Judd Dickey owns Mountain Timber Design, Inc., a one-man architecture firm situated at the base of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado.
He specializes in custom, high-end timber frame homes with a distinctly western style, and often sited on difficult terrain. He works with various timber frame companies on projects throughout the country. Judd says, “I provide high style architecture, and work with my clients personally. As a western architect, I design to relate to our expansive views. Being a small company, I can only take a few projects a year. Many are out of state, primarily Alaska.”
We asked Judd about his background, and how he became involved in heavy timber design. He shared with us: “I grew up a Navy Brat, moving from coast to coast, finally ending up in Southern California. I graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 1976, with a degree in Political Science, which qualified me to go get a job as a first time framer for $3 an hour. Luckily, it was on the coast where I could work on the beach and look at girls. During this time, I also lived in Alaska for six months, where I worked a bit of construction and off-shore oil platforms, sparking an interest in Alaska that persists to this day.”
Judd worked for several years as a carpenter, and then decided to study for his Masters in Architecture, which brought him to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado in Denver. He has lived in Golden, CO for about 30 years, where he built his house and raised 4 daughters.
Judd continued, “During my career as a beginning architect, I had the opportunity to get involved with Riverbend, and start Riverbend of the Rockies. I became a western rep, designed my projects, sold the timber and SIP packages, and then performed the raisings with my little band of young architect types, who I took to the field, put nail bags on them, and did honest work of raising our frames and Sips. The problem was getting them back in front of computers once they had all the fun of raisings.” Judd repped for several years, and in 1997 he started Mountain Timber Design, Inc.
Judd’s passion for timber frame architecture is evident when he recalls seeing his first frame design raised: “I stared at that big oak structure standing proud in the brisk, high mountain Colorado air and just couldn’t get enough of it. It hooked me for good. I now see the same look on my clients’ faces. I’m proud when they exclaim that it’s the most magnificent (my exaggeration) thing they have ever seen.”
More recently, Judd is also proud of his design of the Arzt House in Homer, AK. He says: ”After having designed many relatively large homes some with complex roof lines and lots of cool goodies, I wanted to design a style that is somewhat simple and suitable for harsh climates, but still very beautiful in its proportions and timber work. I am proud that this house performed well in that respect and was on the cover of Alaska Home Magazine a couple of years ago. Even better, the owners became friends and host my family every year in a very nice guest room.”
In 2011, Judd wrote the book “Crystal Lantern House”. In it, he discusses the challenges and philosophy that drives his unique design style of timber frame custom houses.
On a more painful note, Judd recalls that the recession knocked off a lot of work, some in progress, some future, which largely killed off a sector of the TF industry, which was growing prior to 2009. But as he says, “Luckily I had some long term work and I’m pretty frugal. Now those daughters that I put through college……..”
We asked Judd about what makes designing timber frame homes more difficult than conventional construction. He said the main pain point is the comparatively high cost of the timber and timber frames, and also labor and materials, and fees from municipalities. He says, “Currently costs are going up 10% to 15% per year. My only solution is go into timber frame homes with your eyes wide open, be as efficient as is possible, and don’t shortchange the design. TF homes have their own value. My clients have always told me that they will have their home come hell or high water!”
In summing up his passion for practicing timber frame architecture, Judd says, “There is a great joy in designing TF houses around the needs of people…..and their pets…. You work on the body, structure, the systems, the footing, and its place in its setting. It is not unlike designing a life-form that becomes instrumental in the lives of its owners. “
Mountain Timber Design, Inc.
616 Cressman Court, Golden, Colorado 80403
Phone: (303) 278-8986
2 thoughts on “Spotlight: Judd Dickey and Mountain Timber Design”
I would love to see some of your work. I’ve been wanting to build a timber frame home but it’s been hard to find the right architect and building crew that I can trust to build my home properly.
Where are you located? I may have done a house near you as they are scattered throughout the country..
If you live here in Colorado, I could take take you to a house almost done about twenty minutes from here in Golden…. and have a glass of wine on their deck overlooking some nice mountain country. I think one of my best and most fun projects.
My favorite way to track down good players is to find nice projects, local or otherwise, and talk to the owners about their experience.
Building a timberframe house properly takes a lot of work and coordination up-front, which is the main ingrediant to a successful project. Often, getting the right general contractor on board early will help you choose the other players. You would look for a GC who is comfortable with the use of pre-fabricated systems like timberframe and SIP packages, and typically works well with architects.
Note that the process can be quite different for the architect and owner for houses of different size, style, locations, and the business models of the timberframe companies being considered.
If you send me your address, I’ll send you a book. It’s good reading.