Ferguson: Craftsman home steeped in Japanese tradition | TheUnion.com
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Ferguson: Craftsman home steeped in Japanese tradition

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union
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Driving on the San Juan Ridge on an autumn afternoon was a sky-blue pleasure. As I made the ascent to Doug and Martha Lingen’s 26-acre hilltop property, I passed vegetable gardens, an orchard and a windmill.

The Sierra views were splashed with vibrant shades of red and gold.

Barbara Bashall of the Nevada County Contractors Association kindly suggested this home as a possible article subject. Its dramatic location would have been enough. However, when I learned how its history spans continents, time and design influences, I was intrigued.



William Morris, architect, poet and champion of industrial England’s work force, is credited for the resourceful craftsman-style movement in the mid-1800s. A backlash to the lavish, often-fussy Victorian architecture, the craftsman style’s practicality and popularity soon spread to America.

After living and studying carpentry in Japan for five years, Doug Lingen (of Sierra Timberframers) couldn’t wait to apply some of the traditional skills he’d learned.




“Japanese and western timber framing puts great emphasis on a natural fit,” he explained. “Splice joints, for example, are based on wood-to-wood connections with minimum use of metal fasteners. Four hundred to 800 pieces are assembled in just a few days — a lot like a puzzle. It requires precision and patience, but the enduring character it gives a home makes it worthwhile.”

The Lingens were dedicated and lived in a 64-foot trailer en route to completion.

“Originally, we planned on two years,” Martha said. “But there were so many challenges, and each required in-depth thought. For example, deciding where the home would be situated was a big issue. We were well aware that having the best view isn’t the only consideration. Water, power and environmental features were equally important. Since much of the property was covered in manzanita, we also had to deal with taming the land. With so much to deal with, our two-years in the trailer turned into 12!”

Ultimately, the Lingens got exactly what they wanted. Today, their 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is a craftsman masterpiece. Rich in family area rugs, Native American and Japanese artifacts, the house has a nurturing, almost spiritual feel — as if generations and nations have an integral connection.

The floor plan with arches and subtle space definitions is open and inviting, with a natural interior pathway for everyday living. I particularly liked the massive bamboo-and-glass shelves in the great room that display items from all over the world.

Working miracles with leftover lumber

Talk about resourceful! Wood is used a lot throughout the home. Bamboo, Douglas fir, 2-foot-wide sugar pine in the vaulted ceiling, pin oak, digger and ponderosa pine and redwood doors (made from old wine barrels) are just some of the woods you’ll see in use.

“Some come from the old Nevada City Forest buildings, but much of it is surplus and rejected wood, as well as off-cuts I’ve stored over the years,” Doug explained. “As you can see, although they do not match, the different woods we’ve used certainly complement each other, and we like the variety of textures and shades.”

Outside, wood continues to play a vital role in the home’s comfort, beauty and efficiency. The nearby deciduous trees keep the inside temperatures cool in summer, while allowing sunshine in during winter months. There’s a mountain breeze for circulation, and it’s so efficient there’s never a need for air conditioning. SIPs (structure-insulated panels) make a significant contribution as well.

An outdoor boiler provides most of the heating and all the hot water. In fact, only three cords of wood are used each year. The wood is either sourced from the land or from the shop.

There’s a 10,000-gallon underground tank, gravity fed from the home’s roof where 950 gallons per inch of rainfall are collected and used to irrigate the vegetable garden as well as the orchard’s apple, peach, plum and cherry trees.

A personal pathway to peace

Both Doug and Martha are active, with strong connections to their community. They also run their timber framing business. However, their home makes coming home a peaceful pleasure. Here is where a good book is more absorbing … where scents of wood, warmth and good cooking fill the air … and a place where wildlife and nature harmonize.

Life is memorable in the Lingens’ thoughtfully planned, traditionally crafted home.

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at courtneycopy@gmail.com.


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