Twenty-five years ago, Steve and Susan, owners of Howell Custom Building Group, built their timber-frame home in Boxford, Massachusetts. “One of the neat things about a timber frame is when you build the frame, you put it all together and raise it in one day,” says Susan. With the muscle of family and friends, they raised the structure that would raise their family. “There are no metal fasteners in the frame, it’s all mortise-and-tenon joinery,” says Steve. Inside the house, the original wood is exposed—a feature the couple loves. “You get to see what holds the house up,” he smiles.
Now that the kids are out of the house, Steve and Susan decided it was time for a renovation. With their team at Howell Custom Building Group and with the help of interior designer Holly Gagne, they opened up the floor plan to make it easier to entertain and installed a new kitchen. “We wanted to preserve the integrity of that architecture number one because they designed it,” says Gagne. The number two priority was adding a personal touch. “They travel a lot, they collect a lot, and that’s what makes a home a home,” she says.
As builders, Steve and Susan have worked on a number of local projects, including ifarm, a restored 19th-century farmstead set on 20 acres. In Episode 12 of Season 2, host Parker Kelley stops by the farm and speaks with owner Christine Barensfeld, who explains that she really wanted the land to feel like it did two hundred years before. She harvests organic produce, but also offers courses. Here, visitors can put down their phones and dig into some dirt. “We like to get people to come here to enjoy a simpler way of life,” she says.
After the farm visit, Parker, Steve and Susan have lunch at West Village Provisions before walking through Lockwood Forest Conservation Area. Then to prepare for the meal ahead, Parker meets Peter Merriam of Merriam Vineyards, who paired a glass with each course at the dinner party, and chef Carlo Berdahn and his wife Danielle, who own and operate the romantic Andover restaurant, Yella Grille. Carlo is originally from Lebanon and Danielle has Italian roots, so the chef incorporates a number of Mediterranean flavors into his dishes. The couple values their time together in the kitchen. “Lots of people say you cannot do business with your wife, I cannot do it without her,” says Carlo.
Back at the house, friends and family start to arrive. Many had helped build the house over two decades before. Instead of raising a timber frame, they raise their glasses to celebrate a new phase for Steve and Susan in their beloved home.