as a triangular, built-in bookcase in the master bedroom and a kitchen desk under the stairway. Fireplaces, tile floors, area rugs and a bold collection of John Karl Claes’ lithographs, photos and works in pencil and charcoal, add well placed drama. There’s a sunroom full of toys and books off the great room. Upstairs are the children’s rooms.
Marilyn’s room is particularly whimsical, with soft colors, her dolls resting under the covers, and an almost life-size toy pony. A large alcove off the master bedroom serves as a “classroom” where Lindsey is home-schooling them. Much of their furniture belonged to parents and grandparents. A carved bear coat rack near the front door symbolizes the vast range of wildlife (including many bears) that visit their property frequently. One touch that really caught my eye is the trellis on the garage wall. It looks medieval, yet Mark built this recently.
“He visits Pinterest online frequently,” Lindsey said. “And he’s always motivated to try new projects that add to our home’s character. Since he comes from a Swedish family and is a Tolkein fan, you’ll see many of those influences as well, in the colors, textures and generous use of wood and stone.”
Besides character, lots of thought has gone into the environmental aspects of this home. Radiant heat, double-pane, Low E windows and insulated concrete forms (ICF blocks) help create an almost year-round temperature of 70 degrees.
In the winter, the fireplaces are used. The result is the monthly heating bill in winter is less than $100 a month for both residences combined.
The Wards’ home is a tribute to traditional, English design (including our own Bourn Cottage), to their families, their surroundings and their future. It’s also a tribute to foresight and hard work. Perhaps, most valuable of all, is the reminder that staying open-minded and open-hearted can color our lives with delightful, new surprises — as this bachelor discovered.
Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.