In 2014 and 2022 we built two magnificent timber-framed structures at our East Marion and Calverton locations. Our goal was to create a serene and relaxing space for all to take in the beauty of the lavender fields. We recently interviewed David Yasenchack, the master carpenter behind the timber pavilions.  

When was each pavilion built?

The cruck frame in East Marion was raised in 2014, Calverton in 2022.

What does your process look like– what went into the planning/drafting stage and what is the concept behind each pavilion?

When first engaging with clients we explore their ideas and needs and tastes, also their building site and budget. Then I typically produce one or more conceptual ideas. This is a very enjoyable phase.
When Serge approached us for a structure for the East Marion farm, he shared his fondness for the lavoirs he remembered in France, and sent images of several small lavoirs he thought most appealing. That was a wonderful start. That Serge appreciated the form and qualities of these historical structures made for an easy design path.

The recent pavilion for the Calverton farm uses a traditional timber framing pattern, but with the substitution of asymmetric, curving cherry logs for the tie beams, and curving cherry bracing. Irregularly shaped beams and the preservation of rough, cambium surfaces adjacent to finely finished surfaces have long been interesting to me. I’ve learned the aesthetic would likely be described by the Japanese as Shibui.

To begin this Calverton project, Serge sent photos of a larger, more formal lavoir he had recently visited in France. He gave an approximate size, location, and orientation for this structure, but otherwise entrusted me with the design. In commissioned work like this, trust really makes for the best possible outcomes.
Serge also understood, perhaps better than most, that unique materials and traditional joinery methods require time. He appreciated, indeed celebrated, that we were going into our forest and selecting trees specifically for his project. Such a forest-to-frame approach requires far more time, equipment, and skills than does purchasing commodity lumber and sheet goods delivered to a job site. Serge understood this right away. I remember he asked us to commit to a delivery prior to the lavender bloom–that was important for the farm–but he understood the long path of our process.

How long did it take from conception to final construction/raising the structure?

The East Marion structure took 17 months from our first conversation about lavoirs until the raising.

The Calverton frame was hampered by Covid. It was around 2 years in the planning, design, and making. I should add that both of these projects are open-air pavilions in a coastal hurricane zone, and had to undergo engineering reviews.

The best part of creating timber structures? The most difficult part?

Conceptual design is the best part for me. A very close second is hunting and gathering the material from our forest, especially those special curved or otherwise unique pieces that make for compelling elements in a frame. Of course the raising, after many months of labor in the woods and shop is exhilarating, but it wouldn’t be so sweet and rewarding without having endured the drudgery of the shop work. The most difficult aspect remains the scheduling of projects. Being a very small company, working usually on just one or two projects at a time, and harvesting much of our own material from standing trees, means we can’t do things overnight. But for folks willing to wait, we deliver work we put our hearts into.  

How did you get into creating these beautiful structures?

I’ve come to credit my father, who was a millwright. He was always crafting or building things around the house or yard or for other folks. And he took the time to let me help when I wanted to, or compelled me to at other times. He also let me use his tools, any of them, even power tools at a young age, as long as I put things away. So I was around creative work as a kid, and skills such as welding and general carpentry. Maybe more importantly, I was allowed to try things on my own, without anyone telling me to be careful. Around age 27, after a degree in English from a liberal arts college, stints for the Forest Service in Alaska, and a commercial apple orchard in Ohio, I built a small timber frame for a friend, and found my calling.

How about your choice of material-- what woods do you use for your projects?
Posts are white and red oak. Curved, live-edge bracing and large tie beams are black cherry. Pegs are white oak and black locust.  All of this came from our own forest. 
The long plates and purlin plates which sit upon the post-tops and carry the rafters are Douglas fir, as are the rafters.

The pavilions in the lavender fields have become very distinct, central features on our farms– what are your thoughts on this?

Well, I think the pavilions in the fields are reflections of Serge and Susan’s vision and values. My wife and I visited with them both following the raising at Calverton, and stayed at their home near Southold. You could see that before the farm, they enjoyed creating a beautiful yard of lavender, and tended to beehives and flowers and when the work day was done, rested in chairs with a long view over a pond. The farms with expanses of lavender and the items crafted with it, seem a natural extension of that earnestness for beauty. And the pavilions placed away in the fields seem an invitation to join in that.

David Yasenchack's works can be found on his website: 
Melissa Lee